Ambrosia Trifle

If you're looking for a new, impressive holiday trifle, this is it.

Ambrosia Trifle
Photo: Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Giulietta Pinna; Food Styling: Ali Ramee
Active Time:
30 mins
Chill Time:
6 hrs
Total Time:
6 hrs 50 mins

Ambrosia is without a doubt one of the South's most iconic holiday dishes. While recipes for the original version of ambrosia began appearing in cookbooks back in the late 19th century, the signature dessert has seen countless renditions. The old-fashioned dish has been bedazzled with maraschino cherries and pineapple—and made richer with whipped cream, mayonnaise, and sour cream, which may be why some people consider it to be a salad and others a dessert. This Ambrosia Trifle leans into the classic look of ambrosia, but takes a few modern twists.

Composed of pretty layers of angel food cake (buy it pre-made or make your own), coconut pastry cream, and a medley of citrus segments, chopped pineapple, shaved coconut, and maraschino cherries, this Ambrosia Trifle is supremely elegant. Toasted peaks of Italian Meringue stand in for marshmallow creme on the top of this showstopping ambrosia dessert. If you don't have a kitchen torch, the meringue will still taste great not toasted—or save yourself a step by replacing the meringue with piles of sweetened whipped cream. Build this trifle in a glass serving dish so your guests can see all the goodness that awaits inside.


Coconut Pastry Cream

  • 2 (13½-oz.) cans unsweetened coconut milk, well shaken and stirred

  • 5 large egg yolks

  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar

  • cup all-purpose flour

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

  • ¼ cup coconut oil

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Italian Meringue

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar

  • teaspoon kosher salt

  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature

  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Additional Ingredients

  • 7 cups cubed (1-inch pieces) store-bought angel food cake

  • 3 cups assorted citrus segments (such as navel orange, blood orange, or Ruby Red grapefruit, from about 3 lb. citrus fruits)

  • 1 ½ cups chopped fresh pineapple (from 1 small [2½-lb.] pineapple)

  • 1 cup unsweetened shaved coconut (such as Mavuno Harvest Dried Organic Coconut)

  • cup drained maraschino cherries (such as Luxardo, from 1 [13½-oz.] jar)


  1. Prepare the Coconut Pastry Cream: Whisk together coconut milk and egg yolks in a medium bowl until well combined. Whisk together sugar, flour, and salt in a large saucepan; whisk in coconut milk mixture. Bring to a boil over medium, whisking constantly. Boil, whisking constantly, until mixture is thick and pudding-like, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add coconut oil and vanilla; whisk until smooth. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface. Cool at room temperature 30 minutes. Transfer to refrigerator; chill until cold, at least 6 hours or up to 2 days.

  2. Just before assembling, prepare the Italian Meringue: Cook sugar, ¼ cup water, and salt in a small saucepan over medium-high, stirring often, until sugar is dissolved and mixture registers 240°F on an instant-read thermometer, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat. While sugar mixture is cooking (after it reaches about 225°F), beat egg whites with a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment on medium speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. Add cream of tartar to egg whites; continue beating on medium speed until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. (The goal is for the sugar mixture to reach 240°F at the same time the egg whites reach soft peaks.) Gradually drizzle in sugar mixture, beating on medium speed. Increase mixer speed to medium-high; beat until glossy and stiff peaks form, 1 minute, 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Set aside.

  3. Assemble the trifle: Spoon half of the Coconut Pastry Cream (about 2 cups) in an even layer in a 3½- to 4-quart trifle dish. Top with 3½ cups angel food cake cubes, 1½ cups citrus segments, ¾ cup chopped pineapple, ½ cup shaved coconut, and ⅓ cup cherries. Repeat layers once. Top trifle with Italian Meringue. Brown meringue using a kitchen torch, holding torch 1 to 2 inches from meringue and moving torch back and forth. Serve immediately, or chill, uncovered, up to 6 hours.

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