Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cinnamon Caramel Apple Trifle

The Improve Cooking ChallengeToday, I'm excited to take part in my first Improv Cooking Challenge from Lady Behind the Curtain!  (It's kind of like Iron Chef meets Chopped meets blogging.) This month, the challenge ingredients are apple and caramel - can't go wrong with that combo.

I thought about doing a cupcake, but I recently hosted a dinner party and decided to go with something a little different.  I had a trifle dish that I'd never used, and I wanted a dessert I could make in advance and not have to worry about.  Thus, I decided on a caramel apple trifle.  (Recipe appears at the bottom of this post.)

I did a little searching, and was inspired by these recipes from Baking Junkie and Cookies & Cups.  The really great part about a trifle is that you can customize it any way you like.  My husband has a cinnamon tooth (think of it as a very specialized sweet tooth), so I wanted to include some cinnamon in the trifle in addition to the required caramel and apple.  The dessert was a big hit.

Want to make it yourself?  It's a piece of cake (pun totally intended).  This trifle includes layers of cake and gooey caramel...

... cream cheese, apple pie filling, pudding...
... Cool Whip, and cinnamon graham crackers.

You really can't go wrong with this dish.  Feel free to add ingredients or layers as you wish.  It's definitely a recipe you can have fun with!

Cinnamon Caramel Apple Trifle

1 package yellow cake mix (18 oz.)
2 cups cold milk
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 tsp. apple pie spice
8 oz. cream cheese, softened (you can use light cream cheese)
1 jar caramel ice cream topping (12 oz.)
1 can apple pie filling (21 oz. - or make your own)
1 container Cool Whip (between 8-16 oz.)
8-10 cinnamon graham crackers
Ground cinnamon

Prepare and bake cake according to package directions.  (I used a 13x9 pan.) Let cake cool completely, then cut into medium-sized cubes.

While cake is cooling, whisk milk, pudding mix and apple pie spice for 2-3 minutes.  Let stand for 5 minutes. 

Then, mix cream cheese, 1/2 cup of caramel topping, and half of your Cool Whip.

Now it's time to assemble your trifle.

Round 1: Arrange half of the cake cubes in the bottom of the trifle dish.  Drizzle 3-4 tablespoons of caramel over cake.  Top cake and caramel with all of the cream cheese mixture, then crush 4 graham crackers and sprinkle on top of the cream cheese.  Finally, top this with half of your pie filling.

Round 2:  Arrange the remainder of cake on top of the pie filling.  Drizzle most of your remaining caramel over cake, reserving a few tablespoons.  Top with pudding mixture.  Crush 4 more graham crackers and sprinkle on top, then spread remainder of pie filling over that.

The finale: Top with remaining cool whip.  Drizzle remaining caramel over cool whip.  Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and garnish with additional graham crackers if desired.

Serves 10-12.

Make sure you check out the other blogs participating in this month's Improv Cooking Challenge!


  1. Okay, that is totally my kind of recipe. First, I love when I don't have to make a cake from scratch. Second, I love trifles for the reasons you mentioned- make ahead potential and pretty display. In fact, those are my number one requirements when I'm taking dessert somewhere. I've never seen this spin on a trifle, very creative!! Thanks for sharing! I'm your newest follower!

  2. Oh yumm! You made a trifle for the challenge and love pups. I think I'm going to love following your blog!

  3. I LOVE your recipe!!! Thanks for participating in THE IMPROV COOKING CHALLENGE! I can't wait to see what you make next month with Pumpkin and Cream Cheese!

  4. Emily - Thanks! It was pretty easy. :)

    Sarah - Most of the pup stuff is on my other blog, so I hope you'll swing by and check that one out too.

    Sheryl - Thanks so much for hosting! It was really fun. I can't wait for November's challenge!

  5. Your trifle looks just amazing!

    If you haven't already, I'd love for you to check out my Improv Cooking Challenge recipe: Caramel Stuffed Apple Cider Cookies.

    Cook Lisa Cook

  6. Such a fabulous trifle! I think caramel makes everything better :)

  7. Holy cow, this is insanely good! I can't wait to try this!!

    Pinning on pinterest. :)

    Tracy Screaming Sardine

  8. Good Lord, woman! What are you trying to do to me? I could totally see myself making that and then eating the entire thing all by myself!

  9. OMG! I want some of this. Could you Fed-Ex a bowl to me? Stopping by from the challenge, I'm #53 the Caramel Apple Scones.

  10. Great idea! Who doesn't love a good trifle especially full of caramel and apples.

    Bibi @ Frugal Wannabe Cooks

  11. Lizzy - I agree. You can't go wrong with Caramel!

    Screaming Sardine - Pinterest is so addictive!

    Patty - Hehe... I'm not sure how well it would ship. :)

    Thanks Lisa, Laura & Ms Bibi for stopping by too!

  12. houndstooth - I think the safest bet is only to make it when you're having lots of people over... and then send the leftovers with someone else! :)

  13. This is a great idea! I would have never thought to make a trifle with apples, but why not?! Yum!

  14. oh man this looks like a fun recipe. It looks great and a easy way to feed a crowd. thank for sharing it

  15. Yum, this looks so good!
    Great recipe!

  16. Vicki - You could probably make your own apple filling too. I like trifles because you can play around and improvise!

    trooppetrie - You're welcome!

    rebekahdawn - Thanks!

  17. oh my gosh! I just noticed the little thing on the side of your other blog that said to check out this blog! I am so glad you started this one too! I LOVE cooking as well as puppies. ;) I can't wait to read some of your previous posts. :D

  18. I love that you added cinnamon to your trifle. This looks delicious! I wish I had a trifle bowl so that I could make this and show off the pretty layers. Love your background, by the way.

  19. This looks fabulous!! I have a trifle dish that I haven't used yet either...I might just have to make this for an upcoming party. What a great idea for this month's challenge!!

  20. Everything about this is on point! Great photos, and I love that you use cinnamon graham crackers for dipping :)

  21. Love this! You take such great pictures. I will have to make this dessert soon! I love your blog!

    Your newest follower,
    (come take a look if you like)

  22. kyleen - Thanks! My trifle dish is actually the top of a cake stand, inverted. :)

    sugarspiced - It was very yummy. People asked to take the leftovers home!

    Desi & Abby - Thanks! :)

  23. Wow this looks good, I bet it's rich. I had a lot of fun with this cooking challenge, and cant wait to see what everyone comes up with for November.

  24. It was a tad rich, but in a good way. Kept me from eating too much! :)


Spoonfuls of sugar...

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