|Punch Bowl Strawberry Angel Cake|
Punch Bowl Strawberry Angel CakePunch bowls have a long history in the South and this dessert is a perfect one to ring in spring. Back in the day before hiring a caterer was the norm, families provided all of the food and labor for big parties and family events, and every family had a treasured punch bowl, almost always one that had been passed down a few times.
They’ve mostly fallen out of grace these days, even for Southerners, being relegated to places like eBay, Etsy online shops and local thrift stores, where you can often find them for a song. Younger folks just aren’t all that interested in punch bowls anymore and while punch certainly is served today, it’s likely found in the new-fangled, spouted beverage dispenser. For those of us who still possess a heritage punch bowl, they mostly only make an appearance during the Christmas season now.
Although a lot of folks think of punch in the traditional way, that is, with some kind of liquor, in our family the traditional punch bowl was always intended for the younger generation and those adult teetotalers who did not imbibe in alcohol. I do seem to recall there might have been a time or two at a family wedding that somebody managed to spike the punch throwing everybody in a quick panic. I can say that I was not involved in any way whatsoever… well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Whenever there was a family event of any kind, you could count on finding one of my Mama’s decorated layer cakes and her punch bowl in attendance, filled with the classic sherbet topped fruit punch she always made, nestled in with all the finger sandwiches, cocktail meatballs, sausage balls and hot crab dip.
Mama’s punch bowl was a heavy and oversized, thickly etched crystal heritage piece, and one that she had inherited after the passing of her own mother. It made an appearance at every single family event of my life, even my own wedding and later, my baby shower. On my Mama’s passing, I asked my cousin - who dearly loved my Mama and who Mama loved back equally, as if she were her own - if there was anything of Mama’s that she might want. She didn’t hesitate a moment to share how much she would love to have the punch bowl, so of course she got it.
That punch bowl represented much more than just a beverage vessel for our family. It held tight to so many memories and events in all of our lives because where those events occurred, that punch bowl was always present. For my cousin, that represented memories and the love of sisters, our mothers, as they lovingly prepared meals for so many of our gatherings. It represented times when the young women in our family came of age and passed into being new brides, and those times when those same brides passed into being new mothers.
Punch bowls may not be as revered as they once were, but one thing that rose out of them sure has held on and survived the passing of time, and that would be the punch bowl cake. Most often simply called a trifle today – even by our Southern gals - and rarely served in an actual punch bowl anymore, there are many of us who have fond memories of a punch bowl cake that was served at a special time in our life.
With layers of cake and sometimes brownies, a creamy filling of some kind, often pudding, some kind of fruit – either fresh, frozen or in the form of a pie filling – and whipped cream, really how can you go wrong with that? Pretty to look at, and simply delicious, they are always well received and make a great dessert for church suppers, dinner on the ground, potlucks, birthdays, showers, barbecues, holidays and gatherings of all types.
The beauty of this icebox dessert is that it is prepared ahead, allowing all of the flavors meld and marry together, freeing you up for other party preparations, but also that there is such versatility in the different ways that you can prepare one.
A yellow cake or pineapple cake, layered in with vanilla pudding, fresh strawberries and pineapple can stand in for many occasions through the spring and summer. For patriotic holidays, a pound cake or angel food cake, layered with white chocolate or vanilla pudding, strawberries and blueberries is striking. For the Christmas holidays or a special birthday, you can’t beat chocolate cake or brownies, layered in with one layer of vanilla pudding, strawberries or raspberries, another layer of chocolate pudding and whipped cream. Garnish the top with more of the fresh fruit and some maraschino cherries and chocolate curls, and you’ve got a dessert that will be lick the bowl good.
This cake uses an angel food cake, which you may either trim up or leave with the crust. Any cake that goes with the fruit and pudding you use will work, and in fact, if you’ve ever had a cake that fell or didn’t quite turn out, a punch bowl cake is a great way to repurpose it. I have a feeling that a punch bowl cake might have been born from just such an experience.
This combination of both fresh and frozen strawberries, layered with angel food cake that I am sharing today is one of my favorites. The cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk filling I use is just a little different from the usual pudding layer and it is truly decadent. To that, I add in some thawed frozen sliced strawberries, or another pint of fresh strawberries, macerated in a bit of granulated sugar, and it really just takes the filling over the top. Garnish with a bit of shredded sweet coconut and finely chopped pecans, and you have one impressive dessert for any table.
Here's how to make it. As always, full directions and the ingredient list with measurements, as well as a printable link, are all further down the page.
Beat the cream cheese and sugar together until well combined. Add the lemon juice and condensed milk; blend.
Add the Cool Whip and carefully fold in the thawed, frozen strawberries, with their juices; set aside.
Cut or tear the cake into small bite size pieces. You can trim it so that it's solid white cake, but I never do.
Arrange ingredients in a 14-cup capacity trifle bowl or punch bowl, in three layers, beginning with 1/3 of the cake pieces, placing cake on the bottom, topping with 1/3 of the Cool Whip blend, 1/3 of the fresh sliced strawberries and a light sprinkle of the coconut and pecans. As you see, I'm using a trifle bowl here, which is just as treasured because it was given to me by my Uncle Jim, one of my Grandma Mac's sons.
Repeat layers until all ingredients are used and garnish the top with the remaining shredded coconut and chopped pecans. Cover and refrigerate overnight before serving and store any leftovers in the fridge. Increase ingredients as needed for a larger trifle bowl.
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Recipe: Punch Bowl Strawberry Angel Cake©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 12 hours | Yield: About 16 servings
- 1 (8 ounce) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1 (14 ounce) can of sweetened condensed milk
- 1 (8 ounce) container of non-dairy whipped topping (like Cool Whip)
- 2 (10 ounce) packages of frozen sliced strawberries, thawed (sweetened or unsweetened)
- 1 (15 ounce) angel food cake or pound cake
- 1 pound of fresh strawberries, sliced (reserve some for garnish)
- 1/4 cup of shredded coconut, lightly toasted if desired, optional
- 1/4 cup of finely chopped pecans, optional
Beat the cream cheese and sugar together until well combined. Add the lemon juice and condensed milk; blend. Add the Cool Whip and carefully fold in the thawed, frozen strawberries with their juices; set aside.
Cut or tear the cake into small bite size pieces. Arrange ingredients in a 14-cup capacity trifle bowl or punch bowl, in three layers, beginning with 1/3 of the cake pieces, placing cake on the bottom, topping with 1/3 of the Cool Whip blend, 1/3 of the fresh sliced strawberries and a light sprinkle of the coconut and pecans. Repeat layers until all ingredients are used and garnish the top with the remaining shredded coconut and chopped pecans.
Cover and refrigerate overnight before serving and store any leftovers in the fridge. Increase ingredients as needed for a larger trifle bowl.
Cook’s Notes: To reduce sweetness, use unsweetened frozen strawberries. May substitute a second pound of fresh strawberries for the frozen. Slice and mix with 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, or to taste, to macerate. Toss and refrigerate for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, before using.
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