Berry Custard Trifle {Gluten-free!}

We just celebrated my husband's birthday. It's not the big one...yet...he still has one more year in his 30's and I am already thinking about how to celebrate the big 4-0! We've had some friends do some pretty creative things leading up to their husbands' 40th birthdays so I really have a lot to live up to. No pressure at all! :-)

Growing up I don't remember having many summer birthdays to celebrate. Actually, it seemed like most everyone in my family actually shared their birthdays (I won't even go into would take way too long and I need to get on to the recipe because it's an involved one!) so we normally had large get-togethers and celebrated several birthdays at one time. Most of them fell at the beginning or end of the year so that's what I was used to. Then I had my own children and they both made their appearances in Autumn as well! So, it's different for me, personally, to celebrate one in the summer, but it's nice to be able to have the warm weather, the pool for the kids and the option to BBQ the birthday supper (which is what we did this year for Kirk!). 

Another thing I want to highlight is that growing up we did not have the "traditional" birthday cakes at our parties. As I have mentioned before, my brother and I did not partake of wheat, milk or refined sugar due to allergies and intolerances. Plus, we lived in Florida which means that even though we had birthdays in the Fall, it was still warm and watermelon was still available and didn't cost an arm and a leg. So, our birthday treat always was a Watermelon Basket and we loved it! This tradition still continues with my nephew when he celebrates at my parent's home and we plan to do it when they come to visit us in a couple months and we have early celebrations for the boys! So, stay tuned for that video starring the wonderful couple who raised me.

few years ago, for a summer get-together, I decided to make a Berry Custard Trifle that I had seen online and it was a hit! Kirk liked it so much that I made it for his birthday and have made it for his birthday treat ever since. Of course, you know by now that I am always attempting to make my recipes in a healthier way. I had already made it healthier by using almond milk and lower fat whipped topping (until I realized that full fat or low whipped topping is anything but real food! more on that below), but lately I have been working to make it gluten-free, dairy-free AND sugar free while still tasting delicious which is quite a challenge...some substitutions are easy, but others can be quite difficult. There have been lots of tweaks to the original sugar-filled recipe and I am still working on it because I have yet to find a homemade dairy-free vanilla pudding recipe that I really like. So, the recipe I am sharing today will most likely have a revised post once I am satisfied with pudding results. :-) If you have a tried and true recipe for a dairy-free vanilla pudding please share! I would love to have a go at it.

Trifles are actually comprised of several different recipes which is why I have been trying to perfect each one individually before I put them together. Many trifles will contain jello, but I'm not a fan of fake fruit flavors. I much prefer the pudding/whipped consistency with the fresh berries...LOTS & LOTS of FRESH BERRIES! In this particular one there's angel food cake, vanilla pudding, whipped topping and an assortment of berries in each layer.

Let's begin with the angel food cake. I, of course, wanted to make it gluten-free, but also sugar-free as well because the angel food cake mixes available for purchase are anything but good for us! The boxes usually showcase the cake being "fat free!", but when you look at the ingredient list of your standard angel food cake mix you will quickly realize it is also free of any nutritional value:
Sugar, Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Wheat Starch, Powdered Egg Whites (Egg Albumen, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate [Whipping Aid]), Leavening (Monocalcium Phosphate Monohydrate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Potassium Bitartrate). Contains 2% Or Less Of: Corn Starch, Maltodextrin, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Modified Cornstarch, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil 
Plus, all the gluten-free mixes I've found require more ingredients (i.e. eggs, liquids etc) to complete so I figured I would just try to make one from scratch, therefore avoiding any unnecessary ingredients. So, I set out to make a healthier angel food cake and the recipe I share in this video will be sure to please any angel food cake lover, gluten-free or otherwise. Read on after the video for the rest of the Trifle recipe!

-12 Egg Whites (room temperature is best)
-1/2 c Brown Rice Flour
-1/2 c Arrowroot Starch
-1/2 c Xylitol
-1/2 c Palm Sugar (I would actually prefer a full cup of palm sugar, but it makes the cake pretty brown...if that doesn't bother you then go for it!)
-1 1/2 tsp Cream of Tartar
-1 Tbs Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp Sea Salt

-Preheat your oven to 350° and grease an angel food cake or bundt cake pan. Feel free to sprinkle some of the rice flour on it as well to keep it from sticking. 

-In a small bowl, mix together your flour, starch and salt and set aside.

-Using a Kitchenaid Mixer or hand mixer, whip the egg whites until frothy...this will take several minutes, be patient. **Please note: you can't have any yolk in the egg whites or it won't turn out! We actually had a batch that didn't turn out because we (see: my husband trying to help out to speed up the process LOL!) accidentally got some yolk in with the whites. To redeem himself, however, he showed me a quick way to separate the eggs which you can see in the video above. Believe me, you will be able to tell if it's working or not. See the video for examples of what the frothiness and peaks should look like.

