Red Velvet Poke Cake
Red velvet cake is infused with sweetened condensed milk and topped with the best cream cheese frosting. A must for Valentine’s Day!
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.
This cake was my first go at a completely from-scratch poke cake. I have a deep love for better than sex cake, which features the combination of chocolate cake, caramel topping, Cool Whip, and Heath bits that has been popular for ages, but in anticipation of Valentine’s Day in 2013, I wanted to go all-in on homemade cake. This red velvet poke cake is based on my red velvet cupcake recipe, is infused with sweetened condensed milk (ahh, shades of tres leches cake!) and topped with my favorite cream cheese frosting.
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 a metal skewer 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 cream cheese frosting over the top and showered it with some pretty pink, red and white sprinkles.
This is the red velvet cake of dreams. I made it again a couple of weeks ago for Sunday dinner dessert and everyone loved it. Those dinners are a great way for me to gauge how good a recipe is – our family is made up of quite a varying array of tastes and preferences, so if I serve something that EVERYONE goes nuts over, then I know it’s a for-sure winner.
Watch How to Make Red Velvet Poke Cake (video):
What’s YOUR favorite poke cake recipe? There are still a million I want to try!
One year ago: King Bundt Cake
Five years ago: Red Velvet Cheesecake
Red Velvet Poke Cake
For the Cake:
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 6 tablespoons red food coloring
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk
- 2¼ cups (281.25 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
- 14 ounce (396.89 ml) can sweetened condensed milk
For the Frosting:
- 1 cup (236.59 g) salted butter, at room temperature
- 8 ounces (226.8 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3½ cups (420 g) powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 minute.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. If it pools along the edges, use a spoon to scoop it up and redistribute it on top. Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting and decorating.
- 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.
- 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.
Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!
I have made this cake many times and it is always a hit!! I have to be honest and say I cheat and use a red velvet cake mix! Sorry! But, the icing is what makes it so delicious plus the condensed milk oozing out of the cake! I do cut back on the vanilla in the icing. Thank you for a great recipe!
I made this cake for Christmas and it was a total success! I’d never made a poke cake nor a red velvet before, and everything turned out fantastic.
For years, I’ve made a more traditional RV cake. I made this for the first time about 6 years ago and did a taste test at my job. They loved mine (which takes longer to prepare) the best, but everyone said this is a really good cake as they gobbled it down!
The condensed milk adds to the moisture. Kids love it. The fact that it’s meant to be a sheet cake is also a plus. It’s a good go to if you prefer scratch but don’t have a lot of time. Love this recipe!
I made this for 4th of July. It was enjoyed by all!!
Hello I love your redvelvet cupcake recipe and this cake looks very similar to the ingredients…..is this recipe doubled from your redvelvet cupcake recipe?
I’m still waiting for the directions to add the 2 eggs.
It’s in step 2
This is a take on the Mexican Tres Leches cake without the 2 other milks needed to help cut the extreme sweetness of the Condemned milk by it self I made it Tres Lechesstyle and it was not too sweet it was perfect!! Try it!!
Pretty easy and quick but didn’t quite hit the spot for me. I went with half the butter in the icing, like a few others in the comments, but the cake still lacked that tangy kick. It was moist, so no complaints there, but the taste was just like a bland chocolate cake. I’m sure my coworkers will gobble it up, but I personally wouldn’t make this again.
Try adding a cup or 2 of coffee to the mix, a quality instant or filter coffee, would perhaps give it the kick that you’re looking for. I personally always do this to my red velvet cakes, and even to my chocolate cakes as well. But if that’s not the kick you’re looking for then try some Jack Daniels in the coffee before adding it, but you didn’t hear that from me, haha…
Thoughts on cutting in half and baking it in an 8×8? I am making it as a gift and it is for a family of 2.
Can you stack this cake, making a layered cake? Or will the sweetened condensed milk make the cake too gooey to stand up to the layering?
Hi Sandy, The sweetened condensed milk makes this a really, heavy dense cake, and I don’t think it would be well-suited for layering, unfortunately.
I made this, modifying it so it would be vegan and gluten free, and it was amazing. Thanks for the recipe. Will definitely make again as it was super easy as well.
What a nice thing for me to make on this rainy day. I’m happy that the red food coloring cleans up easily as I got it everywhere, but it’s worth it. So rich and yummy.
I am making this for the 3rd year in a row for my son’s birthday. He loves it and so does the whole family.
I was wondering if you might be able to provide nutritional info for this recipe? Namely how many carbs per serving? Thanks a bunch!
Hi Shannon, I don’t have that capability right now (hopefully soon!), but I think you can plug in the ingredients and servings to something like MyFitnessPal and get the nutrition info.
very easy to make.
I was a little disappointed in the red velvet poke cake I made. I was off from work today and really took my time. Even though it had the cream, it seemed a little on the dry side and a little bland…. Probably won’t try again. Others seemed to have really liked, so maybe it was just me.
