Ho Ho (Ho) Cake

For as long as I can remember, Christmas recipes meant cookie recipes and specialty pastries like nut roll, not so much traditional dessert recipes like cakes or pies. Once our family is done feasting on Christmas Eve (seven fishes and 13 dishes!) and Christmas Day, the last thing anyone wants is a heavy dessert. We usually make coffee and unwrap a few platters with a selection of cookies that have been baked. Sometimes, however, my dad’s family celebrates Christmas a few days early or the weekend before, when I’m always more than ready to welcome dessert into my belly. There were a few years when my aunt would bring this “ho ho” cake for the occasion. It had been quite a few years since we had it and I’m not sure what made me think of it, but I placed a call to my grandma a few weeks ago asking her to hunt down the recipe. She dug it up in an old church cookbook from decades ago. Finding it was both a blessing and a curse. The cake is quite possibly the best cake I’ve had in years; however, I ate at least one piece every single day for a solid week. I’m still trying to figure out how this is a bad thing.

This cake is a phenomenal recreation of all the flavors that make Ho Ho snack cakes so irresistible. A basic chocolate cake (I used a Dark Chocolate Fudge variety) is topped with a fluffy white frosting, and then a chocolate icing. My aunt mentioned that she sometimes makes the cake like a traditional roll cake… turn out the chocolate cake and roll up (same process as my Angel Food Cake Roll), then once cool spread the filling all over it, and roll back up. Finally, cover the outside with the chocolate icing. It looks like one big Ho Ho! My guess is that it’s more popular during the holidays because people assimilate the “ho ho” name with the “ho ho ho” associated with Santa Claus at Christmas. Whatever the reason, I don’t need an excuse to down plate after plate of ridiculously delicious chocolate cake.

I like keeping the cake baked in the jelly roll pan myself. It makes it much, much easier to steal a corner here and a corner there (ahem). You can serve this cake at room temperature or cold, straight from the refrigerator. I preferred it cold myself, but my mom and Chief Culinary Consultant both preferred it at room temperature. This cake was a serious magic act – for how much we ate it, it lasted a mysteriously long time. It will definitely feed a crowd, which makes it perfect for a holiday gathering. I’ll be making it again this weekend and bringing it to my grandparents’ on Sunday. I’m secretly hoping there are leftovers so I can bring some home with me! 😉

One year ago: Eggnog Fudge
Two years ago: Pecan Tassies
Five years ago: Peppermint Bark

Ho Ho Cake

Yield: 15 to 20 servings

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

A chocolate cake topped with a creamy white filling and rich chocolate icing - flavors reminiscent of the popular Ho Hos snack cakes.


For the Cake:
1 box (18.25-ounces) chocolate cake mix

For the Filling:
1¼ cups whole milk
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup salted butter
½ cup vegetable shortening

For the Icing:
3 cups powdered sugar
½ cup salted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
2 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons hot water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Make the Cake: Mix together the cake mix as directed on package and bake in a 10x15-inch jelly roll pan, greased and/or floured, as instructed on the box. Cool to room temperature.

2. Make the Filling: Meanwhile, combine the milk and flour in a small saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of pudding, about 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside and cool to room temperature.

3. Cream together the sugar, butter and shortening on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the cooled flour/milk mixture and beat on high for 7 minutes. Spread on the cooled cake and refrigerate until set.

4. Make the Icing: In a large bowl, mix together all of the icing ingredients on medium-high speed until creamy and smooth. Spread over the filling on the cake and serve. Cover leftovers with plastic wrap and refrigerate.


88 Responses to “Ho Ho (Ho) Cake”

Comment Pages 1 2
  1. Averie @ Averie Cooks on December 20, 2012 at 12:13 am

    Oh how I love Ho-Ho’s! Haven’t had one in years and years, though! I need to make your cake. The filling kind of reminds me of whoopie pie filling and I love that stuff!


