Lemon Poke Cake

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Our lemon poke cake is the perfect summer dessert, made with lemon cake mix, creamy lemon filling, and fluffy Cool Whip. This recipe is a delicious treat for any occasion like potlucks, luncheons, or brunch get togethers. 

One of my favorite flavors for summer is lemon. Its brightness tastes great anytime, but it’s especially good during the spring and summer months! 

This lemon poke cake is moist, soft and full of subtle lemon flavor. It’s perfect if you’re looking for a light cake without an overwhelming taste of lemon.

I used boxed lemon cake mix, sweetened condensed milk, fresh lemon juice, and store-bought whipped topping. The result was a super simple recipe that anyone can make.

Try some of our other cake recipes like this tres leches cakestrawberry lemonade cake, or gingerbread poke cake.

Close up view of lemon cake with whipped cream frosting.

How to Make Lemon Poke Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and grease a 9×13-inch pan.
  2. In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to combine the cake ingredients. Mix until just combined following the box instructions.
  3. Transfer the batter to the pan, follow box directions for baking (mine said 26-31 minutes). Use a toothpick to check if the cake is done (it should come out clean).
Lemon cake batter in a pan.
  1. Whisk sweetened condensed milk with lemon juice. Avoid letting it sit too long as it will firm up.
  2. Use a wooden spoon handle to poke holes in the cake.
Spoon poking holes into a cake.
  1. Pour the mixture over the cake and smooth it out.
Lemon filling spread over a cake.
  1. Let the cake cool completely before adding the whipped topping.
  2. Spread the whipped topping evenly over the cooled cake using a spatula.
  3. Garnish with lemon slices and serve!
Whipped topping spooned over cake.

Lemon Poke Cake Tips

Tips
  • Make the holes large for the filling to seep through. Use the handle of a wooden spoon or a dowel to create holes in the cake. The filling is thick and won’t seep into small holes.
  • Don’t over mix the batter. Over-mixing the batter makes a dry, tough cake. Follow the cake box instructions for the best results.
  • Cool the cake before frosting. Wait for the cake to cool to room temperature or chill in the fridge before adding the whipped topping.
  • The cake batter is thick. Since we’re adding instant pudding directly to the batter, it’s going to be thick. The texture will be similar to pudding.

How to Store Leftovers

Refrigerator: Store leftover lemon poke cake in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Bite taken out of a slice of cake.

FAQs

To add extra lemon flavor, consider using instant lemon pudding, lemon Jell-O, lemon curd, or lemon pie filling in place of the sweetened condensed milk with lemon juice. 

  • Lemon Pudding: Prepare two (3.4 ounce) boxes of lemon pudding and spread it evenly over the cake. Refrigerate until the pudding sets completely then add the whipped topping.
  • Lemon Jell-O: Prepare a 3 ounce box of lemon jello per the package directions. Poke the freshly baked cake all over with a fork, and pour the liquid gelatin mixture over the cake. Refrigerate for at least an hour before frosting. 
  • Lemon Curd: Make homemade lemon curd or grab your favorite store-bought variety and use it in place of the sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice.
  • Lemon Pie Filling: This works the same as the lemon curd. After you’ve poked holes in the cake, spread the prepared pie filling over the top in an even layer.

Absolutely! If you want to use white or yellow cake mix, add some lemon juice and fresh lemon zest for the lemon flavor.

Yes, it can be frozen for up to 2 months. Before freezing, ensure the cake is fully cooled. 

It’s best to freeze the cake without the lemon filling and whipped topping; add it fresh when you’re ready to serve. Wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap, followed by a layer of aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn. 

Thaw lemon poke cake overnight in the refrigerator before adding the filling and Cool Whip.

More Lemon Desserts You May Love

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Close up view of a slice of cake on a plate.

Lemon Poke Cake

5 from 2 votes
Print Pin
Author: Kimberly
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 28 minutes
Cool Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 28 minutes
Servings: 20 Servings

Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 13.25 ounces lemon cake mix
  • 1 cup water
  • cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3.4 ounces vanilla instant pudding
  • ¾ cup sour cream

For the Lemon Filling:

  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the Topping:

  • 8 ounces whipped topping

Instructions
 

To Make the Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F, and grease a 9×13-inch pan.
  • In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to combine the cake ingredients. Mix until just combined following the box instructions.
    13.25 ounces lemon cake mix
    1 cup water
    ⅓ cup vegetable oil
    3 eggs
    3.4 ounces vanilla instant pudding
    ¾ cup sour cream
  • Transfer the batter to the pan, and follow box directions for baking (mine said 26-31 minutes). Use a toothpick to check if the cake is done (it should come out clean).

To Make the Lemon Filling:

  • Whisk the sweetened condensed milk with the lemon juice. Avoid letting it sit too long because it will firm up.
    14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
    ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Use a wooden spoon handle to poke holes in the cake, then pour the mixture over it and smooth into an even layer.
  • Let the cake cool completely before adding the whipped topping.

To Apply the Whipped Topping:

  • Spread the whipped topping evenly over the cooled cake using a spatula.
    8 ounces whipped topping
  • Garnish with lemon slices, slice and serve!
  • Scroll up and see the post for tips, FAQs, and storage information.

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 236kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 37mg | Sodium: 213mg | Potassium: 121mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 26g | Vitamin A: 151IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 117mg | Iron: 1mg

Notes

*The calories listed are an approximation based on the ingredients in the recipe card and a serving size of 1 slice of cake. Actual calories will vary.
*For the cake ingredients, use whatever is listed on the box of cake mix + sour cream and instant pudding (even if there’s pudding in the mix).  The egg, oil, and water amounts may differ slightly than what’s listed in the recipe.
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