Lemon pudding poke cake is a moist lemon cake, marbled with tangy lemon pudding and topped with a light and fluffy whipped vanilla frosting. This cake is made with simple ingredients and comes together quickly. Light and refreshing it is perfect for summer or any time you want a lighter dessert.
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What is Poke Cake?
Poke cake, just like the name implies, is a cake that has been poked with holes. It is then filled with a delicious filling such as jello, pudding, jam or fruit curd which gives the cake incredible flavour and keeps it super moist.
This lemon poke cake is made with a simple boxed cake mix that has been filled with lemon instant pudding and topped with a fluffy vanilla topping.
Poke cakes are great because you can make them as simple or as fancy as you want by either using store bought ingredients, or making everything from scratch.
There are endless varieties and combinations to choose from, so there is something for everyone.
I love poke cakes because they are simple to put together, taste great, and keep well in the refrigerator for about 5 days.
This lemon poke cake is nice and light, and not too sweet. It perfect for hot days or just when you want a lighter dessert.
This lemon poke cake is made with simple, inexpensive ingredients. You will need:
- Lemon cake mix (and the ingredients to make it) – You will need one box to make a 9×13 cake. If you can’t find lemon cake mix, feel free to use vanilla or yellow cake instead. If you want to make your cake from scratch instead of using a box, you can do that as well.
- Lemon instant pudding – This will be the filling for the cake. If you prefer, you can use a jar of store-bought lemon curd, or you can use your own homemade lemon curd.
- Vanilla instant pudding – This gets mixed into the whipped topping to give it more flavour and more stability.
- Frozen whipped topping – Frozen whipped topping is used because it has more stability and will stay fluffy longer than real whipped cream. The whipped topping is lighter that typical frosting and matches well with the light, lemon cake.
- Milk – Milk is needed to make the pudding. You can use whole milk, 2%, or fat-free.
For a full list of ingredients and measurements see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Begin by baking the cake according to package directions in a 9×13 pan, or use your favourite recipe for lemon cake, or white or yellow cake. Let the cake cool completely before continuing.
After the cake is cool, use the end of a wooden spoon or the wide end of a chopstick to poke rows of holes in the cake. You want the holes to be big enough that the thick pudding can easily drip into them.
Next, mix 2 cups of milk with the lemon pudding just until it begins to thicken. You want it slightly thick, but still pourable. Begin spooning it over the cake and gently press it into the holes, then spread the remaining pudding over the top of the cake.
Let the cake rest for about 10 minutes to allow the lemon pudding to set, then make the topping.
Mix 1 cup of milk with the vanilla pudding in a large bowl until it begins to thicken. Then fold 3 cups of whipped topping into the pudding until well mixed, but be careful not to deflate the whipped topping too much.
Drop the topping over the cake in large dollops, then carefully spread it over the cake.
Let the cake rest for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Decorate the top as desired with lemon zest, lemon wedges, candied lemon or sprinkles.
Variations & Substitutions
There are plenty of ways you can customize this recipe to suit your tastes. Depending on how easy or involved you want to get you can either use cake mix, like suggested in the recipe or make your own from scratch. You can even choose to make your own pudding or homemade frosting.
Here are some great ways to customize the recipe depending on what you have on hand and how fancy you want to get.
- Instead of a boxed lemon cake-mix, you can substitue your favourite, homemade lemon cake.
- If you want, you can substitute the lemon cake for a box of white or yellow cake, or use your favourite recipe for 9×13 yellow or white cake.
- For even more tangy lemon flavour, try substituting the lemon pudding with homemade lemon curd.
- If you don’t have vanilla pudding on-hand, it’s ok to simply use the thawed whipped topping instead.
- If you don’t want to use pudding, you can use lemon jello instead. It won’t be creamy, but it will give it a great lemon flavour and lots of moisture. Follow the directions in my raspberry poke cake recipe for directions on using jello.
The great thing about poke cake is that it is so moist and flavourful that you don’t have to worry about serving it with anything else if you don’t want to.
However, you can never go wrong with serving cake with some vanilla ice cream.
If you like, you can serve this cake with extra lemon pudding or lemon curd to spoon over top, or some extra whipped cream.
Generally though, we just slice and serve as is.
How to Store Poke Cake
Because this poke cake is made with uncooked pudding and dairy whipped topping, leftovers will need to be stored in the refrigerator.
You can simply cover the cake with plastic wrap or tinfoil and store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
This cake can also be frozen. Just wrap it tightly and freeze for up to 3 months. Bring the cake to room temperature before serving.
You can easily make this cake gluten free by either purchasing a gluten-free cake mix or making your own homemade gluten free cake. Just be sure to read the ingredients on the pudding and topping to ensure they are safe for you.
You can definitely make this cake the day before if needed. Just be sure to keep it in the refrigerator until it is time to serve.
More Lemon Dessert Recipes
Lemon Pudding Poke Cake
- Bake the cake in a 9×13 pan according to package directions and let cool completely.
- Using the end of a wooden spoon or the wide end of a chopstick, poke rows of holes in the cake.
- In a medium-size bowl, whisk together 2 cups of milk and the lemon instant pudding just until it begins to thicken. You want it slightly thick, but still pourable.
- Spoon the lemon pudding onto the cake and gently press it into the holes to fill them. Then spread the remainder on top of the cake.
- Let the pudding set for about 10 minutes, then make the topping.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining cup of milk and the vanilla instant pudding until it starts to thicken. Then fold in 3 cups of thawed, frozen whipped topping until well combined. Be careful not to deflate the whipped topping.
- Drop the topping onto the cake in large dollops, then carefully spread it evenly over the cake.
- Let the cake rest for about 30 minutes before serving to allow the pudding and topping to set.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.