This Easy Punch Bowl Cake is an old fashioned dessert that’s assembled in a punch bowl (or trifle dish). With layers of cake, vanilla custard, fruit, and whipped cream, it will have you coming back for more!
Cake…in a punch bowl? Yes! This old fashioned Southern cake is a show stopper for your table—for holidays like Easter and Christmas especially.
The cake resembles a trifle more than anything (especially when you make it in a trifle dish like I did—ha!), but I just love the idea of this Easy Punch Bowl Cake.
We’ll take a few shortcuts to keep it extra easy: boxed cake mix, instant pudding to create the custard, canned fruit, and whipped topping.
So whether it’s made in an actual punch bowl, a trifle dish, or just a large glass bowl, make sure the dish is clear so everyone can see the layers!
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What is punch bowl cake?
Punch Bowl Cake is similar to a trifle, with layers of cake, fruit, custard or pudding, and whipped cream. The ingredients are layered in a large punch bowl to create the cake.
There are many variations, but this recipe consists of yellow cake, vanilla custard, cherry pie filling, fruit, and whipped cream.
Instead of using a punch bowl, this dessert can also be made in a glass bowl, trifle bowl, or another large see-through dish.
Origin of punch bowl cake
Punch bowls were once seem as a status symbol in America, dating back to the late 1600s. According to Saveur’s history of the punch bowl, they were once made from ceramic, then silver, then eventually glass. The size of the bowl indicated the family’s status and place in society.
So punch bowls have long been a mainstay in American kitchens (particularly in the South), but what about punch bowl cake? This version of the cake was likely invented in the 1970s.
- Leave time for the cake to cool before slicing it into cubes. You can even make it the day before. In a rush? Use a store-bought angel food cake instead.
- Drain the fruit so it doesn’t make the cake mushy. The cake pieces will soak up some of the liquid, so it doesn’t have to be perfect.
- Leave at least an hour for the cake to chill in the refrigerator before serving.
- The cake starts with a box of cake mix, made according to package directions.
- Instant vanilla pudding and milk create a creamy custard. Make sure it’s instant and not cook and serve pudding!
- Mandarin oranges, pineapple, and cherry pie filling create the pretty layers.
- The cake is topped off with whipped topping (like Cool Whip) and chopped pecans.
How to make an easy Punch Bowl Cake
Start by making a yellow cake mix according to package directions. You can also use white cake mix.
Allow the cake to cool fully, then cut into cubes, about 1–2 inches in size.
Next, stir the vanilla pudding mix into the milk. Allow to sit for 5 minutes to firm up slightly.
While the pudding is resting, drain the mandarin oranges and the pineapple. I used pineapple tidbits, but you can use pineapple chunks or even crushed pineapple.
Place half of the cake cubes into the bottom of a punch bowl or trifle dish. Top with half of the vanilla pudding mixture.
Top that with half of the cherry pie filling, half of the mandarin oranges, and half of the pineapple.
Repeat the layers: cake cubes, vanilla pudding, and cherry pie filling.
Then layer on the mandarin oranges and pineapple.
Top the punch bowl cake with a carton of whipped topping, then sprinkle with pecans.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or up to 8 hours) before serving.
Can punch bowl cake be made ahead?
This easy Punch Bowl Cake is a great make-ahead dessert. You can prepare the dish up to 8 hours in advance. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator before serving.
- Use fresh sliced strawberries instead of mandarin oranges
- Sprinkle shredded coconut or chocolate curls on top
- Use chocolate cake mix to create a chocolate punch bowl cake; you can also use chocolate pudding mix in place of vanilla
- Add sliced bananas in place of the mandarin oranges or pineapple
- Swap chopped almonds or walnuts for the pecans
- Use store-bought angel food cake in place of the prepared yellow cake
- Make individual desserts by layering the ingredients into mason jars instead of a punch bowl
More old fashioned cakes
- Chocolate Eclair Cake
- Old Fashioned Date Cake
- Jell-o Poke Cake
- Chocolate Delight
- Old Fashioned Banana Cake
- Cherry Dump Cake
Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and/or comment below!
Easy Punch Bowl Cake
- 1 yellow or white cake mix
- 1 large box (5.1 oz) instant vanilla pudding
- 3 cups milk
- 1 can (20 oz) pineapple tidbits, drained
- 1 can (15 oz) mandarin oranges, drained
- 1 can (21 oz) cherry pie filling
- 1 carton (8 oz) whipped topping, thawed
- 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
- Bake cake mix according to package directions. You can either use a 13×9 inch dish or the two 8–9 inch round options.
- Let the cake cool completely and cut into 1 inch pieces.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the instant vanilla pudding and the milk. Let sit for 10 minutes to firm up a bit.
- Place half of the cake cubes in a punch bowl or large trifle dish. Top with half of the vanilla pudding mixture.
- Top with half of the cherry pie filling, then half of the pineapple tidbits and half of the mandarin oranges.
- Repeat with the remaining cake, vanilla pudding, cherry pie filling, pineapple, and mandarin oranges.
- Top with the whipped topping, then sprinkle the pecans on top.
- Refrigerate for 1 hours before serving.