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Pumpkin Cake and Salted Caramel Mousse Trifle



When I was in a Crate and Barrel in Chicago last year, I saw this small glass Hurricane on display and, although it's meant for a candle, I immediatley knew I was going to make a trifle in it.  I played around with various flavor combinations but finally decided to make something for fall.  That meant pumpkin.  And wouldn't caramel go great with pumpkin?  And you have to have whipped cream in there somewhere.  One thing led to another and here it is - pumpkin cake layers with an incredible caramel mousse filling and whipped cream.  And it's all topped off with some caramel jewels.

There are four components to this cake.  It may look daunting, but each component is a snap to prepare. The pumpkin cake is simply the same cake that is used in this classic Pumpkin Roll - I just doubled the recipe and made it in a bigger sheet pan.  The caramel mousse is incredible and not at all hard to make.  The little caramel jewels are surprisingly easy to make - just cook sugar and water together until it turns golden and drizzle it on a sheet of tin foil.  It hardens up in a snap and you just lift the little jewels right off. 

There will be cake trimmings leftover after you cut out your layers. These are definitely for snacking, so don't throw them away. 

Pumpkin Cake and Salted Caramel Mousse Trifle

for a printable recipe click here

serves about 10 - 12


for pumpkin cake:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1⅓ cup pumpkin filling

for the caramel mousse:

  • 8 Tablespoons cool water, divided
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1¼ teaspoon powdered gelatin
  • 2¾  cups heavy cream, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon course sea salt or to taste 

 for the whipped cream layer:

  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 4 teaspoons cold water
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

for the caramel jewels

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water 


Preheat the oven to 375° F. Grease a 13x18 inch jelly-roll pan (half sheet rimmed baking pan); line with parchment paper. Grease and flour paper. 

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in small bowl. Beat eggs and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan. 

Bake for about 22 -25 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. Allow cake to cool slightly in pan. You don't have to let the cake cool completely before you start cutting out the circles.  With your trifle dish, cut out rounds of cake in the pan.  Using a 6-inch trifle,  you should have four rounds.  Remove cakes carefully with a spatula to a wire rack to continue to cool.  


Mix sugar and 6 Tablespoons of water in a medium size sauce pan.  Place over medium heat until it begins to turn from a pale amber to rich caramel color, approximately 8 minutes.  Immediately remove from the heat as the sugar will continue to darken as it cools.  Important note: do not stir the mixture once it’s on the heat; just let it heat to the proper color.  If you need to stir in some sugar crystals that have accumulated on the sides of the pan, gently swirl the pan.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly but do not stir.

Slowly whisk ¾ cup heavy cream into the caramel - the caramel will tend to bubble up as you add the cream. Set aside to cool.

Bloom the gelatin: sprinkle powdered gelatin into 2 Tablespoons of cool water.  Allow it to sit for 3 to 5 minutes.

Whip 2 cups of heavy cream and vanilla until soft peaks form.

Whisk gelatin and sea salt into warm caramel.   Gently fold caramel into heavy cream.  Refrigerate until ready to assemble trifle.


In a small pan, combine gelatin and cold water; let stand until thick. Place over low heat, stirring constantly, just until the gelatin dissolves. Remove from heat; cool (do not allow it to set).

Whip the cream with the confectioner's sugar until slightly thick. While slowly beating, add the gelatin to whipping cream. Whip at high speed until stiff.  Refrigerate until ready to assemble trifle.


Line a baking sheet with a layer of tin foil. Spray lightly with Pam.

In a small saucepan, heat sugar and water until sugar dissolves completely.  Continue to cook over medium low heat, without stirring, until sugar mixture turns golden, but not dark golden.  Remove from heat immediately and allow to cool just until the consistency thickens up a bit but is still runny.   

With a spoon, drizzle the caramel on the tin foil in any pattern you like.  I did concentric circles. Allow to harden up - this takes just a few minutes.  The jewels lift right off the tin foil.


Note:  I piped the mousse and whipped cream layers with a pastry bag and jumbo piping tip.  It was an easy way to do these layers.  If you don't have a pastry bag, you can just use a big ziplock bag and cut off one corner and pipe the layers that way.  Or you can just spoon them on if you don't want to bother with piping.