-Add the cream of tartar and continue to whip until soft peaks form.
-Add in the sugars a little at a time and continue to mix until stiff peaks form.

Again...BE will know you have stiff peaks if you pull the whisk out and the mixture doesn't drip down. The frothy mixture should stay right where it is if your consistency is right.

This is close to how you want the stiff peaks to look

-Place your hand mixer aside or remove your bowl from your stand mixer. Using a hand whisk, start folding in the dry ingredients about 1/4 cup at a time. DO THIS SLOWLY and've worked so hard with the egg whites you don't want to deflate all your efforts.

-Once all your ingredients are incorporated, slowly scoop into your prepared pan. Run a butter knife around if it looks like a lot of bubbles are present.

-Place in oven and bake for 55 minutes. Do NOT underbake! It will be gooey rather than fluffy if you don't leave it in the oven for at least 55 minutes. 

-Remove from oven and immediately turn it over and place upside down on a glass to cool for about 10 minutes. After it has cooled, run a knife around the edges to loosen it up and place on a plate to cool completely.

Now, on to the Dairy-free Whipped Topping recipe...This whipped topping, as you will see, will be incorporated into the vanilla pudding for the trifle. However, if you prefer, you can simply take some of the above angel food cake and top it with strawberries and this topping and it would be a nice simple dessert option! **Note: You will need to plan for this...the Coconut Milk needs to be chilled for at least 6 hours in the fridge.

-1 can Unsweetened Coconut Milk (You can use plain coconut milk without any additives, but if you get some that includes Guar Gum you will have much thicker and richer results)
-1 Tbs Coconut Palm Sugar (or sugar of choice, Xylitol is pictured above)
-1 tsp Vanilla Extract

-Chill the can of coconut milk in the fridge for at least 6 hours. When you take it out of the fridge, do NOT shake the can and move quickly with the can opener. You want the top layer of cream and none of the water for this whipped topping.

-Carefully spoon the cream without getting any of the water into a bowl for a hand mixer or the bowl of your Kitchenaid stand mixer. 

-Whip the cream for a couple minutes until it starts to get fluffy.

-Add the sugar and vanilla extract and mix together.

-Once fully incorporated, spoon into a container and chill until needed. (Can be frozen and thawed in the fridge if you need to really plan ahead.)

And FINALLY, the Trifle!! This makes a fairly large can cut it in half if you don't want quite as much depending on how many people you will be serving.

-Up to 1 full angel food cake, broken into pieces
-2 containers of the dairy-free whipped topping (double the recipe above)

-2 packages Instant Vanilla Pudding mix (this will change once I perfect a homemade version)

-1 c Almond Milk (or milk of choice)
-1 c Water
-AT LEAST 4 cups of Berries (Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, I've even added could try pineapple too!), if using strawberries, slice and reserve a few whole for on the top.

-Place Pudding mix in bowl of stand mixer (or use hand mixer and bowl) and add water. 

-Mix well then add the milk and whisk for 2 minutes until thickened.

-Carefully, with a spatula, fold in your homemade whipped topping (note that regular whipped topping can be used here as well if you have no dietary restrictions or if you are crunched for time) until fully incorporated.

-When fully mixed it should look thick, fluffy and lighter in color. this point, it's really hard to not just start
licking the spoon and bowl, but 
WAIT! The finished product is SO much better!

- Place a 1/4 of the mixture at the bottom of a large serving bowl (preferably a clear bowl so you can see the various layers)

- Layer some broken-up angel food cake on top of the pudding mixture.

- Layer about 1/3 of the berry mixture on top of the cake.

- Spoon some more pudding mixture over the berries and repeat cake and berries.

- Repeat layers as desired, making sure to end with pudding mixture.

- Top with the whole strawberries (and candles if it's for a birthday!). Sometimes the measurements may not work out well and you'll have some extra berries left over. This is not a problem...simply pick up a spoon and eat them up! :-)

- Place in the fridge to "set" for a couple hours before serving. To serve, just spoon into bowls and watch it disappear! 

am currently working on that dairy-free & healthy vanilla pudding recipe. So, stay tuned for a revised recipe to come! I hope you enjoy this treat and that it becomes a regular healthy dessert for your family. Even if you are not following a specific dietary plan, gluten-free or otherwise, I invite you to give this a has been a hit with EVERYONE!

Enjoy the rest of your Summer and treat yourself well,

Do you have a Birthday Cake tradition?
Each person in our family has a specific cake or dessert that has become a favorite.

Do you share your birth date with another family member?
Our family shares many of the same birth dates. It was always fun growing up and was a special thing for us. More on that in the future Watermelon basket post.

Do you have a favorite dairy-free vanilla pudding recipe?
Please share if you do!