Strawberry Poke Cake

slice of strawberry poke cake

The Spruce / Jessie Sheehan

  • Total: 80 mins
  • Prep: 50 mins
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Chill: 3 hrs
  • Servings: 16 slices
  • Yield: 1 cake

A poke cake is one of the most delightful and easiest desserts to prepare. The cake itself is made from a boxed cake mix that is "poked" when warm, creating tunnels into the cake. Boiling water mixed with powdered gelatin is then poured over the warm cake and the brightly-colored liquid goes into the holes to create the most gorgeous, almost "leopard-striped" cake once sliced. A thick topping of whipped cream serves as the frosting. The cake is served cold and the flavor of the gelatin (in this case, strawberry) makes it a wonderfully fruity and refreshing dessert.

It is also unbelievably moist due to all those tunnels. If the boiling liquid was merely poured over the cake without the holes, it might add some moisture to the cake, particularly on the top. But the fact that the cake is poked means that the liquid can travel from the top of the cake to the bottom giving it the aforementioned stripe-y look, as well as a deeply flavorful crumb.


  • For the Cake:
  • 1 (15.25-ounce) box yellow cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 (3-ounce) box of strawberry gelatin
  • 1 to 1 1/3 cup boiling water
  • For the Whipped Toppings:
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

Make the Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan with non-stick spray or softened butter. Line with parchment paper and set aside.

  2. Assemble and bake the cake following the manufacturer's instructions on the back of the box.

  3. Combine the strawberry gelatin and the boiling water in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

  4. Poke the top of the warm cake with a thin utensil, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.

  5. Evenly pour the warm liquid gelatin over the cake.

  6. Cover the cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours.

Make the Whipped Topping

  1. Combine the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a hand mixer, and whisk the cream until medium peaks form.

  2. Spread the whipped cream over the cooled cake and serve.


  • The cake will keep up to four days in the refrigerator, lightly wrapped in plastic wrap, but the whipped cream topping is best the day it is made.
  • You may use more boiling water than the 1 cup called for in the recipe when you make the liquid gelatin—up to 1/3 cup more—if you really want to drench your cake, but the flavor will be slightly less concentrated.
  • Make sure the cake is still warm when poked, as it will better absorb the warm gelatin.
  • Chill the cake completely before spreading with the whipped cream as it is most refreshing when cold.
  • A large toothpick or wooden skewer is an excellent poking instrument.

Recipe Variations

  • You may use Cool Whip instead of the homemade whipped cream to top your cake.
  • You may use different flavored gelatin—lime or lemon would be lovely.
  • You may use different flavored boxed cake mixes, such as a white cake or a lemon one, or you may make a homemade cake.