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Lemon Burst Poke Cake

This oh-so-simple Lemon Burst Poke Cake recipe is filled with lemon pudding then topped with a creamy homemade lemon cream cheese frosting. It’s light and refreshing flavor makes it the kind of special dessert that will really show the baking love to your family and friends.

Lemon Burst Poke Cake


Easy Lemon Burst Poke Cake Recipe

The bight flavor of lemon is associated with spring and warmer weather. It’s a natural progression of thought with fruits like lemons, limes and oranges being intricate ingredients in many warmer weather sweet and savory foods we love. This poke cake is one I wanted to add to my recipe file not only for the incredible flavor, but the ease of preparation making it accessible to bakers of all skill levels. How to make Lemon Burst Poke Cake: (Scroll down for full printable recipe.)

  • Cake Batter – Prepare the cake mix per the package instructions using the amounts of water, oil and eggs called for. Add fresh lemon zest.
  • Bake – Bake in a greased 13×9 inch cake pan until a toothpick inserted into the center comes back clean.
  • Once baked, immediately poke holes all over the cake using the back of a wooden spoon or similar. Be generous.
  • While the Cake Bakes – Whip together the pudding mix and milk until thickened, but still pourable. Spread pudding over the cake gently pushing into the holes. Cool to room temperature. (This doesn’t take long)
  • Cream Cheese Frosting – Cream together cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice and lemon extract. Add the heavy cream continuing to beat until fluffy and fully combined. Add lemon zest.
  • Ice the Cake – Frost the top of the cake garnishing with the remaining lemon zest and grated white chocolate.
  • Chill for 4 hours or overnight before serving. Store leftovers chilled.
Lemon Burst Poke Cake

How to Make the Best Lemon Burst Poke Cake Recipe

This poke cake is one of those cakes that looks far more involved than it actually is to make. You can finish the top as fancy or as simply as you like. Serve it for a holiday or any special occasion when you want a spectacular sweet ending to your meal.

  • Ingredients you’ll need to make homemade Lemon Burst Poke Cake: One box golden vanilla cake mix (plus eggs, oil and water to prepare), instant lemon pudding mix, lemon zest, milk, softened cream cheese, heavy cream, powdered sugar, lemon juice and grated white chocolate and lemon slices for garnishing the top.
  • Kitchen tools you’ll need: A stand mixer or hand mixer, measuring cups and spoons, rubber spatula, citrus grater, 13 x 9 inch baking dish, sharp knife and cutting board.
  • What is a Lemon Burst Poke Cake? Bakers of all skill levels can be confident making this cake since it begins with a cake mix. The cake mix batter is infused with fresh lemon zest then immediately after baking, holes are poked all over the surface of the cake. While still warm, it’s filled with lemon pudding. The crowning touch is the icing which is a homemade lemon whipped cream cheese frosting. Poke cakes come in many flavor combinations and this lemon poke cake never disappoints.
  • Can I make this poke cake recipe from scratch? Yes, if you prefer. You can use my recipe for Old Fashioned Butter Cake or White Buttermilk Cake baking it in a 13 x 9 inch pan. Proceed with the recipe as directed.
  • Can I use lemon curd in place of lemon pudding? Sure, if you’d like to make your own checkout my recipe for Homemade Lemon Curd here.
  • I recommend that you wait and garnish the top with fresh lemon zest just before serving so it will stay fresh.
  • This lemon poke cake once frosted should be kept chilled in the refrigerator. When stored properly, it will keep for up to 5 days.
Lemon Burst Poke Cake

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Lemon Burst Poke Cake

Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Chill Time4 hours
Total Time50 minutes
Course: Cake, Dessert
Cuisine: American, Southern
Keyword: lemon-burst-poke-cake, lemon-cake-recipe
Servings: 16 pieces
Calories: 428kcal
Author: Melissa Sperka