  2. Tiffiny Felix on December 20, 2012 at 1:43 am

    Wow…just wow. This looks so good! I’ve not made a filling like this before. I think I’ll make this for my family get together on Saturday. Yum!


  3. Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes on December 20, 2012 at 3:25 am

    OK now this is one beauty of a cake! I know a few people in my life who would go crazy over this. I’m glad u were able to hunt down the recipe :)


  4. Anna on December 20, 2012 at 3:33 am

    My God it looks delicious! I need to do this cake ASAP :)


  5. Lucia on December 20, 2012 at 5:26 am

    Omg, it looks so delicious and so chocolate-y, it definitely is in my to-bake list.


  6. Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers on December 20, 2012 at 7:31 am

    Ho ho Ho – ly crap! What a great cake! I haven’t had Ho Ho’s in forever, I don’t even know if you can get them anymore? Oh no!!! What a great idea for a cake!! I love, love, love it!!


  7. Lori on December 20, 2012 at 7:56 am

    this has my son’s name written all over it! Thanks for sharing. I am going to have a bunch of hungry 19 year old boys at my house for a serious handball tournament. This will surely be a hit.


  8. Lisa from the 'burgh on December 20, 2012 at 8:09 am

    I think I just found what I’m making for Christmas dessert!!! Thank you–your recipes are always wonderful. Merry Christmas.


  9. Mary on December 20, 2012 at 9:16 am

    This looks so good!! I love this blog <3


  10. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar on December 20, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Ha! Love the name. This cake sounds awesome!


  11. DIANE CRAMMER on December 20, 2012 at 9:27 am

    do you know its getting harder to find 18.25 ounce cake mixes in the stores..I think Duncan Hines is the only one…all the others have DOWNSIZED their product…


    • Michelle on December 20th, 2012 at 6:36 pm

      Hi Diane, I don’t buy them often, so I wasn’t aware of the change in size. In any case, just use 1 “regular size” box cake mix.


  12. MollyCakes on December 20, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Never had this, but sounds amazing maybe I will make it for my birthday today!!


  13. Liddy on December 20, 2012 at 9:45 am

    When the recipe calls for “vegetable shortening,” does it have to be Crisco, or can unsalted butter be used with the same results? I don’t keep Crisco in the house and rarely buy it to use in anything, since I much prefer to use an alternative if possible.


    • Michelle on December 20th, 2012 at 2:38 pm

      Hi Liddy, In some things, butter can be substituted, but for this filling, I would not recommend the substitution. The shortening provides a distinct texture and flavor that you won’t get with butter.


      • Liddy on December 20th, 2012 at 3:09 pm

        Okay, thanks so much! :)


  14. Anna @ Crunchy Creamy Sweet on December 20, 2012 at 10:01 am

    How fun! I love cakes inspired by store-bought treats. The filling sounds delish!


  15. Jessica @ Portuguese Girl Cooks on December 20, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Oh my gosh, this looks so good! I definitely don’t blame you for eating it everyday!


  16. marie//littlekitchie on December 20, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Wow, this looks sooooo yummy! The filling sounds especially awesome!


  17. Becky @ Olives n Wine on December 20, 2012 at 11:25 am

    I love the color contrasts of this cake! What a delicious holiday treat :)


  18. Krystle(Baking Beauty) on December 20, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Oh yum this looks beyond delicious!


  19. Cookin' Canuck on December 20, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Does that ever look good! Thank goodness for your grandma’s detective skills. I definitely have to try this one.


  20. Denise from Savannah on December 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    My Mom, now departed, used to make a version of this too. She used canned frosting for the final chocolate layer (a fudge variety). Microwaved it for 30 second intervals until it was able to be poured. Poured it over the white layer, and refrigerated the cake. So great. Thanks for the recipe. I’ll make this again soon for family, who loves it. Maybe Christmas!


  21. Bronson on December 20, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Oh I am so hungry, and this is making it worse… darn sweet tooth!