I’m not a huge fan of Red Velvet Cake, but I thought this would be pretty since this month is all about red. I made this cake Saturday and Served Sunday. It was very good and easy since it in made in a 9X13. No fussing with layers. It had a nice subtle chocolate chocolate flavor, was nice and moist from the condensed milk, and beautiful in color. I did make a couple of changes. I only used 4 oz of red food coloring (because that’s all I had on hand and I didn’t feel like going to the store) and it was still had plenty of color and was a beautiful red. Secondly, I only used one stick of butter in my cream cheese frosting (that’s my standard recipe) and it’s delicious. I recommend the recipe.
would you accept to give me your frosting recipe with less butter please ?
Would the cake taste amazing if I were to make it the night before? Thank you!
Hi Suzanne, Yes! I often make it a day in advance!
Im a Cupcaker, and I am always in search for new recipes, and I never made a single red velvet cake.
so… my question is….If I use this same recipe size, but for cupcakes, how many it would make? I need to change something size-wise because is for cupcakes and not cake?
~ sorry my poor English.
Hi Sabrina, Here is the actual recipe for cupcakes! https://www.browneyedbaker.com/2010/11/08/red-velvet-cupcakes-cream-cheese-frosting/
It seems no one makes a good red velvet without the red dye, even bakeries don’t know how to do this anymore… It’s a lost art…. And the only thing you really did different is the cocoa. With Dutch cocoa, buttermilk and vinegar, it turns red all by itself. And it usually has a cooked icing which is wonderful, but few ever use it.
1. never made a poke cake
2. never made a red velvet cake though I have sampled many a slice :-)
I made this recipe last night to bring into work and it has been a massive hit!
I had to cut into it at home this morning as my two little girls were begging to try it (the sprinkles did it for them!) and they loved it! My 6 year old kept raving about the cake more than the frosting which is a rarity!
It baked in the recommended 25 minutes but I must confess that I’m not sure about the texture though the cake looks just like your picture. It’s a bit dense (but not solid) and kinda fudgy but definitely moist. Is this what the resulting texture should be? Not a typical cake really?
Hi Natasha, Thanks so much for the review, I’m thrilled to hear everyone loved it! Yes, that’s the correct texture, the liquid soaks in and gives it a fudgy type of texture.
red velvet it to me, the best cake flavor, so was love that part already, but also must admit my complete ignorance of any/all “poking” relating to baking, so am very pleased to have you include this technique for infusing even more flavor into the cake, thank you for this recipe!
The cake came out beautifully! I just used a tablespoon of food coloring and the rest water. I don’t know why some people had issues with baking…mine was perfectly baked at 25 minutes! Perhaps because I used a scale instead of volumetric measurements? I cut half the butter out of the frosting because I prefer a more cheesy Cream Cheese frosting and then cut back on the sugar as well. It obviously made less frosting than the recipe, but that was PLENTY for this cake. I definitely think the amount of vanilla was a typo. I added about 1 1/2 teaspoons and that was the perfect amount (probably about 2 t if I made the full frosting recipe).
I did the same. Only one stick of butter. I cut the vanilla back to 1T and that was plenty.
Made this for Valentine’s day yesterday. WOWZA! It is fantastic. And easy! I halved the recipe because I didn’t think we needed that much, but we do. Oh, yes we do!
Made this cake last night. The family and I were not impressed. It took almost 45min for the center of the cake to be cooked which caused the edges of the cake to be over baked and too dry. This was my first recipe that required the salt, baking soda, and vinegar to be added at the end. I think all the extra mixing resulted in a tougher cake. I will try adding all the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients the next time for a moister and finer textured cake.
Made this red velvet cake as a Valentine’s Day treat. Big hit with both my family and my coworkers. Super easy/simple to make but seems decadent. Absolutely recommended for one of those occasions when you don’t want to fuss too much but want it to seem like you went to some special effort.
Just made this today; followed the recipe exactly. Mine also took a little longer to bake approx. 40 minutes. I don’t know if it is the condensed milk, but the cake is extremely dense and heavy. I did not put quite as many holes in it as you did. Icing is a little too sweet for our taste, will cut back on the sugar and vanilla the next time.
Try an original red velvet cooked icing instead of what we use currently. The cooked icing is wonderful and not as sweet but very complimentary to the red velvet. You can also skip the dye by using the ingredients to naturally make it red. :)
Yes! I actually prefer that icing on my red velvet.
Just made this last night. It is so moist and delicious – oh my! I used just one bottle of the Wiltons Red Food Coloring and it looks perfect. My cake took around 40 minutes to bake all the way through. Can’t wait to serve this to the kids tomorrow!!
I made this recipe yesterday for an early Valentine’s Day dinner. Made it with my 5 and 7 year old boys and our 10- year old neighbor. We had a ball making it and it was absolutely delicious – so moist!! A perfect Valentine’s Day cake!
I made this recipe a few days ago and everyone loved it! I used 3 heart-shaped pans (instead of a 9×13) and halfed the recipe and it turned out great. I’ve made the typical chocolate poke cake with whipped cream topping, but this one is so much better (must be the cream cheese frosting). Will definitely make again.
