I love this time of year. The parties, the food, the festivities, and stockings hung by the fire. Trader Joe’s is so much fun to shop as well with aisles of Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s, Chocolate Stars, Marzipan Stollen, and Sipping Chocolate, just to name a few seasonal goodies. Today I wanted to share a few dessert ideas that we’ve featured in the past. They’re all easy desserts that stand out with holiday flavor. Read on for an Eggnog Tres Leches cake, a rich Chocolate Truffle Trifle, and our favorite Chocolate Coffee fudge. The fudge is especially great for adding to a gift basket or taking over to someone’s house – and it just takes minutes to make!
When you serve a dessert this month, “fancy up” the individual servings by placing a TJ’s chocolate star or a French truffle on each piece. It’s a small touch that makes each piece really pretty.
Holiday Tres Leches Cake
** Since writing this recipe, something has changed with either the eggnog or TJ’s cake base, because the recipe no longer works. Tres leches cakes are common, so try it with another brand cake mix.**
Eggnog is one of those mega-nostalgic drinks – it always brings back holiday memories for me and all those friends that have their secret eggnog recipes and serving tips. Another way to use eggnog is in a Tres Leches cake. It gives the cake a subtle eggnog flavor – not at all overpowering. Tres leches means “three milks” and refers to the traditional blends of milk, cream, and condensed milk that are used to saturate this cake,making it ultra moist without being soggy. The holiday version of this cake uses eggnog and rum, imbibing the cake with delicious festive flavor.
- 1 Box Vanilla Cake & Baking Mix
- 3 cups eggnog
- 1 Tbsp rum (such as Captain Morgan’s Original Spiced Rum)
Whipped Cream Topping
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp sugar
- Cinnamon or nutmeg, optional
- Bake cake according to instructions. I used a 9 x 13″ pan. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick and seeing when it comes out clean.
- Cool cake completely. For a formal presentation, flip cake onto a platter. I left it in the pan.
- Using a wooden skewer or chopstick, pierce 30-40 holes into cake.
- Mix egg nog with rum, and pour this mixture slowly over the top of the cake, allowing it to soak in through the holes.
- Refrigerate for 2 hours, allowing cake to absorb the liquid. Spoon liquid over cake if necessary.
- Whip heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add vanilla and sugar, mixing until dissolved. Spread evenly on cake.
- Dust with ground cinnamon or nutmeg or top with a Dark Chocolate Star and berries as shown.
One thing I’ve noticed is that the Trader Joe’s Vanilla Cake and Baking Mix doesn’t release from the pan easily. Make sure that you oil/butter and flour the pan before pouring in the batter. Usually it takes a little encouragement to pop it out of the pan. For this recipe, I usually leave it in the pan, but either way works.
Chocolate Coffee Fudge
This recipe is from our second (new!) cookbook “The Trader Joe’s Companion.” It’s a delicious rich, old-fashioned fudge that just takes three ingredients and about as many minutes to make! It’s a cinch with great results. The special ingredient is a touch of instant coffee. In general, a hint of coffee or espresso really enhances and intensifies the taste of chocolate.
- 1 14-oz can Organic Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 2 Tbsp instant coffee (or espresso powder)
- 1/2 Tbsp water
- 1 12-oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Heat the condensed milk in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
- Dissolve the instant coffee in the water (it will be thick) and stir into the condensed milk.
- Add the chocolate chips, lower the heat, and stir until melted and smooth (don’t scorch it!).
- Pour into a lightly oiled 8×8-inch pan. Chill in fridge until set (about 2 hours).
When cutting the fudge, a plastic knife is easiest. If using a regular knife, wipe it clean in between making cuts. Then use a spatula to lift out the pieces. You can also line the pan with wax paper for easier removal of fudge.
Chocolate Truffle Trifle
A trifle is a layered dessert that is more or less the British version of an over-sized parfait. It typically consists of sponge cake or pound cake layered with fruit, cream, custard, and sometimes nuts. I tend to associate trifles with New Orleans, where I’ve seen chunks of cake mixed together and moistened with alcohol or syrup. You’ll usually see trifle served in a large bowl, kind of like a dessert centerpiece. There’s even a special footed bowl called a trifle bowl, and you can find mini-versions of it as well if you want to present the dessert individually.
I decided to make a decadent chocolate version, made of chocolate and even more chocolate, with a hint of peppermint that really makes the topping sparkle. A trifle is not usually made of chocolate, but no harm in exploring uncharted dessert territory. The layers start off with a moist brownie full of gooey chocolate bits, followed by rich Belgian chocolate pudding, and finally topped with whipped cream hiding chunks of dark chocolate peppermint bark.
- 1 box Brownie Truffle Baking Mix
- 1 container refrigerated Belgian Chocolate Pudding
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3-5 oz Peppermint Bark, coarsely chopped with a knife
- Bake brownie mix according to package instructions. Let cool.
- Whip heavy cream until soft peaks form. Stir in peppermint bark pieces.
- Serve either in a large bowl or in individual cups. Make a brownie layer on the bottom, followed by pudding, and top with the whipped cream mixture.
- Optional: garnish with Peppermint Bark, as shown.