Coffee and Tapioca Trifle (Coffee Tapioca Pudding)

glass dish with coffee tapioca pudding

Tapioca can be used to make some wonderful old-fashioned desserts. We’re all familiar with tapioca pudding, but there are also some other fun recipes that call for tapioca in hundred-year-old cookbooks and magazines. I recently was intrigued by an old recipe for Coffee and Tapioca Trifle (Coffee Tapioca Pudding), and decided to give it a try.

Anyone who likes both coffee and tapioca will enjoy this dessert. Since the Coffee and Tapioca Trifle is made using coffee rather than milk, it was lighter than many tapioca desserts. It was delightfully refreshing, and had just the right amount of sweetness.

4 single servings of coffee and tapioca trifle in cups
Source: American Cookery (June/July, 1919)
recipe for coffee and tapioca trifle
Source: American Cookery (June/July, 1919)

I used small pearl tapioca when I made the recipe.

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Coffee and Tapioca Trifle (Coffee Tapioca Pudding)

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

1/2 cup small pearl tapioca

2 cups coffee

1/2 cup sugar

whipped cream

Soak tapioca in room temperature water overnight. Drain.

Heat coffee (preferably in double boiler) until warm, add drained tapioca. Cover, turn heat to very low and cook until mixture thickens, and the tapioca pearls have plumped and are tender (5 – 45 minutes) depending upon the brand of tapioca used. Stir occasionally. (It will boil over very easily—and also has a tendency to burn on the pan bottom if care is not used). Stir in the sugar, and cook just a bit longer to allow the sugar to dissolve. Remove from heat, and put in serving dishes. Chill at least 3 hours before serving. Serve with whipped cream.

49 thoughts on “Coffee and Tapioca Trifle (Coffee Tapioca Pudding)

  1. Sounds interesting! I have handwritten cookbooks from my grandmother (who was born in the 1890s) and my great-grandmother. I can remember my grandmother making tapioca, but never with coffee.

    1. You are so fortunate to have your grandmother and great grandmother’s handwritten cookbooks. It is such a wonderful connection with your ancestors.

  2. What a clever idea this is, and I would guess coffee-lovers would really enjoy this. I liked seeing your modern version, Sheryl, and, as always, really enjoyed the century-old version and photo.

  3. I don’t think you’ll get this past any British reader of a certain age. Nothing says School Dinners, 1950s vintage more than tapioca pudding. We won’t even give it a chance!

    1. I hadn’t thought about it in years, but your comment reminded me that my mother also used to use tapioca to thicken fruit pies. I may have to give it a try the next time that I make pies.

  4. Hmmm, years ago I once tried tapioca (non-instant) and it was a bust. I may revisit it with this recipe, only I think I’d like it to be a cafe au lait and cut the coffee with some (non dairy) milk. Have a happy new year, Sheryl! I just drove sort of near your Grandma’s old PA stomping grounds, and always think of you, and her 🙂

    1. It’s nice to hear that you recently thought of my grandmother and me when driving through PA. I have really enjoyed getting to know you via our blogs. Your suggested ingredient substitutions sound like it would result in a very tasty dessert.

  5. I found some tapioca pearls just the other day and thought that I needed to use them up… My husband is a coffee fanatic and he loves tapioca – this will be his birthday dessert!! Thanks so much for the recipe!

        1. Now that I’ve tried it, I’ll report in to say that I enjoyed it, but if I make it again I will use cafe au lait so that it’s creamier from the get-go. Maybe a touch more sugar? It was delicious though.

    1. In the hundred-year-old cookbooks and magazines that I’ve used to find recipes, only a few of the recipes have pictures. It’s always a nice bonus when a recipe that looks interesting has a photo.

  6. What a great idea! I have a dairy allergy, and although I have made tapioca pudding using a dairy-free milk, it is nice to have an alternative. I like one reader’s suggestion of making it café au lait as well, and maybe using half coffee/half milk.

    1. It turned out well using the coffee – and is a lighter dessert than if milk were used. That said, I agree with you that a cafe au lait version sounds tasty.

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