The Joys of Jell-O: Poke Cake

Raspberry Poke Cake.

My roommate had a day dream about this cake, one sunny afternoon whilst we watched Judge Judy.

“What if you, like, bake a cake and then poured Jell-O over top of it?  You know and like poked holes in the cake so it’s all like cake and Jell-O?  Is that a thing?  Wouldn’t that be delicious?”

“No, Jeff.  That sounds disgusting.”

I thought this was the rambling of a mad man, until I went through my Jell-O ephemera for this project and I came across this 1976 pamphlet:

And this recipe for “Poke Cake”:

Ok, Jeff.  You win. Let’s give it a whirl.

So I baked a cake, poked it, poured raspberry Jell-O over top and put it in the refrigerator to set.  I used Cool Whip instead of Dream Whip for the frosting.  Then I cut a slice and took a bite.

Poke the cake with a fork, like so, then pour the liquid Jell-O over top.  It’s a little like making a Tres Leches cake.

You know what? It tasted fake.  Fake cake; fake raspberry, fake whipped cream.  But the fake versions of all those foods…are really tasty.  I love box cakes.  I love Cool Whip.  This is the most delicious combination of fake flavors one can imagine.

Simple as hell to make, Poke Cake is trashy, tasty food.  Bring it to your next potluck.

***

And this being my last Jell-O post, it’s time to ask What Have We Learned?  I learned that Jell-O can be turned in a shocking variety of foods — most of them bad.  Browse back through these posts: we went from ice cream to meat molds to cake.  It’s sincerely impressive.

What have you learned?

19 Responses to “The Joys of Jell-O: Poke Cake”


  • People around here make poke cake often. :D Ooooo.. and this orange salad recipe I should send. It has jello, cool whip, pineapple, cottage cheese and manadrin oranges.

    But meat or raw veggies? Uh, no.

  • I saw Strawberry Poke Cake on America’s Test Kitchen. I just looked it up…if you are interested in their recipe, you just have to register. This actually sounds good…I can’t stand Cool Whip, but maybe REAL whipped cream would be blasphemous – haha!

  • How did Jeff gain access to these ideas from the past, and how can you profit from this in the future?

  • Ooh, I loved Jello poke cake when I was a kid. The other recipes you’ve showcased this week all sounded pretty gross (and kudos to you for attempting them), but this one is a classic. Cake + Jello = win. Jello + meat/veggies = blech.

  • My husband’s family makes this ALL the time and their (alarming) pet name for it is the “Dead Baby” (as in “hand me another slice of that Dead Baby”). I even knew this before I married him…

    Our local grocery store (in central VA) makes a couple versions of the layered fruit and jello salad with mayo in the middle you posted earlier this week. Some have a whipped cream or whipped topping based center layer (more modern tasting, I guess) but at least one had mayo in it, but it was sweetened and honestly delicious. Will have to check the ingredients next time I go.

    I love “fake” foods that remind me of growing up in the 1980s. So nice to find a food blogger who agrees!

    • Why thank you! I love a farm fresh so-and-so, but I have to be honest about all the foods i like–including the ones that are terrible for you.

      Dead Baby? where on earth could that name have come from??

  • Thanks for the feedback, everyone. I’m really fascinated by all the Jell-O memories these posts have inspired!

  • My mother taught microwave cooking classes in the late 1970′s and the 1980′s and this was one of the recipes she taught her students. I really like it!

  • can one bake a cake in a microwave??

    • no. One can not. They put out a micro-cake mix in the ….uhh earky 80s I think, cooked in a bowl fn disgusting. Tasted like fried eggs. Try this though..bake the cake (white pls) skip the jello. Cool – poke – drizzle with 3\4c. rum chill 2hrs. Top with fresh whipped cream lightly sweetened with powdered sugar and a little vanilla. Cheers!

  • My mom used to make Jello cake when I was a kid and I remember loving it! (I remember orange being a favorite, and we would eat it without frosting/topping) A couple other interesting jello recipes: I’ve had a Jello “salad” at family functions that contained crushed up pretzels and was surprisingly delicious. Only in the midwest can a dish with pretzels and Jello be called a salad.

    Also, my sister’s favorite- rainbow Jello. My mom hates to make it because it’s a pain, but picture this: You make a layered jello in a 13×9 dish in rainbow order. But in between the colored jello layers, you pour layers of “white” jello wade from knox gelatin and milk (I’m 99% sure) to make it opaque white. So with all the layers and waiting for each to set, it takes forever to make. But the results are really pretty!

  • My husband loves jello poke cake. Our favorite is the white cake with orange jello and Cool Whip — it reminds me of a Dreamsicle.

  • This was the bday cake to have when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s. I seem to remember my friend’s Mom poking holes with the handle of a wooden spoon, so that there would be big Jell=o veins in the cake. My Mom, the daughter of a German baker, did not bake (or cook).. so I never got one. Another great cake from the Jell-o folks is the “Better than Sex Cake.” You bake a white/butter cake and then poke holes in it with a fork. You then top this with a can of crushed pineapple in juice (with a little added sugar) that has reduced a bit on the stove. Over that goes a layer of vanilla Jell-o pudding. Over that, cool whip that has been mixed with shredded coconut and toasted pecans. Delicious.

  • Oh my god. That. sounds. delicious.

  • i love jello poke cake. everyone should try it Any flavor u like

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