Ice Cream/Frozen Desserts

These Frozen Treats Are All the Fun of Ice Cream and 1/2 the Work

July  4, 2018

If you’re looking to get from zero to frozen dessert as quickly as possible, consider the frozen trifle. There’s no ice cream machine required because you are making semifreddo. You also don’t need to take it in and out of the freezer, so individual layers can freeze. Just make it all at once and voilà: this wonderfully flexible, no-bake recipe is here to add more joy to your summer.

Don't let these good looks fool you. Photo by Julia Gartland

If you’re unfamiliar, trifles are old-fashioned desserts usually made by layering cake or cookies, whipped cream, and jam. One of my favorite things about them is their adaptability; you can swap out flavors and textures by mixing up the ingredients you’re using. These frozen trifles are made by layering a no-churn frozen dessert base (semifreddo!) with cake and/or cookies. I opted to use two berries (blueberries and blackberries) to make two different semifreddo flavors for layering, but nearly any fruit can be used in this recipe—whether you want to use just one fruit or three.

Ready to dive in? Here’s what you need to know:

The Components

Just like a regular trifle, what goes inside is really up to you, since there are so many options. But since this is a frozen trifle, be mindful of how the items you choose will taste when frozen. You don’t want to use anything that will get super firm, but if you insist, that firm item should be broken into very small pieces so it’s easy to eat when chilled.

Gather the troops. Photo by Julia Gartland

I opted to use homemade angel food cake and meringue cookies, but by all means, you could just use the store-bought stuff. You’ll also need fresh fruit that you’ll make into a puree, sour cream, and whipped cream, which you’ll sweeten with powdered sugar. Like I said before, you can use any kind of cake or cookies, from crumbled graham crackers to leftover cookie crumbs from the bottom of the bag; or switch up the cake to pound cake, or even leftover cake scraps.

This Cake Is a Good Option, Too

The Fruit Puree

To make semifreddo, you first need to make a fruit puree. It’s super easy: Just combine fresh fruit with a little bit of granulated sugar and cook until the fruit breaks down and gets all juicy. You can also add any flavorings you like during this time. I like to add vanilla bean, but spices or fresh herbs work well (if you want to use extract, add it at the end of cooking). Once the fruit completely breaks down, strain the mixture.

Shop the Story

This is one of those times you want to really press the solids as you strain it to get a thicker puree, rather than just juice. The amount of puree you produce will likely vary, because every fruit has different levels of juiciness, but you’ll need a 1/2 cup of puree for every recipe of semifreddo you want to make. Once you’ve got your finished puree, it’s a good idea to let it cool a bit. It doesn’t need to cool completely before you use it, but letting it cool for at least 15 minutes will make the process easier (and allow the trifles to freeze faster later).

Make two different fruit purees—or double the recipe and use one. Photo by Julia Gartland

Making the Semifreddo

Once you have your fruit puree(s), you’re ready to make the semifreddo. You’ll start by whipping cream with powdered sugar to medium peaks. (You can hold the cream in the fridge for up to 1 hour.) For each semifreddo recipe, you’ll use 1/2 cup fruit puree, 1/2 cup sour cream, and half of the whipped cream mixture you made. (Note: Since I had two flavors of fruit puree, I made this two separate times. If you opt to just do one fruit flavor, you’ll want to multiply my recipe x2.)

To make the semifreddo, whisk the puree and sour cream together until combined, then gently fold in half of the whipped cream. Repeat with the second puree flavor, if using. That’s all there is to it.

Try not to eat it all as you assemble. Photo by Julia Gartland

Assembling the Trifle

I like to use clear, medium-large tall glasses for these frozen trifles, so you can see all the pretty layers. Spoon the first flavor of semifreddo into a medium glass, then sprinkle a layer of meringues and/or angel food cake (press them into the semifreddo a little bit). Then spoon the other flavor of semifreddo into the glass, and continue this until the glass is completely full. Repeat until you’ve used up all your components and filled all your glasses. There’s really no right or wrong way to do this, as you’re simply building a yummy layered glass of pure awesomeness.

Freezing the Trifle

Freeze the trifles until the top layer is firm; this can be as little as 30 minutes and as much as 1 1/2 hours, depending on how hot it was when you built it and how cold your freezer runs. Let the trifles sit at room temperature for up to 5 minutes before serving, then dive in.

How would you dress a trifle? Let us know in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Teresa
  • Anastasia S. V. Andreadis
    Anastasia S. V. Andreadis
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!


Teresa May 26, 2021
Can mascarpone(whipped) be subbed in for the sour cream/heavy cream? Richness plus little tartness...
Anastasia S. July 12, 2018
How long is this good for before it goes bad?