Hazelnut Pumpkin Spice Trifles

Hazelnut Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Trifles

Happy Labor Day weekend! Time to kick off the pumpkin spice craze with these 10-minute hazelnut trifles. If you need to whip up a pretty dessert fast, this is a really good and absolutely foolproof one. It’s just simple layers of crumbled graham crackers with pumpkin spice and a little melted butter, some maple-flavored whipped cream, chopped hazelnuts and Nutella. That’s it! Enjoy your weekend and thanks so much for reading! :)

Hazelnut Pumpkin Spice Trifles
Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 2
For the graham cracker layer:
  • ⅓ cup crumbled graham crackers
  • 1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
  • ⅛ teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped hazelnuts
For the chocolate layer:
  • hazelnut spread, warmed up for a few seconds in the microwave
For the whipped cream layer:
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon maple extract
  1. Mix all the graham cracker layer ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Combine cream, sugar and maple extract and whip to stiff peaks.
  3. Layer graham crackers, hazelnut spread, then whipped cream into glasses. Go easy on the hazelnut spread, it quickly becomes overpowering, just drizzle a thin layer of it onto the Graham crackers.

Food Photography and Styling: I wanted this hazelnut trifle to be a fall photo and to evoke a feeling of fall I chose a color palette of brown, red and orange hues and sprinkled brown, wrinkled leaves into the composition. To create an outside feeling I used wood planks that look like an outside table and lit the set slightly from the back instead of from the side (side light always suggests an indoor table next to a window to me).

You’ll notice that this photo has a lot of horizontal lines created by the gaps between the wood planks but I still decided to frame it vertically. Typically, predominantly horizontal lines call for horizontal orientation and vertical lines for vertical orientation but that’s a rule I broke here and I think it works. I think the relatively tall glass looks nice in the vertical frame and the horizontal lines don’t distract me.

I observed the rule of thirds and placed the glass along one of the vertical lines that dissect the frame into thirds and placed the tip of the whipped cream on one of the intersection points.

The whipped cream needed to have some good curves to look interesting so I piped it with my beloved 1M piping tip that produces beautiful swirls. It’s by far my favorite piping tip, I don’t even know why I have others. I got the spoon and the metal plate from antique stores and the fabric is just one of those little quarters from Jo-Ann.

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Prop Talk – Fabrics

Food Photography Props Fabrics

Today on Prop Talk: fabrics! More specifically, I’m going to show you small pieces of fabric that I like to set plates and bowls on. What these fabrics do is visually anchor the tableware to the table. I find that a bowl or plate sitting directly on a “naked” surface can sometimes look disconnected from it, almost floating, depending on the angle of view. Whenever that happens, I turn to my collection of small napkins and fabrics. These can also help single out the main subject in photos that show multiples, such as several jars of trifle, for example. Setting the one jar that is your main subject on a small piece of fabric will elevate it ever so slightly and mark it as the most important.

I picked out my four favorite pieces to show to you.

Let’s start with the burlap ribbon. This material comes on a roll and you can buy it by the yard. I bought a large string of it at a local store but I’ve also seen it on Amazon. The one I have has a nice wide mesh and very thin metal wires (that can be cut with regular scissors) run on either side of the ribbon. The wires make the material nicely bendable and you can easily make nice waves that stay in place.

Here is an example of the burlap ribbon in action:
Mushroom Risotto with Cracked Black Pepper

From post Mushroom Risotto with Cracked Black Pepper.

Next, I’ve got a small lace table topper I found at an antique store. It measures 7 inches by 7 inches and fits perfectly underneath plates and bowls. I’ve used it in the beer cheddar soup photo below:

Beer Cheddar Soup
From post Beer Cheddar Soup.

Lastly, two linen cocktail napkins (10 inches by 10 inches) that I bought at Crate & Barrel. They can look very elegant, especially when a nice crease is ironed into them. I like these two a lot and have used them in the examples below:

Star Anise Poached Pears
From post Star Anise Poached Pears.

Cardamom Apple Crumb Cake
From post Cardamom Apple Crumb Cake.

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Strawberries and Coconut Cream

Strawberries and Coconut Cream

Let’s end August with some fresh berries! I find strawberries with plain whipped cream already pretty tasty but I wanted something more complex in this dessert so I added mascarpone and coconut flakes to the cream. That turned out really great. What I absolutely loved about the addition of mascarpone was the texture it created; it made the cream much more substantial but still left it beautifully soft. It had a real comforting feel to it. I folded in the coconut flakes, which added some good flavor as well as something to bite into. This cream will go well with any fruit you have on hand, blueberries, peaches, bananas, you name it!

Strawberries and Coconut Cream
Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 4
  • ¾ cup mascarpone
  • ⅔ cup heavy cream
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 tablespoons sweetened coconut flakes
  • about 16 large strawberries
  1. Whip mascarpone, cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff.
  2. Fold in the coconut flakes.
  3. Slice the strawberries and serve with the cream.

Food Photography and Styling: I thought the intense red of the strawberries would work well with a dark background so I chose my dark, rustic wood surface as the “wall” in the back (this surface is actually an antique tray and I’ll talk about it on a prop talk segment soon). I selected a glass bowl to show the individual layers of the dessert. Since the glass bowl was wide and short and the orientation vertical I needed something tall in the background to fill the space and the milk jug did the trick. I followed the rule of thirds, the strawberry sits smack on an intersection point. A little bowl to the left of the set, just outside the frame, creates a small shadow that suggests that the scene continues outside of the frame. I put some coconut flakes in the small dish in the background and sprinkled some next to the bowl to give the viewer the cue that there is coconut in this dish.


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Cardamom Apple Crumb Cakes

Cardamom Apple Crumb Cake

I can’t believe I haven’t posted a single cardamom recipe on TST yet! High time to rectify that. Cardamom is an interesting spice, it is the seed of a plant that belongs to the ginger family and it smells partially citrusy and partially vapor rubby (I mean this in a good way). The menthol component does not come through very strongly in cardamom’s taste, however, so in this baked recipe it mostly adds delicious, warm citrus notes. Cardamom pairs beautifully with apples and pears, which is why I added it to this delightful apple crumb cake recipe from Food & Wine magazine. Just add the cardamom along with the cinnamon.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cardamom Apple Crumb Cakes
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 18
For the streusel:*
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2½ tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold and cut into ¼-inch cubes
For the cakes:
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold and cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch chunks
  1. Follow the directions on Food & Wine's website and just add the cardamom along with the cinnamon.
*You'll see that Food & Wine recipe calls for twice the amounts listed for the streusel here. I personally find that that is much too much.


Food Photography and Styling: I always like to present food in its emotional context, in other words, I want to show the food not just the way it looks but also the way it feels. That, to me, is the hallmark of good food photography. It’s hard to do, however, and I certainly don’t always manage to pull it off. But I always try. :)

When I think of coffee cake I think of mid- to late afternoon low-angle light coming from a window off to the side of a nicely set table, so that’s how I placed my light source and that is the mood I was going for here. The little cakes had a rather flat top so I created a more, let’s say, impressive shape by adding a dollop of whipped cream. Since this is an apple cake I wanted to show some of the apple in there, so I carefully pulled the cake apart until pieces of apple were visible.

The cake was much too small for an actual plate so instead I used a gold-rimmed saucer, which I placed on a brown cocktail napkin. (I bought this cocktail napkin, as well as the one I used in this photo at Crate & Barrel).

In retrospect I am very unhappy with the ridge in the fabric that travels straight back behind the cake in the middle of the frame there. Well, too late now…

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