Holiday Jell-O Poke Cake Recipe

American Classics

Lost classic desserts from our wide and varied past.

Holiday Jell-O Poke Cake Recipe

[Photograph: Pam Parrella]

The basic recipe is simple: 1 box white cake mix + 1 box Jell-O = fun. (Make that 2 boxes if you want some dual color action in your cake). After baking and cooling the cake you poke the surface with a fork and then pour liquid Jell-O goo over the top. Refrigerate for 3 hours then frost al gusto (the folks at Kraft recommend Cool Whip—personally, I recommend pretty much anything other than Cool Whip).

The recipe below is adapted from the official Kraft recipe and from Serious Eater DancingCat's Butter Cake recipe.

You can use any flavor of Jell-O that you wish. And you can always sub a favorite juice with some gelatin for the boxed stuff to make it a little more fruity and a little less sweet.

  • Yield:Serves 12
  • Active time: 1 hour
  • Total time:5 hours


  • For the Cake
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 (3 ounce) package of red Jell-O (I used Black Cherry)
  • 1 (3 ounce) package of lime Jell-O
  • For the Frosting
  • 1 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream


  1. 1.

    Set oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two cake pans and set aside. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.

  2. 2.

    In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together on high speed until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Reduce mixer speed to medium and add eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition until incorporated and scraping down sides with a rubber spatula as needed. Once eggs have been added, mix in vanilla. Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk a third at a time on low speed, mixing until just incorporated.

  3. 3.

    Pour batter into prepared pans and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, approximately 45 to 50 minutes. Cool ten minutes in pan. Then loosen sides and remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

  4. 4.

    While cake is cooling, bring 1 cup water to boil (if you want to use 2 flavors you'll need 2 cups of boiling water). Add boiling water to a small bowl (or bowls, if you're using multiple flavors), pour in the Jell-O and stir until dissolved. Once cake has cooled return it to a cleaned pan, top side up. Use a fork to poke holes in the top of the cake at regular intervals then pour 1/2 cup of Jell-O evenly over the top of each layer (if you are using two flavors you will have extra Jell-O which you can use or dispose of as you wish). Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or up to overnight.

  5. 5.

    For the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter on medium until well softened. Add sugar and continue beating until incorporated then add vanilla and cream until thoroughly combined. Frost cake and serve.