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 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.
What’s YOUR favorite poke cake recipe? There are still a million I want to try!
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 9x13-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.