Triple Chocolate Punch Bowl Cake

This rich, fudgy Chocolate Punch Bowl Cake combines layers of double chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, and homemade whipped cream for an impressive dessert.

A Go-To Layered Dessert for Parties

Layered Chocolate Punch Bowl Cake topped with sliced strawberries.

I have my friend Cathy (of Baby Blue Cake Pop fame) to thank for this Punch Bowl Cake recipe. Cathy brought the cake over for me to photograph, then graciously offered me a scoop, which I devoured in an embarrassingly short amount of time.

I had never experienced this layered dessert wonder before, and I have to say, it was a game changer. The texture of Punch Bowl Cake blurs the lines between cake and pudding, becoming something else entirely. It’s a sinfully thick, rich, and fudgy concoction that blows traditional frosted cake out of the water.

Punch Bowl Cake, or Crow’s Nest, as her family called it, is the answer to every “What should I bring to the insert cookout/family reunion/dinner party/holiday gathering here? question. It’s pretty, it feeds a crowd, it can be adapted for every season, and it’s perfect for making ahead of time.

Plus, you can’t go wrong with the dessert trifecta of chocolate cake + chocolate pudding + whipped cream. This combo is undefeated.

Today I’ll walk you through making your own epic Punch Bowl Cake, with options for going the homemade, semi-homemade, or shortcut all the way route. However you slice it (scoop it?), I think this one will be a hit at your next party!

Strawberries arranged in a pretty circular design on top of a punch bowl cake.

Key Ingredients in Punch Bowl Cake

Ingredients for a punch bowl cake shown in various sized bowls.

Cathy remembers her mom making punch bowl cake with just four simple ingredients:

  • Boxed cake mix.
  • Boxed instant pudding.
  • Cool Whip.
  • Maraschino cherries

If you want to go this route, DO IT! Live your life. Take those shortcuts, girl.

However, if you want to make things a little more homemade, Cathy shared with me her updated semi-homemade version which includes:

  • A decadent homemade chocolate cake made with coffee, cocoa powder, semi-sweet chocolate, and buttermilk.
  • Boxed fudge pudding– Prefer to make it yourself? Try this homemade chocolate pudding recipe.
  • Homemade whipped cream– Because it’s better than the tub. Full stop.
  • Fresh Strawberries

How to Make a Chocolate Punch Bowl Cake

Start by making the chocolate cake.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Finely chop the chocolate (or use chips) and place in a heat proof bowl. Pour very hot coffee over the chocolate and let it stand for a minute, then stir together until the chocolate is melted. Allow the mixture to cool until just warm–we don’t want it to scramble our eggs!

Using a stand or hand held mixer, beat the eggs until thick and lemon colored. Slowly pour in the oil, followed by the buttermilk and then vanilla. Slowly stir in the melted chocolate mixture and beat until well combined.

In another bowl, sift together sugar, flour, cocoa, soda, powder, salt. Add this mixture gradually to the liquids and beat on medium speed just until combined.

Pour into a lightly greased 9×13 pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until center is set. Don’t over bake.

Next, make the chocolate pudding.

Place instant pudding mix, milk, and cream in a large bowl and whisk together until mix is totally dissolved, about 2-3 minutes. Chill until ready to assemble.

Finally, prepare the whipped cream.

Put all of the ingredients in a stand mixer with whisk attachment and beat until firm peaks form. *Note: the amount of powdered sugar just depends on personal preference.

Assemble the punch bowl cake.

Cut the cake into bite sized pieces. Place a layer of cake in the bottom of a large punch bowl or trifle bowl. Follow that with 1/3 of the pudding then 1/3 of the whipped cream. Repeat 2 times, ending with the whipped cream. Refrigerate two hours. Top with fruit before serving.

Tips for the Best Punch Bowl Cake

  • For the best results, refrigerate the punch bowl cake at least two hours, preferably overnight. As it sits, the cake and pudding layers meld together to create the fudgiest dessert. It will keep up to five days in the fridge.
  • If you prefer, you can layer the fruit along with the pudding. Keep in mind the cake will not last as long this way as the fruit tends to get mushy after 48 hours. I prefer to top with the fruit right before serving to keep it fresh.
  • You can use varying sizes of punch bowls or trifle bowls. Depending on the size of your bowl, you may or may not need to use all of the cake. The recipe shown here used this 3 quart bowl, and I had quite a lot of cake leftover. Larger punch bowls or trifle bowls like this one will use all of the cake. If you’re working with a smaller sized bowl, you can halve the cake recipe (still make it in a 9 x 13 pan, but reduce the bake time to 30-35 minutes). You can also use leftover cake to make cake pops, or slather it with the caramel frosting from this Chocolate Crazy Cake and enjoy a second dessert!
Layers of chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, and whipped cream shown in a trifle bowl and topped with sliced strawberries.

