Easy Lemon Poke Cake with rich cream cheese frosting is the perfect dessert for any occasion! It’s a sweet and tangy treat that’s hard to beat!
Lemon Poke Cake perfectly balances bright layers of zesty lemon with sweetened condensed milk and a cream cheese frosting, elevating the ingredients of a basic yellow cake into something spectacular! This might be the best lemon cake recipe ever!
Remember Jell-O Poke Cake from Childhood?
Many grew up on recipes like Chocolate Poke Cake and Strawberry Jello Cake. Simple, yummy, 3-ingredient desserts created “back in the day” to boost the popularity of Jell-O and Cool Whip.
This refreshing Lemon Cake recipe ups the poke cake game by replacing the gelatin and frozen whipped topping with fresh juice and zest of real lemons and a mouthwatering cream cheese icing. You’ll swoon over the depth of flavors in this tantalizingly tangy treat!
Poke cakes are the bomb! They are super easy, so delicious, and surprisingly versatile! Check out the recipe list at the bottom of this page to see just HOW many poke cakes I’ve tried so far!
Holiday Poke Cake Recipes
- Lemon poke cake makes a perfect summer dessert, but this Pumpkin Toffee Poke Cake will give you all the autumn feels!
- Make this Christmas Rainbow Poke Cake a holiday tradition with the kids! The swirls of red and green are so festive!
Cake: Lemon Poke Cake starts with a basic yellow cake recipe using butter, flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and eggs. The tangy goodness of this recipe comes from adding fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, and a cup of sour cream.
Topping: The “topping” is the mixture poured over this cake once the holes are poked – a rich, creamy combination of sweetened condensed milk and fresh lemon juice.
Frosting: The icing for this lemon cake recipe is a simple cream cheese and powdered sugar frosting with one exception – adding a little fresh lemon juice. It adds just the right balance of lemony goodness!
How to Make Lemon Poke Cake
STEP ONE: Preheat the oven to 350 F and spray a 9×13 baking pan or dish with non-stick cooking spray. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl, then set that aside for now.
STEP TWO: On medium speed, whip the softened butter and sugar until fluffy. Gently add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Next, mix in the lemon juice and zest, then add the flour mixture a little at a time. Finally, stir in the sour cream.
STEP THREE: Pour the cake batter into the prepared dish. Bake the cake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes clean. Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a wire rack.
STEP FOUR: Prepare the topping by whisking 1/4 cup of lemon juice into one can of sweetened condensed milk in a medium bowl until it’s combined and smooth.
STEP FIVE: Poke holes over the entire surface of the warm cake with a fork or the back of a wooden spoon. Then, pour the topping evenly over the cake. Some of the mixture will sit on top of the cake. That’s okay. Cool the cake for about 1 hour to room temperature and then refrigerate it for 1-2 hours, allowing it to absorb all the topping.
STEP SIX: Make the frosting by beating softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, and a tablespoon of lemon juice in a large mixing bowl until it’s smooth and creamy. After the cake has cooled, spread the frosting over the top of the cake. Refrigerate for one more hour before garnishing the top, slicing, and digging in! (You’ve been very patient; you deserve a big slice.)
Tips for Success
- Use softened butter. This is NOT the same as melted butter. Softened butter holds air into the mixture when blended, making the cake lighter and fluffier—melted butter results in a heavier, denser cake.
- Always use glass or plastic mixing bowls when making recipes that contain lemon or eggs. These ingredients can sometimes react with the aluminum in metal mixing bowls and give your batter an unpleasant, metallic taste.
- Garnish each piece with thinly cut lemon slices dipped in sugar, lemon zest, quartered lemon slices, or candied lemon peel.
What is a Poke Cake?
A poke cake, also called a poke-and-pour cake, is a recipe that is infused with extra flavor, moistness, and sometimes color. This is done by poking holes across the top of a freshly-baked cake. These holes make pockets to catch a heavy drizzle of sauce, syrup, or other sweet liquid poured over the top before frosting.
How Far in Advance Can You Make a Poke Cake?
Almost any poke cake can be made one or two days ahead. (Any longer, it starts to get soggy on the bottom.) Poke cakes must also be chilled, making them an ideal choice for a make-ahead dessert.
Other Recipes for Perfect Poke Cakes!
- Turtle Poke Cake
- Oreo Poke Cake
- RumChata Poke Cake
- Boston Cream Poke Cake
- Toasted Coconut Poke Cake
- Caramel Apple Poke Cake
- Strawberries and Cream Poke Cake
- Banana Split Poke Cake
*This post was originally posted on 05/08/2013.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Coat the inside of a 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish or pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.
- Add the butter and sugar to a large mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer on medium speed, beat until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest. Mix to combine.
- Add half of the flour mixture to the bowl and mix until just combined. Repeat with the rest of the flour. Stir in the sour cream. (see note)
- Transfer the batter to the prepared baking dish.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a pick inserted into the center comes out clean
- Whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and 1/4 cup lemon juice in a medium bowl until smooth.
- Use a fork or the back of a wooden spoon to poke holes over the entire surface of the warm cake. Pour the sweetened condensed milk mixture all over the cake. (Not all of the mixture will immediately be absorbed into the cake. That's okay.)
- Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack. Once cooled, refrigerate the lemon cake for at least 1-2 hours to allow the topping to set and soak into the cake.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Beat together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice until smooth. (see note)
- Spread the frosting evenly over the top of the cooled cake. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
- Garnish the top of the cake with lemon zest and quartered lemon slices, if desired. Cut the cake into 12 slices, serve, and enjoy!
- You’ll need about 3 lemons total for this recipe. Most lemons give 2-3 tablespoons of juice. If you prefer to use bottled lemon juice, that’s fine, but freshly squeezed tastes the best in this recipe.
- If you want the cake to be yellow, you’ll need to add some yellow food coloring to the batter before baking.
- If the frosting is too stiff, add a little more lemon juice to thin it out. If the frosting is too thick, add more powdered sugar until it has thickened. I usually end up adding a couple of extra tablespoons of powered sugar.