I will be making the red velvet poke cake for Valentines Day and will be mixing cream cheese with the condensed milk for the filling. Can this be frozen for a day or two prior to frosting or will it become mushy? Thank you
Hi Barbara, You don’t need to freeze the cake. I would recommend making it one day in advance, and you can just refrigerate.
I’ve never made a poke cake before. They look so good!
Is there a natural substitute for Red Food coloring? Thank you for the amazing recipes.
Sorry just read through the comments, some of them, and it was suggested to use beet root juice.
Just use the ingredients that naturally make it red. Dutch cocoa, buttermilk and vinegar. It’s not a deep red but it is red compared to regular chocolate cake…
Looks perfect. :) adding to the menu
Totally LOVED the cake. Just out of the oven. Super soft and extremely tasty. I pressure cooked 1 beetroot and ground it to a paste and used that instead of the red food coloring. So delicious even without the frosting. I made one portion of the batter into cupcakes and the other portion is a regular cake (added the sweetened condensed milk just now). Don’t have an electric beater and so I beat the butter/sugar and then the eggs all by hand. Totally worth the effort!!
Hi Resham, made this cake for Woman’s Day and the family was raving about it. Unfortunately I didnt had time to make the frosting and used a bought one… just as good. Was absolutely delicious!! This one is a keeper!! thank you!
also what are the specifications for baking in a microwave?
I have never baked a cake in the microwave and a 9×13-inch pan would not fit in most microwaves. The microwave wouldn’t really BAKE it as it would steam it, so I really wouldn’t recommend.
Ok thank you !
what can i use in place of the egg for the cake? and do cheese spreads give the same consistency and taste for the frosting ? i couldnt find cheese cream here..
Hi Resham, Some folks use applesauce as an egg substitute, but I’ve never used one in this cake, so I couldn’t say for sure. Are you talking about a cream cheese spread? It will have a similar flavor, but it’s softer, so you may need more powdered sugar to get the correct consistency.
Your ingredients are totally wrong. Especially the frosting. Half of the amount is more than enough
Hi Raku, This amount of batter for a 9×13-inch pan is pretty standard – nothing dramatically different. As for the frosting – I find that’s always a matter of personal preference, some people like more and some people like less.
Thanks for the reply. I have replaced the colouring by water and bicarbonate soda. The taste was there but the cake is not fluffy but it’s more like a chocolate. Hehehe. I got no idea what went wrong. Kindly advise. Is it maybe because of oven. Waiting for your reply thank you ;-)
Hi Raku, Not sure what the result/problem was, but if you added more liquid and baking soda that could have absolutely caused an issue with rising and it not being fluffy.
I made this for Valentine’s day today and it was absolutely amazing! Your dessert recipes have never failed me and now I have another great one to add to my recipe book. Thank you!
I tried the frosting and it turned out with a really weird texture. It was runny and never set up and had an interesting taste. I will probably try a different cream cheese frosting next time.
After cake is done and iced. Is it best to be refrigerated before serving? Or left out at room temperature?
Hi Colleen, You can leave it at room temperature if you are serving it the same day; for longer term storage, I would refrigerate.
Can you freeze this Cake.
love red velvet cake.yours looks sooo good .Thanks.Betty
Hi Betty, I haven’t tried to do so, but I think that it would freeze just fine.
You said we need to add 1 TBS of vinegar to the recipe. Is there an alternative? Do we have to add vinegar when we already have added buttermilk?
And if I add lemon juice to my buttermilk as I don’t have vinegar what can I substitute the 1 TBS vinegar with?
Hi Anushree, Yes, you still need to add the vinegar along with the buttermilk. I haven’t subbed the vinegar, but you could try lemon juice. I don’t know how it might affect the cake (if at all).
is the recipe all ready doubled or is this the cupcake recipe that needs to be doubled
Hi Nolemama, This recipe posted above is the recipe you need for this cake (it has already been doubled).
The recipe has issues. The extract amount is excessive. I would not use more than 1 tsp. That much extract makes the frosting a yucky color. Next time I will use clear vanilla instead. I tweak cake mixes by subbing water with milk and oil for melted butter, adding an extra egg and 1 tsp vanilla.
I think that the recipe should call for clear vanilla extract. The typical kind makes the frosting a ugly grayish white color
I noticed you said you doubled your cupcake recipe but the amount of sugar doesn’t add up. Was that a typo or intentional? I am making red velvet for the 1st time at the request of my 6 year old birthday girl. Love your recipes!!
Hi Lisa, The amount of sugar in the cake recipe is correct. You are right that the frosting doesn’t include a full duplication of the powdered sugar; that’s because I wasn’t piping the frosting and didn’t need it to be super stiff. Hope that helps and happy birthday to your little girl!
I made this cake last night to take to work. It really makes a lot of frosting. I didn’t make the cake from scratch but doctored a box of red velvet and added the milk once it was baked. I used the frosting recipe which was very good a nd so was the cake. I kept in the fridge all day until I served it and when I went to cut the cake it was very dense and hard because it was cold. It wasn’t as moist as it looks in the picture but I noticed once I left it out for an hour and came to room temperature the texture was better and tasted better. Could I leave it out the cake out or do I have to refrigerate it the whole time? I think it makes a difference when serving this cake if it has been refrigerated.