Variations on Chocolate Trifle

Is it a trifle or is it a punch bowl cake? The answer is both. As far as I can tell, these two desserts are the same, but the punch bowl cake is made in a slightly larger bowl. Whatever you call it, the possibilities for riffing on this cake/pudding combo are endless.

  • Feel free to experiment by swapping out the cake for any cake recipe you love, whether it’s boxed or homemade. Try it with Carrot Sheet Cake, Easy Strawberry Cake, or a plain yellow cake mix.
  • Same goes for the pudding- Try it with vanilla, cheesecake, white chocolate, lemon, or coconut.
  • Fruits- Try swapping out the fruits as well–blueberries, blackberries, pineapple or kiwi could all work. You can even use pie filling if you prefer.
  • Other additions- Add nuts or coconut in the layers for a little texture.
Top down image of a strawberry chocolate punch bowl cake with a scoop taken out of it.

Favorite Combinations to Try

  • Carrot Cake/Cheesecake Pudding/Pineapple
  • Strawberry Cake/Vanilla Pudding/Strawberries
  • White Cake/Vanilla Pudding/Strawberry and Blueberry Pie filling- This would be perfect for Fourth of July!
  • Yellow Cake/Chocolate Pudding/Fresh berries
Glass filled with a scoop of chocolate punch bowl cake and a spoon.

More Dessert Recipes for Parties

Looking for more crowd pleasing desserts to take to your next holiday party or potluck? Try these other favorites!

Layered Chocolate Punch Bowl Cake topped with sliced strawberries.

Chocolate Punch Bowl Cake

Yield: 16
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Additional Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 45 minutes

This Punch Bowl Cake features layers of rich chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, and fresh whipped cream that combine to make an ultra rich and fudgy dessert.

Ingredients

For the Double Chocolate Cake:

  • 1 ½ cups hot brewed coffee
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cups vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 ½ cups cocoa powder - regular, not dutch
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ¼ tsp salt

For the pudding:

  • 2 (3.4 oz) boxes instant chocolate pudding
  • 3 cups cold milk, at least 2%
  • 1 cup cream

For the whipped cream:

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 6-8 Tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Fresh sliced strawberries or other fruit, optional

Instructions

Start by making the chocolate cake.

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Finely chop the chocolate (or use chips) and place in a heat proof bowl. Pour very hot coffee over the chocolate and let it stand for a minute, then stir together until the chocolate is melted. Allow the mixture to cool until just warm--we don't want it to scramble our eggs!
  2. Using a stand or hand held mixer, beat the eggs until thick and lemon colored. Slowly pour in the oil, followed by the buttermilk and then vanilla. Slowly stir in the melted chocolate mixture and beat until well combined.
  3. In another bowl, sift together sugar, flour, cocoa, soda, powder, salt. Add this mixture gradually to the liquids and beat on medium speed just until combined.
  4. Pour into a lightly greased 9x13 pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until center is set. Don't over bake. Allow to cool completely.

Next, make the chocolate pudding:

  1. Place instant pudding mix, milk, and cream in a large bowl and whisk together until mix is totally dissolved, about 2-3 minutes. Chill until ready to assemble.

Finally, prepare the whipped cream.

  1. Put all of the ingredients in a stand mixer with whisk attachment and beat until firm peaks form. *Note: the amount of powdered sugar just depends on personal preference. Sweeten to taste.

Assemble the punch bowl cake.

  1. Cut the cake into bite sized pieces. Place a layer of cake in the bottom of a large punch bowl or trifle bowl. Follow that with 1/3 of the pudding then 1/3 of the whipped cream. Repeat 2 times, ending with the whipped cream. Refrigerate at least two hours or overnight. Top with fruit before serving.

Notes

If you're using a smaller punch bowl or trifle bowl, you can cut the cake recipe in half. It can still be baked in a 9 x 13 pan, but the baking time will be cut to 30-35 minutes.

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73 Comments

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  2. Oh this looks like the perfect way to finish off a Picnic menu 🙂 Love how easy and pretty it looks! Bookmarked 🙂

  3. Bee-you-ti-ful, Courtney! And with real whipped cream, strawberries and homemade chocolate cake, it’s guaranteed goodness =) BTW I know the chocolate cake is delicious because I have a similar recipe using coffee and buttermilk =)

  4. The mix of ingredients in that bowl can´t be anything but amazing! And such a crowd pleaser too.

  5. This is SUCH a freaking good idea! There is so much deliciousness layered in that bowl, it’s kinda blowing my mind right now!

  6. Are you trying to kill me??? WOW this looks fabulously delicious! For any party or picnic!!

  7. What a beautiful dessert to serve at a picnic! The strawberries make it look so pretty! Thank you for sharing.

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