Pumpkin Poke Cake

Pumpkin Poke Cake

The Spruce / Christine Ma

Cook: 30 mins
Cooling: 3 hrs
Total: 3 hrs
Servings: 16 slices
Yield: 1 cake

There are few autumnal desserts more delicious than a pumpkin poke cake soaked with caramel and sweetened condensed milk. For those not in the know, a "poke" cake is one that has literally been poked (in this instance, with the handle of a wooden spoon), then drenched with a glaze that's absorbed by the cake via the holes. The resulting "poked" cake (similar to tres leches) is not only incredibly moist, but—depending on the ingredients in the glaze—incredibly flavorful to boot. Flavor can be "baked out" of a cake, as it were, but the flavors of an uncooked glaze, like the one here, remain potent (in a good way!).

This pumpkin poke cake just screams fall due to the cinnamon and nutmeg in the cake. The milky caramel glaze (with a dash of salt to cut the sweetness) is the perfect accompaniment. The cake is sweet—there is no denying that—but the topping of unsweetened whipped cream (a wonderful contrast texturally to the cake heavy with glaze) is the much appreciated and tasty antidote. A final drizzle of caramel over each slice before serving is the most excellent of finishing touches.


  • For the Cake:
  • 1 (15.25-ounce) package yellow cake mix
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • For the Glaze:
  • 1 (12.5-ounce) jar caramel sauce
  • 1 (15-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • For the Topping:
  • 3 cups heavy cream  

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredient. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

    Pumpkin Poke Cake ingredients

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  2. Grease a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray or softened butter.

    greased baking pan

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the cake mix, egg, pumpkin puree, and spices until smooth.

    whisk together the cake mix, egg, pumpkin puree, and spices in a bowl

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating at the halfway point. The cake is ready when a cake tester comes out with a moist crumb or two. Let the cake cool before poking, about 1 hour.

    baked pumpkin cake in a baking pan

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  5. Using the end of a wooden spoon, poke holes all over surface of the cake.

    poke holes all over surface of the cake

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the caramel sauce and the sweetened condensed milk, reserving 1/4 cup of the caramel sauce for drizzling when serving.

    caramel sauce and the sweetened condensed milk in a bowl

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  7. Evenly pour the mixture over the cake and into the holes and refrigerate the cake until chilled, about 2 hours.

    pour the mixture over the cake and into the holes

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  8. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form.

    whipped heavy cream in a stand mixer

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  9. Spread the cream over the cake.

    whipped cream on top of pumpkin cake

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  10. Slice and serve, drizzling each slice with the reserved caramel before doing so.

    Pumpkin Poke Cake slice with drizzled caramel

    The Spruce / Christine Ma


  • You can assemble the cake in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, if you would prefer.
  • Wipe off the end of your poking utensil in between each poke, if you find that it is getting sticky and crumb-covered.
  • Be sure to pour the glaze over the cake evenly, as it may pool in the middle and if it does so, spread the excess glaze to the edges.
  • Place the freshly baked cake in the freezer or refrigerator, to cool it down more quickly if you are in a rush, or just like to eat cake as soon as is possible after making it.
  • The cake will last up to three days tightly wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator, but is best the day it is made.

Recipe Variations

  • If you would like to sweeten your cream topping, you can add up to 3 tablespoons of confectioners' sugar.
  • If you do not want to make your own whipped cream, you can substitute Cool-Whip.

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