Hi Juanita, You can leave it out of the refrigerator until you serve it, but if you’ll be storing it for a number of days, then you should refrigerate it. You could take it out an hour or so before serving to bring it to room temperature.
I took it out and left it on the counter to get to room temperature the next day and it was still hard when I cut into it. I had to throw away the rest of it and no one at my office really liked it or finished their piece. I would not make this again. I think it was the can of sweetened condensed milk that made it this way. Next time I will leave it out.
This cake is the best thing I’ve ever made. I use this website for all baked goods but this one takes the cake ;) Not too sweet of a cake base, notes of cocoa, and the sweetened condensed milk is amazing. The cream cheese frosting is to die for. I halved the recipe and put it in a brownie pan and it set up thick with a high stack of frosting. I will be enjoying all week long.
I have another question, sorry! But we use unsalted butter and then you have butter for the icing. What kind of butter for the icing? Making this Saturday!
Hi Marchelle, Salted butter for the frosting. Or, you can use unsalted and add a pinch of salt.
Can I bake it in a heart shaped foil pan?
Hi Marchelle, I don’t see why not, just make sure the volume is the same.
Loved the cake! Made it for my husband’s family yesterday when we hosted Christmas. Cake was perfect. Did take a bit longer to bake, but I anticipated that. I was wondering if the 2 Tbsp. vanilla extract in the frosting was supposed to be 2 Tsp? I thought it tasted overwhelmingly of the extract. I also messed up because I assumed it was 8 Tbsp of butter (1 stick) and not 8 oz. of butter. Ooops. It was still a big hit and I’ll make it again and tweak the frosting a bit. Thanks!
I had to copy and adjust your recipe to german. OMG! I’m druling all over the place – this is just delish!
Thx for sharing. You’ll find mine here: http://www.sabotagebuch.de/wordpress/2014/06/14/copycat-red-velvet-poke-cake/
Greets, Sandra / sabo
Well, everything that has been mentioned above went wrong for me. The cake took about 50 minutes to bake, it cracked and rose in the middle, the frosting was runny and lumpy, and the whole thing wasn’t at all pleasant to eat; the cake wasn’t light, it was rather dense and not a nice taste. I also think the whole tin of condensed milk was too much, as it just sat on top despite the holes. Even the bit that went into the cake didn’t make it light at all. I tried to follow the recipe to a T, doing the conversions from the US to UK measurements (i.e. ounces to grams, etc) used the right sized glass tray, only difference is that I didn’t have a machine and did everything by hand (surely 50 years ago this would have been normal). Who knows what went wrong?! I’m very disappointed, but I suppose it’s my fault, only don’t know what I did wrong. Going in the bin now. Better luck to everyone else.
I’m all for the cakes made from scratch but there was a red velvet poke cake made with a box mix where you bake the cake as directed then you pour 2 BOXES of LEMON jello into the holes then cool cake.Then you mix a box of COOK VANILLA PUDDING along with other ingredients and then you pour this over the cold cake and serve warm or cold. I want to make the one with the box cake for my kids and the one from scratch for me my kids won’t eat CREAM CHEESE FROSTING does anyone have the box cake recipe?I already bought the mix And the LEMON Jello and COOK BOX OF VANILLA PUDDING I HAVE been looking all over face book for that recipe any help WOULD be appreciated thanks
Made it yesterday for my uncles’ anniversary and wooow! I’ve tried nothing like it before, the chocolate with the red colour, the condensed milk and the cream chesse everything was just perfect! Sending you a huge thank you from Argentina!
Just made cake. Its in oven. Confused bout food coloring. I bout thepkg of food coloring and the red was small, only gave me 1 tbsp. So i used 5 tbsp water but cake still was really red so i dont know if i just had strong food coloring…?
Made this last night…super moist and yummy! I was even able to adapt the recipe for my lactose free hubby!
Made this following your exact recipe and it was absolutely delicious. I am not a huge red velvet fan but my husband is and so I made it for his Birthday. Your directions were so clear and easy to follow and it was a fun cake to make. I did have to add an additional 5 minutes to the cooking time using a metal pan but it seems most things have a range of how long it takes based in personal variables. Anyways., thanks for the great recipe. If you are a fan of Red Velvet, this won’t disappoint. I think I actually liked this more bc of the Sweetened Condensed Milk addition.
This cake looks too pretty to eat! Wait…did I just say that? Just kidding!
Hi, im always a bid fan of your blog. I love cupcakes so is it possible if i do use this recipe and the poke nethod on a cupcake? pls help me… i was so depress because redvelvet cupcakes are always dry after 2-3 days. Pls pls help me… im always searching for the moistiest red velvet cupcake ever thanks .
Hi Monique, I have never tried this method with cupcakes, so I can’t vouch for how it would turn out. I do have red velvet cupcakes on the site, though, if you’d like to try those (they are quite moist!): https://www.browneyedbaker.com/2010/11/08/red-velvet-cupcakes-cream-cheese-frosting/
Wow! So delicious. I love it. You are sharing such a yummy recipe. I never heard this recipe name before.