Place one pumpkin cake round in the bottom of the trifle.  Pipe or spoon a layer of caramel mousse on top of the cake.  Pipe or spoon a layer of whipped cream on top of the mousse.  Repeat until all four layers are done. Garnish with caramel jewels if desired.  Refrigerate until time to serve.

caramel mousse recipe from Harrison House

pumpkin cake (doubled) from Libby's 

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Reader Comments (23)

So beautifull post! I dont know how it taste, but really is like a dream!

November 19, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterspoonstories

Oh, my gosh, I was all set to make your pumpkin roulade for next week (and for Christmas--back by popular demand, and I mean demand) but I think this one trumps the other in terms of presentation. Love the decorative caramel bits atop!

November 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSiobhan

This is beautiful and quite easy to prepare. It's sounds so tasty. You mentioned using a 6" trifle, so are these individual servings that you've made or is that one large one? It's hard to tell from the photo. Nice recipe.

November 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVicki Bensinger

Thank you so much for your recipes! It makes me happy to see a notification informing me that you have another recipe posting. You make baking and cooking for my family very enjoyable.

November 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

I just love Trifles. So easy but, so impressive. Your Pumpkin Trifle looks and sound so good. How pretty it will be on a Thanksgiving table.

November 19, 2013 | Unregistered

You are amazing! This is so beautiful....can't wait to taste it!!

November 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLisamaureen

WOW...just absolutely...WOW! What a lovely trifle!! I will have to make an attempt to make this glorious dessert. Thank you for your inspiration!!

November 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRosetta P

From The Italian Dish:

Vicki: No, it's one trifle. Even though it's only a 6" Hurricane, it still holds quite a bit of dessert!

November 19, 2013 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

How far ahead of time can the components each be made or the entire assembled dessert made? I'm just thinking of timing all the foods for Thanksgiving Day!

November 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLinmy

will try this one for Thanksgiving! + yes

November 19, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpeggy braswell

Beautiful dessert! I, too, had planned to make a pumpkin roll for Thanksgiving, but after seeing this stunning dessert I thought I'd try it. While reading the instructions for making the caramel mousse I could not find where the sea salt is added. Did I overlook it? Thanks!

November 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDee

From The Italian Dish:

Linmy: You could actually make all the components the day before. Because of the gelatin in the mousse and whipped cream, they will stay firm til the next day. Then all you have to do the day of is the assembly. Hope this helps.

Dee: Oops! I fixed it. Thanks for pointing it out.

November 19, 2013 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Would love to make this for my teacher friends for lunch. So you are saying that if I make it the night before and bring it all to school the next day, I can just assemble it at lunch and it will taste good?

November 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSuzy Bourgeois

From The Italian Dish:

Suzy; Indeed! It will be just fine.

November 19, 2013 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

OMG, this looks absolutely yummy will have to try this my new kitchen :)

November 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

This looks amazing and so WOW!! Definitely going to be on my Thanksgiving table ;) And I used your link to C&B to order this dish and already have it - perfect with no bubbles, in case anyone else is considering ordering it and has read the reviews. It will join my 3 other trifle dishes.... one can never have too many, really! Thanksgivings Blessings!!

November 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBarb

Question on the stuffed turkey recipE... I have made a brined turkey breast in the past....
can you brine the breast on the bone first then debone and stuff and cook ?

November 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShelly

Thanks a lot for your yummy recipe, I really love it. looks mouthwatering, i'll definitely try to make this. Because I am a cake designer and I love making yumm recipe.
3D cakes in Pune

November 25, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter3D cakes in Pune

I made this Sunday and it was such a big hit among my co-workers. I did a trial run and will DEFINTELY be making it again for the real deal on Thanksgiving. Thank you for posting such a beautiful dessert with simple instructions. This is the most delicious thing I've ever made!

At first, I thought my mousse was a little too runny but sitting in the fridge overnight stiffened it up just the right amount. And the caramel jewels on top makes everyone think I'm a PRO in the kitchen - man, I've got them fooled! It's all thanks to you...

November 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlyson

From The Italian Dish:

Alyson: You totally made my day! Thanks.

November 25, 2013 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Hey Elaine! I tried making the caramel jewels twice today but the sugar just crystallizes and I'm not sure why. I kept the water and sugar on med low heat the hole time and didnt stir them but before it can turn brown it crystallizes. Do you know what I did wrong? -Brasta

April 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrasta

Going to give this a dry run Sunday. If it goes over big, then it will make the Fantastic-Four Dessert Table at the Harris household for Thanksgiving.

November 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTony

It looks very delicious Diş Ağrısına Ne iyi Gelir

November 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLalo

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