Poke cakes have been around for a long, long time. I remember getting recipes for different versions through email “recipe exchanges” back in the early 2000’s. That’s when they popped onto my radar, and I have a feeling that they had been floating around for decades before that. I’ve been wanting to make one for ages, but one of the things holding me back was that every single recipe I found called for box cake mix, jarred toppings and a tub of whipped topping. I’m not necessarily opposed to box mixes in special circumstances, but I was hesitant to make an entire recipe based on packaged ingredients. I put it on the back burner for awhile, but revisited the idea in anticipation of Valentine’s Day. A super moist red velvet cake with a luscious layer of cream cheese frosting? From scratch? Valentine’s perfection!
I doubled the recipe for my red velvet cupcakes and baked it in a 9×13-inch pan. Once it came out of the oven, I poked holes all over the top using the bottom of a wooden spoon and poured a can of sweetened condensed milk over top. The idea is to let the sweetened condensed milk slowly seep into the cake, giving it a boost of flavor and keeping it incredibly moist. You can’t have red velvet without cream cheese frosting, so once the cake cooled completely, I slathered a modified cream cheese frosting over the top and showered it with some pretty pink, red and white Valentine’s sprinkles.
This is the red velvet cake of dreams. Also, there may or may not have been a few pieces of cake salvaged from a tupperware container in the back of the fridge a good 10 days after it was made. I thought for sure it would be beyond stale, but shockingly, it was insanely moist and tasted delicious. So, it has some staying power, as well 😉
Look out, I’m about to go hog wild reinventing from-scratch versions of some of the poke cakes that I’ve been ogling for years!
One year ago: Raspberry Cream Cheese Brownies and How to Make Sushi at Home: Sushi Rice & California Rolls
Two years ago: Best Buttermilk Pancakes
Three years ago: Creme Brûlée
A red velvet cake has holes poked all over it, doused in sweetened condensed milk, and then covered in cream cheese frosting.
For the Cake:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 (12-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
For the Frosting:
8 ounces butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4¼ cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1. Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking pan.
2. On medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to high and add the eggs. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.
3. In a separate small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and red food coloring to make a thick paste. Add to the batter and mix on medium speed until completely combined. You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.
4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half of the flour and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour. Beat on high until smooth, about 1 minutes.
5. Again, reduce the mixer speed to low and add the salt, baking soda and vinegar. Turn to high and beat for another 2 minutes until completely combined and smooth.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, smoothing the top into an even layer with a spatula. Bake until a thin knife or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes.
7. Remove the cake from the oven and immediately poke holes all over the top of the cake. You can use the end of a wooden spoon, a skewer, the tines of a fork, etc. Slowly pour the can of condensed milk all over the top of the cake, making sure to drizzle it evenly all over the top. Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting and decorating.
8. Make the Frosting: Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the butter and cream cheese on high speed for about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl down as necessary. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar until all is incorporated. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Increase the speed to medium high and whip for a few minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as necessary.
8. Spread the frosting evenly over the top of the cake and decorate as desired. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.