Hi. i made this last night. The texture was perfect! However, i think the coloring should be reduced to half? Because it’s came out quite bitter at the top. I have another recipe which i made previously (cupcakes) with similar amounts of flour/sugar, the coloring required was only about 2.5 tbsp. ^^ Just wondering if that caused the bitter after taste in my red velvet. I didn’t add much condensed milk because worried it would be too sweet.
Hi Jaclyn, If you left out some of the sweetened condensed milk, that could have made it less sweet (i.e. more bitter). However, you may also want to try a different brand of food coloring; some of them have off-tastes.
Okay, one last question! I’m going to make this tomorrow night for my mother’s birthday on Saturday (I’m a novice baker and this is my first cake!!). I’m planning on baking the cake on Friday night, storing it in the fridge overnight, and frosting it in the morning. Should I poke the holes and add the condensed milk on Friday night, or should I wait until Saturday morning to poke the holes and add the condensed milk right before frosting? Any help or advice is greatly appreciated!!!
Hi Neal, You’ll want to poke holes and add the condensed milk on Friday night. Enjoy the cake!
I’m planning on making this over the weekend and can’t wait! Should I use salted or unsalted butter for the frosting?
Hi Neal, You could use salted butter, or unsalted butter with a pinch of salt added.
Is this the same recipe for your red velvet cupcakes, well, except that you pour over condensed milk? :)
Is this the same recipe for your red velvet cupcakes, well, except that you pour over condensed milk? :)
I already saw the answer to my question :) thanks!
Hi, this recipe looks absolutely scrumptious! I do have a question though that I am hoping you could provide me some guidance on… I will be baking for a fairly large group of people (including quite a few kids), so I was thinking of doubling the recipe, i.e. making two layers of cake and then more frosting to cover the whole thing so it is birthday cake like. Do you think this cake has the structural integrity for that? I have never made poke cake before so not sure if the pokes make it less sturdy! Also, in your opinion, how much frosting would I need? Lots of questions, I know, but I appreciate any help you could provide! Thanks :)
Hi Alex, I have never done a layer cake with a poke cake, I’m not sure how it would hold up. Pouring the sweetened condensed milk and caramel over a layer cake might end up a bit messy. In a 9×13, the ends of the pan helps hold in the liquid while it seeps into the cake.
I just made this cake for friends and it was a huge hit! So great. Thanks for the recipe!
Hi! I was wondering if I could use something else instead of the condensed milk? Do you have any suggestions? Thank you!
Hi Georgia, I’m not really sure what else you could use without knowing why exactly you don’t want to use the sweetened condensed milk – dairy restrictions, taste, etc.? You could try a thick simple syrup just to give it some extra moisture if you’d like.
Is it really meant to be 8 Oz of butter rather than 8 tablespoons in the frosting?
Yes, 8 ounces, which is 2 sticks of butter.
I made this other day and it is so delicious! I made it with a glass Pyrex dish and the cake cooked perfectly in about 28 minutes.
I have no experience with poke cakes. How long does it take for the cake to fully absorb the condensed milk?? Can this cake be turned out of its pan, for instance if i was using a 9 inch cake pan, and then be stacked and decorated?
You could do that, but just know that the bottom of the cake can sometimes be moist, if your’e worried about presentation. Usually a piece of tres leches cake has a lot of moisture on the bottom of each piece.
Hey, can I use red gel food colour for this cake. And if i can, how many do I have to use? :)) Thank you.
I have tried using gel food coloring in red velvet, but didn’t have as much luck as I do with the liquid food coloring.
I have to tell you, this recipe left a lot to be desired. I would suggest using salted butter as opposed to un-salted. Also, you need to add at least 1/3 cup oil to add some substance to this. I found this recipe to be quite bland. The only thing that was good about it was the cream cheese frosting, which by the way, 2 and 1/4 cups of powdered sugar is plenty as cream cheese frosting shouldn’t be too sweet. All this being said, to each her own, but I have to say, I have tried other recipes from you and they have been good-this totally disappointed.
hi..tried this recipe today….the cake was just yum…but the problem is, here in india, the cream cheese is quite costly so i substituted cream cheese with cottage cheese..but the frosting came out grainy :(. nevertheless the cake tasted great without the frosting as well. could you plz suggest any other frosting that goes with this cake, since i am planning on baking this cake for my nieces’ bday next week :) . I have one more question , my cake rose unevenly, i would like to know y and would it have helped if i had covered it with aluminium foil? sorry for bothering u with so many questions…i m v new to baking….but am loving it…btw LOVE UR BLOG :)
Hi Rashmi, You could use a regular vanilla buttercream; I like this one: https://www.browneyedbaker.com/2010/03/24/easy-vanilla-bean-buttercream/. As for how the cake rose, mine did dome slightly in the middle and fall off towards the edges as well, but I wouldn’t recommend covering the pan with foil.
thank u :)
I was thinking of making this cake for St. Patty’s so instead of the red food coloring can I just replace it with green food coloring? I’ve made quite a few of your recipes and ALL have been a huge hit.
