08 July 2011

Tackling the Punschtorte

I’ve been promising to tell you about the Punschtorte for a while now.  I’ve even teased you with a photo of the one I had in the Czech Republic.  But I’ve also baked one of these bad boys.  Today I can finally face telling you my Punschtorte tale.

But first, what is it?   

It’s a sponge cake that is hollowed out and then refilled with a drunken version of itself.  Basically, you make a citrus/alcohol punch and let the cake innards soak it up then stuff it back into the cake and glaze.  Voila, Punschtorte.

Some versions add chocolate to the crumb filling mix which explains the chocolate squiggles traditionally found on the pink glaze, but I’m not a fan.  The chocolate overpowers the brightness of the fruit punch.  Besides who’s ever heard of chocolate in punch?  Gross!  While the punch filling may vary from recipe to recipe, one thing that doesn’t is the pink glaze.  It’s always pink.  Hot pink versions use food coloring to get there, but I prefer the pastel pink (and flavor) Chambord alone brings.

When I decided to make this cake for a party I was looking for something unusual.  I was intrigued by the citrus punch and repulsed by the idea of potentially wet cake.  I don’t dig wet cake.  At all. Ever. Period.  I had to try it.

What Happened:
This was a really easy cake to put together and I enjoyed cutting it apart only to put it back together again.  I know, procedure geek.  It was easy and the “punch” was the perfect amount for the cake cubes to absorb without falling apart.  When I put it all back together it was like I’d never deconstructed it in the first place.

So that’s the cake part.  Glazing was where things got interesting.  It was a nightmare--an unstoppable disaster!  

I prepped.
  1. Paper cone with melted chocolate to decorate the glaze.  Check.
  2. Cake suspended on wire rack.  Check.
  3. Warm pink fondant.  Check.
I poured the fondant over the cake.  It covered nicely with a little spatula help on the sides.  As instructed, I moved fast and used my paper cone to draw a spiral of chocolate on the top of the cake while the glaze was still fresh and then I used a knife to feather the lines.  It was working!! 

Or was it? 

By the time I finished feathering the lines the first feathers had slid halfway down the side of the cake!!!! 


I didn’t know how to stop it.  The glaze kept flowing like lava.  It was weird because it’s not like I could see it moving.  It wasn’t fast.  It was slow and powerful.  I screamed.  For the record, that didn’t help. 

I didn’t know what to do.  I reread the recipe.  “Pour all of the warm icing over the top of the cake, smoothing it over the top and down the sides with an offset metal spatula.  Immediately [!] pipe lines of the melted chocolate on the top of the cake…”  IMMEDIATELY!  I did that.  No warning that the lines might slide off the cake.  

Undeterred, I decided that I could scrape the glaze off and try again.

I removed what I could.  This time I let the warm fondant sit for a bit before pouring it on.  So far so good. 

This go ‘round I tried a simple powdered sugar icing mixture instead of melted chocolate and didn’t go as close to the edge.  It still slid.  I tried pressing crumbs on the sides thinking that would help cement the glaze.  WRONG!  I grabbed toasted almond slices figuring they were...stronger…  OK, I was panicking.  They actually stuck.

I scraped the cake off the rack and ran it to the refrigerator.  After 20 minutes I checked on it.  The cake had grown almond/fondant feet, but it was finally stable.  I cut off the feet and pressed a few more almonds onto the sides to make it look the best I could.  I also added a few more icing swirls to the top of the cake before putting it back in the fridge and saying a few choice words.  Yeah, no pictures of this experience—no time.  I was too busy trying to stop this thing from sliding off the counter and onto the floor!

I was so irritated by the glazing fiasco I didn’t even serve it.  I was convinced it was a disaster head-to-toe.  WRONG AGAIN. 

I cut a slice before sending the rest of it to work with Cody.  

It was fruity and delicious.  I loved the look of the punch layer.  The cake inside was moist NOT wet.   

I can also tell you that it was infinitely better than what I tasted in the Czech Republic!  The challenge for me is figuring out how to glaze the thing.