  22. Sandra on December 20, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Oh, this looks amazing! I usually avoid the boxed cake mix, but every so often a good recipe comes along that I must try, especially true if it’s endorsed by grandma!


  23. Bernadette @ Now Stir It Up on December 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Even in the pictures this cake looks light and fluffy. I love roll cakes. This looks like it would be great!


  24. Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts on December 20, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    My aunt used to make this cake when I was growing up – haven’t had it in forever!


  25. Chris on December 20, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    I made this today and it was a hit!


  26. PFRANK on December 20, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    I am wondering how early can we make this for the xmas party. is 3 days too much. thanks in advance


    • Michelle on December 20th, 2012 at 11:05 pm

      You could definitely make this 3 days in advance. Just cover it well with plastic wrap and refrigerate.


  27. Keely on December 20, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Do you have to use a box mix? Can you use a scratch recipe and would there be any adjustments?


    • Michelle on December 20th, 2012 at 11:06 pm

      Hi Keely, You don’t have to use a box mix. Just use a chocolate cake recipe that yields a 9×13-inch cake or two 9-inch cake layers (still bake it in a 10×15-inch jelly roll pan) and proceed with the rest of the recipe as written.


  28. Loretta | A Finn In The Kitchen on December 20, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    Oh! Does this ever look naughty! It reminds me of a cake we always requested for our birthdays when we were younger. Have a merry Christmas!


  29. Kiki on December 21, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    I want to make this for Christmas Eve desert. Wondering how this will turn out with a red velvet cake mix instead of chocolate….. Aren’t red velvet and chocolate cake really similar?


    • Michelle on December 22nd, 2012 at 12:44 pm

      Hi Kiki, I find red velvet and chocolate to be quite different; red velvet has just a hint of cocoa in it, while a true chocolate cake should be very chocolatey. If you prefer red velvet, then you can certainly use that as a base, but it’s not chocolate enough to be a pure 1:1 substitution for a chocolate cake, if that’s what you’re looking for.


  30. Ashley on December 22, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    Made 2 of these today and they were an instant hit with the family! It makes ALOT of cake! I was able to share with the neighbors. Thanks for a great recipe!


  31. Amanda on December 22, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    If I don’t have a 10X15 inch pan (which I don’t), would a 9X13 inch pan be an acceptable trade? *fingers crossed*


    • Michelle on December 23rd, 2012 at 11:26 am

      Hi Amanda, You can use a 9×13, but each of the layers will be thicker, that’s all.


      • Amanda on December 23rd, 2012 at 6:59 pm

        Thank you! :) :) I’m going to make this now.


  32. Miss @ MIss in the Kitchen on December 22, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    Mercy me, I must make this soon! My boys will go crazy for it!


  33. Caren on December 22, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    Should the cake mix be with or without pudding? I found the 18.25 oz but it has pudding in it.


    • Michelle on December 23rd, 2012 at 11:28 am

      Hi Caren, It truly doesn’t matter, whatever cake mix you like. You prepare it just as the box says.


  34. Susan on December 23, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    Made this for a party tonight – to die for! I couldn’t find that large a box if cake mix either, worked just fine w the standard sized box of Ducan Hines Devils Food and a 9×13, didn’t have a jelly roll pan.


  35. Patricia on December 23, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    Hi! Thank you so much for such a wonderful website! I just wanted to ask if I can use 2% milk instead of whole?


    • Caren on December 23rd, 2012 at 9:47 pm

      I used 2% today and it came out great!


    • Michelle on December 26th, 2012 at 10:42 am

      Yes, you can!


  36. Amy on December 26, 2012 at 7:12 am

    Thanks so much for this recipe. i made for a neighborhood dessert last night and it was a big hit.


  37. Amy on December 26, 2012 at 9:00 am

    This has been a family favorite for years at my house. I believe its the exact same recipe! I would screw up the chocolate frosting at times and decided to put a ganache instead….oh my!