Hi Mariann, I haven’t used a different color for red velvet cakes before, but I have seen it done. I would think due to the cocoa that your green will be a darker hue than light. Enjoy!
This cake is absolutely delightful! I made it over the weekend for my family and in-laws and they all gave rave reviews! I did make a few minor adjustments in that I made half the amount of icing, used half the amount of sweetened condensed milk, and instead of using 6 tbsp of red food coloring I did 2 tbsp of food coloring plus 2 tbsp milk, and cut down on the cocoa powder by 2 tbsps and it was still incredibly moist! I would HIGHLY recommend this recipe to others! :)
Great recipe..red velvet is my favorite! Just a quick question though…I have never used condensed milk for anything other than baking cookies, so is it safe to eat “not baked”? I’mjust a little worried having it plain,and then serving it to my kids, just want to make sure its okay :)
Hi Lindsay, I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t eat it without baking it.
Looks amazing and so perfect for Valentine’s Day! Lovely photos too!!
I just made this and it is mind-blowingly awesome. I used half whole spelt, less sugar, and used 1/4 cup extra buttermilk + 2 tablespoons water instead of the dye. They’re almost brownie like. I also left out the vinegar because, uh, I couldn’t find it (don’t you love commenters like me who change almost everything? ;)) I’m definitely going to make these again and the only thing I’ll do differently is to use even less sugar. SO SO SO good! Really, thank you for this recipe! There were a lot of red velvet recipes going around before Valentine’s Day and way too many used cake mixes. I live in Germany and red velvet cake mix will never be a thing here so I was so happy to find this recipe! :)
Would not dulce de leche have more flavor than condensed milk?
It certainly has more flavor, but it’s a very distinct, caramel-like flavor. I was going for less flavor (I think the flavor the red velvet cake should shine through), but some added moisture.
AMAZING! I have been wanting to try a poke cake for awhile, and this one looks perfect
I made this over the weekend for my family, they loved it! The only think I added was toasted pecans and coconut to the frosting. My brother said it was super moist. My father went back for seconds and my niece said I make the best cakes. And when asked why she says I cook with love. <3
My daughter and I made this cake today for a birthday party, and it was delicious. I didn’t add 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract to the frosting because I thought that amount was too much. I added 2 teaspoons. The frosting came out perfect. Everyone loved it! This is my new favorite cake recipe!!!
I love how inevitably moist poke cakes are! This looks delicious and so festive!
I made the cake for my Mom’s B-day and I must say the cooking time was somewhat off. I also had to bake for 35-40 minutes. I left out the red food coloring and just added 6 TBL of buttermilk instead. Also, I only made half of the icing which was more than enough for the top of the cake. It was great and will make again. I love your blog and have tried many of the dessert recipes. Thanks for a recipe made from scratch!
I completely understand about not wanting to make a recipe because of it calling for a boxed cake mix. This is such a great recipe to showcase a typical cake box recipe made from scratch. Thanks for the recipe!
Hi–Just made the cake yesterday. Mine too, took longer to bake–about 35-40 minutes. But, I wanted to double check the amount of food coloring. I assumed one bottle would be enough, so I just bought one and it was actually only 2 tablespoons (which is the equivalent of 6 teaspoons). I made up the difference in liquid, but I ask because my cake looks just as red as yours and that seems odd since I only used 1/3 of the amount of coloring. Just checking. Love your blog, thanks!
Hi Heidi, Yes, the red food coloring measurement was correct (6 tablespoons).
I had the same results as you Heidi. My cake took 35 minutes and I only had one bottle (two tablespoons) and my cake looked very red as well. My family thought it was the best red velvet cake they have ever had. I look forward to Michelle’s posts every morning.
I have never made or had poke cake before. I have heard of it, but I thought it was more for making a striped design when you cut the cake. I will have to try making a poke cake some time!
This is awesome! My mother tried making vanilla poke cake before and it was great! Will try making your recipe one of these days. Thanks for the share!!!
Do you know if this cake is moist enough on its own, without the addition of the sweetened condensed milk?
Hi Linda, I think it is moist enough on its own; it’s basically the recipe for red velvet cupcakes, but doubled and baked in a 9×13. The cake is quite fluffy and moist.
this cake is by far the best i have ever made, and i do alot of baking, thanks!!!
Have you seen “the country cook”s, site? She is a poke cake-aholic. Although most of her recipes are from cake mixes. I hate box cake mixes but it is because I can’t stand the texture. But she has many ideas for different flavors that could easily be adapted to scratch cake options :)
This looks so yummy . Going to make it this weekend :)
I made this last night for my coworkers today! So excited to dig in. My daughter and I “tested” the frosting and it’s the best cream cheese frosting I’ve had so far. Yum!
What a decadent cake! I’ve never made (or tried) a poke cake, but it sounds so delicious! Love the red velvet twist on this one, just in time for love day!
