I only learned about poke cakes recently. The name caught my eye while I was browsing food sites, and I simply had to investigate.
The basic concept is that you bake a cake and, when it’s done, poke holes in the top with a chopstick or similar tool, and pour a topping over it. This topping then drips down into the cake, infusing it with flavor, texture and visual variety.
The origin of this recipe dates to the 1970s when Jell-O and boxed cake mixes were all the rage. Vintage poke cakes used white cake mix and fruit-flavored Jell-O, which resulted in a colorful, groovy, striped cake. But the recipe has evolved — now cooks can use a homemade cake and top it with anything from custard sauce to caramel to molten chocolate to fruit compote.
That brings me to last Saturday night. My husband issued a last-minute invite to our neighbors to join us for pizza, and I needed a dessert. I had a quart of sour cherries from the farmers market and started there.
Using the hack offered in this blog, I made a cherry compote: jewishexponent.com/2017/07/03/cherry-compote/. While the cherries simmered, I made this simple cake: jewishexponent.com/2020/06/01/philacatessen-i-cant-believe-its-vegan-cake/
I knew the almond flavoring would complement the cherries well, and the fact that the cake rises to a flat, versus a domed, top seemed to lend itself well to a poke cake for even infusion and coverage.
Cherry Poke Cake
I used almond flavoring in the whipped cream to extend the almond/cherry flavor profile, but if your crew is not a fan, simply use 1 teaspoon of vanilla instead. The amounts differ because almond flavoring is quite strong and a little goes a long way.
For the cake:
1½ cups cherry compote (see recipe above)
1 single-layer square or round cake such as the vegan cake above, mostly cooled
For the whipped topping:
1½ cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon almond flavoring
Using a chopstick or similar utensil, poke holes all over the surface of the cake. Pour the cherry compote over sit lowly and evenly, allowing it to permeate the holes. Whip the cream to frothy peaks and add the sugar and flavoring.
Serve the cake topped with a scoop of whipped cream.