  38. Joy on December 26, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    The cake looks wonderful. I had to pin it for my benefits 😀


  39. Lisa from the 'burgh on December 27, 2012 at 9:47 am

    I made this to take to Christmas dinner–it was absolutely wonderful. I was a little nervous about the flour in the filling but it turned out so nice and creamy. Great recipe for a crowd, too.


  40. bakeaffairs on January 2, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    This cake looks absolutely delicious!


  41. Diana on January 30, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    My family loved this cake – said it was amazing. :-)


  42. Tania on February 3, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    What a wonderful recipe! You have no idea how long I have been searching for a filling recipe that uses a white roux starter! I cannot wait to try this cake. Great blog!!


    • Tania on February 3rd, 2013 at 12:53 pm

      Not roux :-)


  43. Christine on February 17, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    Great Recipe ~ made this cake for a potluck and everyone raved about the it! I used high ratio icing shortening for the cream filling and the result was delicious. Next time, I will probably use approx 3 T to 1/4 cup dutch process cocoa rather than melting & cooling chocolate pieces — I think this will give me a very similar result.


  44. Parvathy on April 4, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Great recipe…for the cake i uused a chocolate chiffon cake…turned out well.But the icing was a little too salty for my liking.Would it be better to use unsalted butter??


    • Michelle on April 5th, 2013 at 11:22 am

      If you found it to be too salty, you can try using unsalted butter.


  45. Our Sunny Villa on April 8, 2013 at 10:55 am

    This looks delish and super easy … 1 of my favorite combinations :) I think I’m going to make it in a regular 9 x 13 cake pan instead of the jelly roll. These would be great as cupcakes too. I’ve used the filling before as icing for cakes or cupcakes. It’s not too sweet and it versatile. You can flavor the filling/icing with chocolate or choc. mint or any other flavor you need or like. Am going to try this to take to my sister’s house. Her ‘little angels’ are going to love it! Thanks.


  46. Margie on April 29, 2013 at 8:09 am

    This cake is just wonderful! If you like to bake, then the filling is a really interesting process. I found that I needed about four cups of powdered sugar for the chocolate frosting – the specified three cups made a dark, creamy spread which is not what is shown in the photo.


    • Michelle on April 30th, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      Hi Margie, The cake was made as directed in the recipe and photographed; I did only use three cups of powdered sugar. No trickery here.


  47. Dawn on May 8, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    Is it ok to use 3 oz. of semi-sweet chips or do I have to buy the baking bar?


    • Michelle on May 9th, 2013 at 2:10 pm

      Hi Dawn, You could use the chocolate chips if that’s easier for you.


  48. Ashley on May 26, 2013 at 6:14 am

    Reminds me of a deconstructed buche de noel! We used to make one of those every Christmas- my cousin and I used to refer to it as the “hugantic ho ho” cake (since it looked like a giant ho ho, obv). I hate rolling those things, though- I’ll have to try this recipe now! Thanks!


  49. Larysa on May 31, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Never mind Christmas, this is going to be a Canada Day desert this year. Can’t wait.


  50. Madison on August 24, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Hi, if I wanted to make the cake part from scratch and not from a box will that still work?


    • Michelle on August 25th, 2013 at 7:38 pm



      • Kathy Milczarski on December 22nd, 2014 at 10:17 pm

        Michelle, You mentioned in another post that the cake recipe from scratch to use would be the Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake. You also suggest using a 10 x 15 inch jelly roll pan but the cake recipe does not call for that so what would be the cooking time for the 10 x 15 inch pan? 350 degrees for how long??? And is there a pan you recommend? What is the third dimension? Thanks a lot!! I want to make this for Christmas. Of course, I am last minute as usual but I have the ingredients and just need the pan and cooking time. Merry Christmas and thanks in advance for the answers!


        • Michelle on December 24th, 2014 at 12:25 pm

          Hi Kathy, Most 10×15 jelly roll pans have a 1-inch side. The timing you will just need to keep an eye on – probably in the 15-minute range, but it will vary based on the recipe/mix used.


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