You made an amazing scratch red velvet poke cake! Looking forward to seeing your other made from scratch poke cakes!
I just made this cake! Looks yummy can’t wait to eat it! Did anyone else who has made this note that there was loads of icing left? Iv frozen mine. I made the red velvet cheesecake from this site about a month ago as a treat for my husband when he finished his exams and it went down VERY well! He ate almost all of it on his own lol! He’s been begging for it again but iv been lazy! When I got this recipe thru email this morning I was so happy coz its kinda similar (ok not that similar but he’ll be happy)! And it’s so quick to make. Ingredients are ones u will usually always have. I made it in an oval shaped Pyrex dish and mayb my dish was a bit smaller than 9×13 coz the cake rose quite high but it looks so scrummy! Ur recipes are excellent thank u for being so active on your blog. Xx
This looks great! It’s definitely becoming a part of my future To-Do list! :)
I wish this cake could be my valentine….
I’ve never had a red velvet cake. the ingredients look like a chocolate cake with the addition of red food coloring.. is that about right? Does it taste different than a chocolate cake?
There is actually a lot less chocolate in this (only 5 tablespoons) than if you were to actually make a chocolate cake, so to me, it definitely doesn’t taste like a traditional chocolate cake.
Thanks appreciate the explaination. Hoping to make this tonight!
MMMMM. I definitely have plans to try this one day!
Looks good, but is it overly sweet? (with the condensed milk) I have never made a poke cake and would like to try this, but I don’t want it over sweet.
Hi Linda, This is always a tough question for me because sweetness is so subjective – what’s too sweet to one person may be fine to someone else. I personally don’t think this is overly sweet – the condensed milk makes the cake incredibly moist.
If you are getting into poke cakes then you should definitely try better than sex cake!!!!!!!
I love poke cakes..they always turn out so moist!
I am so making this tonight! My father has always requested a lemon “poke” cake that was made with a lemon cake mix, lemon jello and a lemon glaze. As the pokes were visable we always did them with a special tiny fork. That cake aways disappeared quickly. Why have I never made a homemade lemon cake as a base?!? Must be time to try!
Another good one is a jello poke cake. You make a white cake, poke holes, pour whatever flavor jello you want over top, and then top with whipped cream and sprinkles. So good!!!
This looks amazing! But as an above poster mentioned, I am also wondering if I can leave the food coloring out – only because my best friend loves red velvet cake but later found out she is allergic to the food coloring.
Hi Diana, You can leave it out, it just obviously won’t be red. I would replace that amount with water.
Yes!! The same thing has always kept me from making a poke cake too! I didn’t want to go buy a bunch of packaged mixes when I don’t bake that way ordinarily. And when I make a cake from scratch, I don’t want people to assume that I just whipped out a few boxes and tah-dah. So glad you made this. It looks amazing!!
Mmmmm. Now I know what to do with the can of condensed milk that I have had for years!
Sweetened condensed milk will go bad…be sure to check the expiration date on the can!!!
I’m so hungry right now and it looks so good,I could eat the whole pan!
No calories here….but lots of love!
Now THIS is a red velvet I can get on board with. People have gone a bit Red Velvet crazy and it seems like real red velvet got lost along to way. So glad to see a classic recipe but even better :)
SUCH a pretty cake for Valentine’s Day!!! I lurrrrve poke cakes and this one looks FABULOUS and DECADENT.
Do you think you could make these into cupcakes by poking a couple of holes in each cupcake and pouring a little amount of each cupcake? Looks so delish!
Hi Kristi, You could definitely do that. Since cupcakes are so much smaller and more delicate, I would probably recommend making smaller holes, using the tines of a fork or a thin skewer.
Okay – so I know this is going to sound silly and hopefully not a stupid question realizing it is RED velvet cake. I try to avoid food coloring — If I don’t add the red coloring will that take away from the moistness since it’s 6 Tablespoons of liquid? I really would like to try this – I do have natural food coloring but it’s really pricey and 6 tablespoons might clean me out!
Hi Dee, Not a stupid question! You can leave out the food coloring if you’d like (of course the cake won’t have a red color to it), I would just replace it with water so the liquid is not lost.
Use beet juice! That’ what was originally used in red velvet cakes. It’s all natural and has a tasty subtly sweet flavor.
My old co-worker use to always bring poke cakes to work. Love this one!
My grandmother used to make an insanely good coconut poke cake. Yellow cake with cream of coconut poured on the top then a tasty white icing with coconut sprinkled on top. Out of this world!
I’m with you on the boxed cake mix thing — from scratch tastes so much better and has quality ingredients. I love red velvet anything, and since I just made red velvet brownies with cream cheese frosting, I’m gonna have to wait to make this cake until those are gone! I could eat both, I guess?
Just baked this cake, but it took forever to bake! It took at least 45 minutes for the centre of the cake to be done. The cake itself had also become very high in te middle and flat at the sides… what could be the problem??
I will finish the cake with frosting but it really doesn’t look all that good to give away as a Valentine’s gift now.
