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Raspberry Poke Cake, From Scratch

April 3, 2012

Spring has sprung in our neck of the woods, and boy is it beautiful.

Dogwood in Spring

You’ve probably noticed that the warmer, sunnier weather has me craving lemons (as usual), but I’m also reaching for strawberries and berries of all kinds. All of this berry craving reminded me of a cake I made last Fall that would be perfect for Easter!


Last Fall I was feeling invincible and ready for a challenge. “Your birthday is coming up soon,” I said to my husband. “I’ll bake you anything you want!” I bake a lot (duh), and sometimes I like to challenge myself by trying something new or working with something that scares me. I’ve taken on yeast, gelatin, caramel, swiss meringue buttercream, and even pate choux for cream puffs. I envisioned my husband requesting something new and intimidating for his birthday, like marshmallows, or something complicated, like an elaborate layer cake.

I should have known better. When it comes to desserts, my husband keeps it simple. He doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth. His every day dessert of choice is plain dark chocolate – brownies if it’s a special occasion. So when he asked me with hope in his eyes, “Can you make me a JELL-O Poke Cake?”, I should have expected it. Should have, but didn’t.

“Oh, come ON. I offered to bake you anything in the world, and you request a boxed cake mix covered in JELL-O?!”

jello4 copyjello2 copy
Vintage JELL-O recipe pamphlet, straight out of 1978. No joke.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Poke Cake, that’s exactly what it is. You bake a box of cake mix, poke holes in it, pour prepared (but not set) JELL-O over it, then frost with Cool Whip. It’s seriously easy, nostalgic comfort food baking at it’s best. My husband always got a Poke Cake for his birthday growing up, so I couldn’t say no.

To shake things up, I decided to make a JELL-O Poke Cake from scratch. It’s really not much harder than the traditional method and it’s still very easy on the Cake Making Difficulty Scale*.

(*I just made that up.)

My version features a basic white cake and barely sweetened whipped cream frosting. The cake is exceptionally moist and the JELL-O adds a nice burst of fruity flavor. I went ahead and used the box of raspberry JELL-O for historic accuracy, but if you wanted to get even more fancy and adventurous, you could use gelatin to make your own JELL-O. The flavor possibilities are virtually endless.

Jello Poke Cake

Easter is coming up and I think this Raspberry Poke Cake would make a sweet, light, and easy to make dessert for any Easter meal. If you’re looking for other Easter recipes, check these out:

Carrot Cake Cookies
Baked Pineapple Casserole
Black-Bottom Coconut Bars
Perfect Party (aka lemon raspberry coconut) Cupcakes
Chewy Lemon Sugar Cookies
Vanilla Bean & Bourbon Bundt Cake with Fresh Strawberries

Raspberry Poke Cake, From Scratch

Cake adapted from Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Makes one 8×8-inch cake

I used my kitchen scale to weigh out half of the JELL-O powder. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can use roughly 3 1/2 tablespoons or 1 1/2 ounces of powder – or you can double the whole recipe (to use the whole box of JELL-O) and bake it in a 9×13-inch pan. I stored and sliced my cake straight from the pan, but I suppose once the JELL-O is set you could carefully invert the cake onto a platter to frost.


1 cup + 2 tablespoons cake flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk
2 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 4-serving box (44 grams) JELL-O powder, raspberry flavor
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup cold water

1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray an 8×8-inch baking pan with baking spray.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk and egg whites.

In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar with the paddle attachment for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very light. Beat in the vanilla extract. Beating on medium speed, alternate adding the dry ingredients (flour mixture) and the wet ingredients (egg mixture) in 3 steps, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. (So 1/3 flour mixture, 1/2 egg mixture, 1/3 flour mixture, remaining egg mixture, then remaining dry.) Once incorporated, beat well for 2 minutes to ensure the better is well mixed and airy.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan. (Do not remove cake from pan!)

Once cool, poke cake all over with a wooden skewer or fork. Stir JELL-O powder in boiling water until dissolved, then stir in cold water. Pour JELL-O mixture over cake in pan. Cover loosely and refrigerate until set, 3-4 hours.

To make frosting, combine heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract in a mixer bowl. Beat on medium speed with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. Spread evenly over cake in pan.

Store covered in the refrigerator.

  1. April 3, 2012 8:32 pm

    I used to make poke cakes as a kid! SO fun!

  2. April 4, 2012 10:21 am

    What fun! I think I remember my grandmother making this!

  3. Beth permalink
    April 6, 2012 10:18 pm

    Oh my! This seriously brings me back to my 80’s childhood. My mom always made it with strawberry gelatin and Cool whip. Glad you left out the later. Whipped cream is so much tastier and…real. :) Thanks for bringing back memories! I am putting this back into my baking repertoire

  4. April 6, 2012 10:45 pm

    Oooh that looks amazing!!

  5. April 10, 2012 4:11 am

    Just found your blog – great pictures and recipes!! Will try your poke cake recipe ASAP, I can just imagine the taste, yummy!!

  6. Shruti permalink
    April 11, 2012 9:39 pm

    Cant wait to try this out! Your recipes are awesome!

  7. April 16, 2012 7:47 am

    Hi there,I’ve sent you the Kreativ Blogger Award at I searched your site but couldn’t find out whether you’ve already received it, so I hope you haven’t…

  8. May 25, 2012 4:32 am

    Aww this sounds like such a fun dessert! Really want to try it! :)

  9. gold price permalink
    June 3, 2012 3:03 am

    Thanks for posting this! I remember making a “rainbow poke cake” when I was a little girl. A 9×11 pan, several color jellos and cool whip topping. I tried looking this recipe up several years ago, and could not find it. This is awesome….it is as easy as I remember!

  10. June 30, 2012 12:08 pm

    I am making this for our Canada Day celebration tomorrow!! So gorgeous!!

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