My youngest son & me

My youngest son & me

About me

My name is Tanja (Sater) Miller and I'm excited about sharing my journey of converting my favorite recipes to gluten free! I am not a fancy cook - I prefer just a casual, fun meal. I am married with grown children (and have small grandchildren) & 3 dogs. I work full time as a registered nurse & I am a geek. Yes, I love Star Trek, Star Wars, Fringe, Firefly, Farscape and most of the other Scify shows. You will probably see a little of my geek side come out once in a while! Please join me on my journey of cooking, baking & converting every day recipes into yummy gluten free meals that everyone can enjoy (not just those with a gluten allergy!) Don't be shy about checking out my recipes....I have the gluten free version along with the regular recipe that I adapted from!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Cherry Chocolate Cake Trifle

Cherry Chocolate Cake Trifle! This recipe is by far a great show stopper yet it is super easy and delicious. It is one of the oldest chocolate recipes I can remember from my childhood. We used to go to our dear family friend's house (we called  her  Grandma Deible) for Thanksgiving every year during my childhood and this was ALWAYS on her dessert table for any holiday. However, she used to make it as a regular layered cake and serve it on a beautiful glass plate. I improvised and make it in a trifle (I will tell you why in a bit!)

We loved going to Grandma Deible's house for holiday meals. The food was always hearty and it was ALWAYS a full house. Anyone that needed a place to go for a holiday meal...they got an invitation. Grandma Deible left no one all alone on a holiday. She was such a big hearted person. It was always an interesting mix of people and a good time! (The ONLY thing I hated was helping with ALL the dishes after the meal! She made EVERYTHING from scratch and no paper plates!)

Grandma Deible passed away many years ago but whenever I make this recipe, I always think of her and Thanksgiving. This year we are going to a friend's house for Thanksgiving and she is a little like grandma Deible. Everyone is welcome so they won't be alone. Holidays are about family, friends and making happy memories. Since her crowd of people is growing, I added a dessert to the list of food I am taking to share. What better recipe than this one? The recipe reminds me of all of those things that are important: family, friends, food and being thankful for what we have. Rest in peace Grandma Deible, your Thanksgiving traditions live on in many of our lives.

Anyone that knows me well....I will improvise recipes in a pinch to fit my needs or if something doesn't turn out quite right but is still gets "recycled" into a different dish. For instance...the trifle layering of this cake was a necessity one time because it was a requested dessert at a party. That particular day was not going right. I slightly over cooked the cake and it was slightly dry and the cake rounds were not perfect so I didn't think it was going to stack properly and we were driving a distance so I was concerned of it collapsing. Hmmmm.....No time to bake another cake or change my mind on something else. What is a busy lady going to do? Oh favorite way to recycle a dessert! TRIFLE! I just took the same ingredients and layered them in a glass bowl and it turned out perfectly. The moisture from the Cool Whip and cherries made the cake moist and delicious plus it made transportation of it a breeze! You can use an elegant trifle bow but I used an inexpensive glass bowl from Ikea (I think they are around $3) instead. That way I can leave my bowl with the hostess. This makes a great hostess gift as well.

The other thing I LOVE about this recipe is it can be made up to two days ahead! Yep, that takes away the holiday stress and mess in the kitchen. Just put some plastic wrap over the top and pop it in the refrigerator (or if you live in the midwest and it is super cold then you can store it in your garage! Everyone knows I have done that before in the past!).

The OTHER thing I LOVE about this recipe is that it is very forgiving and you can substitute items or use a boxed cake mix. You can make homemade cherry pie filling or use the canned from the grocery store. I honestly just prefer it the traditional way with basic ingredients but my oldest son doesn't like chocolate so he prefers it done with yellow or white cake. My son-in-law prefers strawberry pie filling over the cherry one. No problem, you can switch it up. You can also substitute brownies in place of the chocolate cake or you add a no bake cheesecake filling layer. You can use regular yellow or white cake and apple pie filling. I have done it all those different ways depending on what was requested and what I had in my cupboards. Honestly, I still prefer it the way I remember it...Chocolate cake layers, Cool Whip and Cherry Pie filling.

After my years of baking and hosting parties....I tell the younger people "KEEP IT SIMPLE". Presentation is everything! I love to bake from scratch BUT I have plenty of experience with being stressed at the holidays. Why? I would try to over achieve and make EVERYTHING from scratch which meant I was up at the crack of dawn cooking then had a messy kitchen to deal with on top of working full time, going to college (back in the day) and trying to manage a family of 3 kids. It was beyond insane at my house. I managed but I wish I would have taken a few shortcuts and made it a little less stressful. As I have aged, I have learned that the holidays is about family, friends and having a great time. If you are an exhausted hostess, it shows. Take a short cut when you can! There is absolutely NOTHING WRONG with using a great cake mix or canned pie filling for your holiday dessert. Just present it elegant and with a smile. (You can even "cheat" and use a store bought prepared cake and slice or chunk it up for the layers. That of course is easier if you don't have a gluten allergy. Finding a prepared gluten free chocolate cake is more difficult but I am sure it can be done. I just go with a good GF cake mix. If you don't have a gluten allergy then of course you can use a regular cake mix!)

Cherry Chocolate Cake Trifle Recipe:

  • 1 box of cake mix, prepared according to the box instructions. I used Pillsbury Gluten Free Devils Food cake one for today and it worked perfectly. You can also make your cake from scratch or buy a store bought and cut into chunks for layering. (If you do not have a gluten allergy then you can use a regular cake mix!)
  • 2 cans of cherry pie filling (if you want to be an over-achiever you can make it from scratch but then you will have to wash more pots and who needs more dishes at the holidays?!) Read your labels. Most pie filling is gluten free but some may not be!
  • 1 large tub or two smaller 8 oz. tubs of Cool Whip or any non-dairy topping. (I have substituted the Coconut one that is dairy free from Sprouts for someone with a dairy allergy and it worked fine) You can certainly use fresh whipped cream but it will not hold up as well as Cool Whip, especially if you are traveling with it or making it two days in advance. 
  • Chocolate shavings for garnish, optional

Prepare the cake according to instructions and let it cool. I chose to bake mine in two round 8" pans so that I could just slide them into the bowl. My bowl is narrow on the bottom so I had to gently push the cake to fit a little bit. Layer one can of cherry pie filling and try to get it to the edge so you can see the cherry layer a little bit. It makes for an elegant presentation. Then layer the Cool Whip topping. It really doesn't matter which layer you start with but I like to end with the cherry pie filling on top for presentation and then I sprinkle some shave chocolate on top for garnish. I just take a chocolate bar and grate a little chocolate on top.

How easy is that? Yeah....simple elegance that tastes FANTASTIC!
This is the cake mix I used for today's recipe. I found at Walmart next to regular cake mixes

Canned Cherry Pie Filling

My cakes baking in the oven according to directions on box

Press the cake layer into bottom of my bowl

This is the cake after I have layered it into the bowl

This is a view from the top of the trifle

View of the layers from the side

ready to serve

Yes, Holidays can be easy, delicious and elegant. Keep it simple and don't stress. Please feel free to post photos and tips of your cake trifle and any changes that you made. We all learn from each other.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Gluten Free Casually

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