Ingredients

  • 1 15.25 oz box Golden Vanilla cake mix, plus water oil eggs to prepare (i.e. Betty Crocker)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 3.4 oz box instant lemon pudding
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp pure lemon extract
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 3 Tbsp lemon zest divided
  • 2 Tbsp grated white chocolate
  • Additional whipped cream and lemon slices for garnishing Optional

Instructions

  • Cake: Prepare the cake mix per the package instructions using the amounts of water, oil and eggs called for. Add 1 Tbsp fresh lemon zest. Bake in a greased 13×9 inch cake pan until a toothpick inserted into the center comes back clean.
  • Once baked, immediately poke holes all over the cake using the back of a wooden spoon or similar. Be generous.
  • Pudding: While cake bakes in a medium size mixing bowl using an electric mixer, whip together the pudding mix and milk until thickened, but still pourable.
  • Spread pudding over the cake gently pushing into the holes. Cool to room temperature. (This doesn't take long)
  • Frosting: In a medium size mixing bowl using an electric mixer cream together cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice and lemon extract.
  • Add the heavy cream continuing to beat on medium-high speed until fluffy and fully combined and soft peaks form. Mix in 2 Tbsp lemon zest by hand.
  • Frost the top of the cake garnishing with the remaining lemon zest and grated white chocolate. (Use additional whipped cream and lemon slices to decorate as pictured, if desired.)
  • Chill for 4 hours or overnight before serving. Store leftovers chilled.

Nutrition

Serving: 1piece | Calories: 428kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 91mg | Sodium: 329mg | Potassium: 88mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 32g | Vitamin A: 486IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 60mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @melissassk or tag #melissassk!

139 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Hello Melissa, You asked me to let you know how my cake turned out after taking it out of my 9x 13 after a 10 minute cool and placing it on a platter to finish and decorate. The presentation on my white platter was lovely. Easy to do. I will say that even though I moved quickly it works have been better to get the pudding into the cake if the pudding was warm. I will make lemon curd next time and keep it warm for better absorption. Everyone loved the cake. I added 1/2 of another instant lemon pudding to my whipped cream frosting for a little more stability. It was wonderful. My mom can’t wait for me to hurry up and make another one for the next family birthday.

      1. You could add more cream cheese, I suppose but before doing that, make sure you’ve whipped it adequately, it should thicken nicely.

      2. I suppose you could add more cream cheese but before you do that, make sure you’ve beaten the frosting adequately it shouldn’t be thin.

  2. 5 stars
    This recipe is an absolute killer. Made for a few family reunions as well as a few work parties and it is always a hit!

    Instead of making a cake, I tried same recipe but make cupcakes instead! Just one poke in the middle of each cupcake and its perfect!

    Thanks so much for this gem!

  3. I made this for a (Loves Anything Lemon) friend who was turning 90!!! It was a huge success because I had to give the recipe out to many!!!!

  4. 5 stars
    I never got to try this but I made it for a fund raising event and it was DESTROYED by people!! Everyone kept saying how it was delicious and wanted more but unfortunately, it was all gone. Next time I make it, I’ll be sure to grab a piece before it disappears!!

  5. 5 stars
    I made this cake last week and it was the best cake ever. Shared with my daughter and it was a hit. Loved it.

  6. Could lemon curd be used instead of the pudding? I made a batch and have a lot left over, and I’m looking for ways to use it up.

    1. 5 stars
      I love this cake and the frosting is amazing. I want to use this recipe for frosting but instead of lemon want chocolate or vanilla. Can I just add coco or would melted chocolate be better?
      Making for a Birthday party and I was assigned the cake. His favorite is devils food so I wanted this frosting as was so perfect . I made the cake for a party before and was left on counter for several hours and was still perfect.

  7. Poke cakes are always a hit and lemon flavor is just the right combo for a spring and summer gathering!

    1. I made a lemon cake and wiukd like to turn into a poke cake. Can I poke holes the next day and add mixture?

  8. 4 stars
    My frosting also became runny and grainy. I think I beat it too long with my Kitchen Aid mixer. The first time i checked it it was whipping up nicely and when I cam back it was runny. Flavor ok but not the grainy texture.

