Cake is a carbolicious creation of flour, sugar, butter and eggs, with a top layer of extra calories in the form of sweet, creamy frosting. There’s nothing not to love about the whole ensemble. But if you’re a true lover of cake, a real cake devotee, then you’ve got to adopt a more-is-more attitude. You’ve got to find ways to pack even more sugary flavor into every single piece.
This is where poke cake comes in. It’s not just plain ol’ cake with icing — how boring! It’s cake with holes poked into it, acting as receptacles of additional yumminess. The Holes O’ Flavor are cleverly concealed underneath the frosting, disguising this masterpiece of cakery as just another ordinary cake until the first slice (or first bite) reveals the surprise. It’s not just cake; it’s theater.
Columbian subscriber Patti Everson recently shared with me her recollections of a lemon poke cake that she used to make, and it sounded like such an easy, refreshing summer dessert that I had to try it for myself. You can also find this recipe at www.allrecipes.com.
Lemon Poke Cake With Lemon Glaze
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then pour one package of white or yellow cake mix into a bowl along with a 3.4-ounce package of instant lemon pudding. Add ¾ cup water, ½ cup vegetable oil and 4 eggs. Blend well and spread evenly into a greased and floured 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
While the cake is still hot, use a fork or toothpick to poke holes all over the top of the cake. In a separate bowl, mix 1/3 cup lemon juice with 2 cups powdered sugar until smooth, adding some fresh lemon zest if you like extra citrus zing. Pour evenly over the warm cake. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. As for me, I ate three pieces even before the cake had cooled to room temperature. Please don’t tell anyone. Behavior like that is just embarrassing.
But wait, there’s more! Everson also tempted me with her recipe for a coffee liqueur, chocolate and orange poke cake that she described as “quite delicious,” and I wholeheartedly concur. She generously agreed to share the recipe with Columbian readers who might be looking for boozy treats to ease the passage of the pandemic.
Patti’s Quite Delicious Coffee Liqueur Poke Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir one box of yellow cake mix together with a 3.9-ounce box of instant chocolate pudding. Blend in one cup vegetable oil, 4 beaten eggs, 1 cup coffee liqueur and 1/2 cup orange juice. Pour into a greased and floured Bundt cake pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes.
After removing the cake from the oven and checking for doneness, let it cool just enough to comfortably handle the pan. Remove the still-warm cake, upending it onto a wide platter or cake pedestal. Using a bamboo skewer, poke holes all over the cake.
For the glaze, mix 2½ cups powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons orange juice and 1 tablespoon coffee liqueur. The glaze will be slightly thick, like pancake batter. Slowly drizzle the glaze over the warm cake with a large spoon, catching any drips of glaze that pool around the bottom and spooning them back up over the cake. When you’re done glazing, the top and sides should be covered and the cake should look nice and shiny.
You can also make this as a sheet cake, instead baking for 40 to 45 minutes. Poke holes in the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven and glaze immediately.
Serve with a glass of milk spiked with even more coffee liqueur. Stay exactly where you are until the effects wear off.
Any-Flavor Poke Cake
For an uncomplicated but scrumptious poke cake with limitless potential, use this basic recipe and experiment with different combinations of cake mixes and gelatin flavors.
Bake a white, yellow or chocolate cake according to directions in a 9-by-13-inch pan, using either a from-scratch recipe or a boxed mix, whatever suits you. After the cake has cooled, poke a hole every inch into the warm cake using the handle of a wooden spoon.
In a separate bowl, mix one 3-ounce package of any flavor gelatin with 1 cup boiling water. Stir until gelatin is dissolved, then add 1/2 cup cold water. Pour evenly over the cooled and holey cake. Refrigerate for two hours, then frost with a can of prepared frosting, a container of whipped topping, homemade icing or freshly whipped cream.
Everson mentioned that some ambitious bakers have used this recipe to make multitiered birthday cakes in rainbow hues. Maybe I’ll try that, just as soon as I have another slice of lemon cake.