Things I would change:
  • The cake is terrific as is so I wouldn’t change a thing.
  • Glazing…I will try the petit fours method.  Instead of heating the glaze over direct heat I will simply warm it over a double boiler until it was thin enough to pour in a stream from a spoon.  I will also do a double coat like with petit fours to make the glaze more opaque.  After the second coat I’ll press the crumbs or sliced almonds onto the sides.
  • Until I figure out how to control designs laid into a glaze (like the chocolate feathering) I will stick with simply adding flourishes to the top of the set glaze.
The Results:
This is a really tasty, unique Austro-Hungarian cake.  If you have experience with fondant glazing, do yourself a favor and try this recipe.  I love that there’s no artificial colors in this version and the flavor is bright and fresh. I will make this again, but next time I’ll know better what to look for.

Here’s the lingering quandary for me:  the cake before glazing is covered with an apricot glaze that not only adds flavor but is supposed to help the smooth the fondant glaze and help it adhere.  What bothered me was the instruction to use warm glaze (90 degrees) in a situation where melting was not only possible but very likely.  That’s exactly what happened.  So when I do it again I will get the fondant just warm enough to flow.   

I still feel like I’m missing a small bit of info that will make it all make sense and WORK!  If anybody knows what that missing link is PLEASE tell me!

adapted from Kaffeehaus by Rick Rodgers
serves 10

4T        butter
1t         vanilla
8          eggs
¾ c       sugar
1 ¼ c    cake flour
¼ t       salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (rack in center).  Butter a 9-inch cake pan, line bottom with parchment, coat with flour and tap out excess.

In a small pan bring butter to a boil, cook for 1 minute until butter is lightly browned.  Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.  Skim the foam and pour into medium bowl (no bits).  Stir in vanilla.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together in the bowl of a mixer.  Place over a pan of simmering water, whisk until eggs are warm to the touch & sugar is dissolved (roll a bit between your finger and thumb if you feel grains keep warming).  Attach to mixer and beat with whisk on med-hi until the mixture is very light and tripled in volume (3 minutes).

Combine flour and salt.  Sift half over eggs and fold in—repeat with remaining flour.  Gently fold in the browned butter and vanilla.   Pour into the pan, smooth with spatula.

Bake until the cake springs back and sides begin shrinking from the pan – about 35 – 40 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges to release. 

1          medium orange
1          lemon
¼ c      golden rum
¼ c      sugar
2T        apricot preserves
2T        Chambord

1 c       apricot preserves (warm, thickened, strained add a splash of rum)

3 ¾ c    powdered sugar, sifted
1/3 c    water
2 T       corn syrup
1T        Chambord

2 oz      semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1c        powdered sugar
2-3 T    milk
Grate zest of orange and lemon.  Juice each fruit separately and strain.  Use .

Combine ¼ cup of orange juice and 3T lemon juice in a saucepan with zest, rum, sugar, preserves and Chambord and bring to a boil.  Cook for 2 minutes and remove from heat.

Trim the cooled cake to level and chop crumbs for garnish.  Cut cake into 3 equal layers – the bottom layer will be inverted and become the top.

Place the top cake layer on a cake round.  Cut a round from the center of the middle layer 1 inch from the edge.  Cut this round into small cubes.  Mix the cake cubes with the warm punch, soaking well.  Brush the bottom layer with apricot glaze.  Top with cake ring.  Fill the ring with soaked cubes, spreading evenly.  Brush the cut side of the remaining layer with glaze and press firmly on other layer to seal. Brush the top and sides of the cake with the remaining glaze to make a smooth surface.  Chill 10 minutes or until set.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate and transfer to a paper cone or decorating bag.  (OPTION: instead of chocolate use powdered sugar icing to decorate)

Warm ingredients over a pan of simmering water until it just pours in a stream from a spoon.  Pour over the cake that’s positioned on a wire rack over a sheet pan.  Smooth sides with a spatula.

From the recipe:  Immediately pipe spiral line of chocolate (or powdered sugar) starting in the center on the top of the cake.  Use a knife to feather the lines at 1 inch intervals.  Press the crumbs on the sides of the cake.  
My version:  Let the glaze set at room temperature for 5 minutes then press the crumbs or nuts into the sides if you plan on garnishing the sides.  Otherwise chill it for 20 minutes and pipe decoration on the set glaze.

Chill for at least 4 hours before serving--actually tastes better on day 2.

Cake keeps 3-4 days.  Store in refrigerator.


  1. The cake instructions seem to leave the butter out of the mix... When do you add the butter and vanilla?

    1. So sorry about that! You should fold in the butter after the last addition of flour, just before pouring it into the pan to bake. I will correct the instructions. Thank you!