    1. I can’t imagine why the frosting would have become more runny the longer it was beaten, unless more liquid was added. Otherwise, it shouldn’t do that.

  9. Hello, I only have 18% cream, and am in the middle of baking this. Do you think that would work or would it not whip? I also have cool whip, maybe that would work best? Thanks

      1. Hi Melissa- I can’t wait to make this for my girlfriends tomorrow. I would love to turn the 9×13 out onto a serving platter before decorating. Do you think the cake will be stable enough if I let it cool 10 minutes then turn it out onto a platter before poking holes and adding the pudding? I worry that the pudding may weaken the cake.

      2. Hi Beth, while I haven’t tested it, I think it would probably do fine. Since the cake will have no support, you may want to avoid getting too close to the edge when poking holes. I’d love to hear how it goes, let us know.

    1. 5 stars
      I have not tried this yet, but I have no doubt that it will be awesome! I have bought all the ingredients for it. I did buy a lemon cake mix instead of golden vanilla, because I really like lemon. I also have instant lemon pudding.

      Nevertheless, I wonder if lemon pudding and pie filling would work as well. In the final analysis, I prefer that to the instant. As you probably guessed, I really like lemon. What do you think?

      1. This cake is for you if you love lemon. The lemon cake mix will of course, work perfectly. You absolutely could adapt using the cook and serve pudding in place of instant. Make it according to the package directions and you’ll be good to go. Enjoy!

      2. Did you put the cake in the fridge after you added the pudding to set or just left it at room temperature?

  10. 5 stars
    Everyone loved this dessert last Easter. Making it again this year. It is like a taste of springtime ! My only question is I wonder if it can be made ahead and frozen?

    1. Great question Bonnie, I’ve never frozen this cake and my thought is it would be better to just make it a day or two in advance.

      1. Speaking of freezing…50 years ago I was told to always use chilled bowls and utensils when making whipped cream and when beating the additions into cooked base bakers icing. Might help with the topping not flopping! Also when the kitchen is warm you can place the bowl on another container with some ice in it while whipping if using a hand mixer. I plan on making this for our neighborhood Bunco group!

  11. We alternate providing a snack every week at my bible study group. Can’t wait to take this cake when it’s my turn again!

    1. did you try this with cooked Lemon Pudding? If so… how did that work for you? I prefer the cooked to instant when I’m just eating it….

    2. I made lemon pudding from scratch and it worked perfectly. So I am sure the cooked pudding and pie filling mix would also work.

  12. 4 stars
    I made this cake;I never could get thickened icing. It started to thicken, and then broke down. I am going to make it again but use a homemade lemon pudding thinned down too, because I seem to keep burping up packaged stuff. (I know, TMI!) I think it would be lemonyer tho! The ladies at my party liked it just the way it was.

    1. How did this work with your homemade pudding? That what I want to do. Also I was curious about the difference in Heavy Cream and Whipping Cream. Heavy Cream has a higher fat content. Also what I read was :Heavy cream will whip better and hold its shape longer than whipping cream.” Did you possibly try to use the whipping cream instead of heavy cream before… maybe that’s why it didn’t thicken up???

  13. I just made the frosting, it was to thin and not thick enough to make those cute flowers you have pictured on your cake. Recipe calls for 1 pint cream, is that correct? Not sure why it’s so thin.

    1. Yes one pint is 2 cups. If it was thin you didn’t beat it long enough. It definitely will thicken to decorate the top.

    2. 5 stars
      This sounds amazing. Lemon always seems light and refreshing to me. How many lemons do I need to buy to get 3 tablespoons of lemon zest?

    1. Debbie, did you try this with cooked Lemon Pudding? If so… how did that work for you? I prefer the cooked to instant when I’m just eating it….

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