Hi Rieneke, I’m sorry you had some problems. It definitely should not take that long to bake, and being in there so long is what may have caused the middle to dome up. While the sides will be slightly lower than the middle (you can see that on my cake) the middle shouldn’t rise dramatically. Did you use a 9×13-inch pan, or another size? I would also check to make sure your oven temperature is correct and not running on the cool side, which could also cause that problem.
Thanks for the reply! I will try again soon. I think the temperature of my oven might be running low. I scraped off the dome of the cake and covered the rest with the frosting so it still looks pretty good! And the scraps tasted great, so all is not lost!
Hi. In regards to the doming up, I have a tip that I picked up from a pro baker. If you want the top of your cake flat, as soon as it comes out of the oven still hot/warm, you can take a piece of parchment paper and lay over the top of the cake to prevent it from sticking. While it’s covered, take another pan or another light item of equivalent size (such as another similar size pan or your hands) to apply gentle pressure pushing down gently on the cake. It’s pliable while it’s still warm. Don’t worry if you crack the top some if you’re going to be icing it. This works great for 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans especially. For my 13×9, I found a $1 plastic unused kitty litter pan that works wonders and doubles as a storage bin to hold spice containers in my cabinet when not in use. Hope this helps and happy baking!
Mine also took almost 45 minutes to bake. I use a separate oven thermometer and it was definitely set at 350 degrees. Mine didn’t dome up though and is sitting and soaking up that yummy condensed milk goodness right now!
I just made it, and the same thing happened to mine: it took 45 minutes to bake and rose high in the middle. It also cracked where it rose. I turned up the heat a bit when I saw how slowly it was baking.
I baked it in a glass 9 x 13 pan. Could using glass rather than metal make a difference?
Hi Tracey, I baked mine in a glass pan and it definitely didn’t take that long to bake.
You are an evil genius my friend :) It’s a good thing I don’t have sweetened condensed milk in the house or I might be making this for lunch!
I made my own sweetened condensed milk yesterday. Heat 2 c. whole milk
3/4 c. sugar until it’s just barely simmering. Reduce heat to low and reduce by half. When reduced to your liking, whisk in 4 Tbs. butter and 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla.
OMG…I am totally going to make this cake this weekend! Endless possibilities come to mind after seeing this post! I love your blog…it’s always a bright spot in my day! Thanks!
Oh sounds so good!
I’m with you. I seldom use boxed mixes. It’s not that they don’t taste good, it’s just all of the weird ingredients that go into them that scare me. This cake made from scratch looks so moist and delicious – yum!
Mamma mia!!! Buonissima!!! WOW
That’s the same reason I’ve never made a poke cake before – I really don’t fancy putting a load of pre-made stuff together!
Love the idea of making it from scratch, though, and I can’t get over how adorable your sprinkles are!
That image of pouring the condensed milk over the cake had me almost drooling! So good!!!
Love the cake and love all the pokes in it! Great idea!!! I’m also loving the sprinkles on top, too cute!!
No buttermilk; can I substitute with something else?
When I don’t have buttermilk on hand (which I seldom ever do) I sour regular milk with a tsp. of lemon juice, or vinegar.
oops, that was meant to be 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Sorry…
Thank you so much – so helpful!
Hi Dev, Ditto Eileen. You can put 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar into a measuring cup, then add milk until it reaches 1 cup. Let it sit for about 5 minutes and it will thicken up to the same consistency as buttermilk.
So, is it 1 tbsp. of vinegar to every 1 cup of milk?
Hi Julie, Put 1 tablespoon vinegar (or lemon juice) in a measuring cup, then add enough milk to get it to measure 1 cup. Let stand for 5 minutes. Just a note – this is just a substitution trick to replace the buttermilk in the recipe in the event you don’t have or can’t find buttermilk, but doesn’t replace the vinegar actually called for in the recipe.
Another option is to keep buttermilk powder around. It keeps forever, and a year after opening. You mix it with water.
may i know the ratio for powdered buttermilk?
This looks so moist and delicious! I have never heard of poke cake before but it’s a genius idea! Thanks :)
Oh my… first blog to read this morning – those photos are so mouthwatering!! Delicious and a must make.
This sounds so neat! I’ve never made a poke cake before!
OH WOW! A whole tin of condensed milk AND cream cheese frosting. this sounds AMAZING!
LOVE poke cakes. I love the huge holes you poked into it – nothing skimpy. For maximum seepage potential! And I love that you’re going to re-do some poke cakes, from scratch. All the ones I see are cake mix and nothing wrong with cake mix, but I also like to reinvent the wheel as often as I can :) Love that this baby was still fresh 10 days later!
Yum! I still haven’t tried a poke cake, but I found this a while ago (I think via Pinterest), and it also from scratch. Chocolate- peanut butter pudding poke cake (right up your alley!). :). http://www.evilshenanigans.com/2012/07/chocolate-peanut-butter-pudding-poke-cake/
Poke cake from scratch? Sign me up!
Yum! My grandma used to do a vanilla poke cake. I bet this is good too
This looks AMAZING! I’ve made your red velvet cupcake recipe before and love it, so I know I’d adore this too!