This berry poke cake made completely from scratch is perfect for summer entertaining! There’s no boxed cake mixes or Jello packets in this recipe, just delicious homemade flavor and fresh summer berries.

I remember the 4th July when I first had a slice of the classic red, white, and blue poke cake made with yellow cake mix, Jell-O, and cool whip. You know what cake I’m talking about, right? I loved it! It’s just so fun, not to mention delicious.

Here’s a completely homemade version to satisfy that retro craving— with a simple vanilla buttermilk sheet cake, a jammy sauce made with fresh berries, and topping of sweetened whipped cream. It’s so delicious and perfect for summer celebrations, potlucks, and holidays!

Table of Contents

What is a poke cake?

“Poke cake” gets its name from the fact that while the cake is still warm, it’s poked all over with the end of a wooden dowel. You then pour a sauce or syrup over the holes and the cake soaks it up as it cools. When it’s sliced there’s little tunnels of filling and flavor throughout, and it just makes for such a fun presentation! 

This from-scratch berry poke cake does take a little more time to make, but I’m here to tell you it’s so worth it! This cake has so much flavor and substance, and flair you can’t get from a box. 

Looking for a fall variation? Try my pumpkin caramel poke cake!

Ingredients you’ll need

How to make berry poke cake

  1. Prepare cake batter and bake cake. Pour the cake batter into a greased 9×13-inch baking pan and bake until golden and the center springs back when gently pressed, about 30 minutes.vanilla buttermilk cake batter in mixing bowl
  2. Prepare berry filling while the cake bakes. Mash the berries with some sugar and let them sit to release their juices, then simmer with lemon juice, zest and water until slightly thickened. making berry filling in saucepan
  3. Poke the cake and add filling. While the cake it still warm, use a dowel or end of a wooden spoon to poke holes evenly all over the cake. Pour the berry sauce over the top, encouraging the juices down the holes as much as possible. The chunkier pieces of the fruit will sit on top. poking holes in cake and spooning in filling
  4. Cool and top with whipped cream. Let cool to room temperature, or chill completely in the fridge, then top with sweetened whipped cream and extra berries if you want.
  5. Slice and enjoy! Store the cake in the fridge if you’re not serving it right away. Then slice and serve.

And look how pretty it is! It’s so perfect for summer, and your guests are going to absolutely love it.

baking tip:Alternating wet and dry ingredients

Many cake recipes (like this one) included instructions to alternate adding the wet and dry ingredients to the creamed butter and sugar. Believe it or not, this is for a good reason.

Adding the liquid all at once could saturate the creamed butter mixture and cause the batter to separate. Adding all of the dry ingredients will cause the batter to be thick and likely result in over mixing, which will yield a tougher cake. Instead, add them in two or three additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir ingredients after each addition, but only until just combined.

Recipe tips

  • You can use any type of berries. I used strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, but you can use just one or a few of these, and any combination.
  • Have dairy and eggs at room temperature. They’ll incorporate and whip into the cake batter more evenly, which helps create the best rise and texture.
  • If you don’t have buttermilk, don’t worry, you can make your own substitute. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (bottled or freshly squeezed) to a liquid measuring glass. Add enough regular milk (preferably 2% or whole) to measure 1 cup. Let it still for 5 minutes, then give it a quick stir before using.
  • Use a wooden dowel, end of a narrow wooden spoon, a chopstick, or even a fork to poke holes in to the cake. Poke holes and add filling before the cake has completely cooled, and before the structure of the cake is completely set.
  • Decorate the cake as you like. Growing up, we always made the berries on top look like an American flag, but you can arrange berries however you like. You can also top individual slices with a scoop of berries just before serving.
  • This cake is a great make-ahead dessert! Make it up to 24 hours in advance and store in the fridge before serving (it will keep for 3-4 days, but it’s best served sooner for freshness). 
  • For clean slices, use a sharp knife and wipe it clean in between each cut.

More berry desserts

Get the recipe

5 from 1 review

Berry Poke Cake

Servings: 12 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Chill Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 55 minutes
This berry poke cake made completely from scratch is perfect for summer entertaining!

Ingredients
 

Cake:

  • 2 ¼ cup (270 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup (170 grams) unsalted butter , softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup (170 grams) buttermilk , room temperature

Berry filling:

  • ½ cup (80 grams) finely chopped strawberries
  • ½ cup (60 grams) raspberries
  • ½ cup (75 grams) blueberries
  • ½ (60 grams) blackberries
  • ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 lemon , zested and juiced
  • ¼ cup (56 grams) water
  • Pinch of salt

Whipped cream topping:

  • 2 cups (454 grams) heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Additional berries , for decoration/serving

Instructions
 

To make the cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan with nonstick baking spray.
  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  • With a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or hand-held mixer, beat the butter and sugar on high speed until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla. Beat for another 1-2 minutes until fluffy. Scrape the bowl down as needed.
  • Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Mix on low speed after each addition until just until combined.
  • Pour cake batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden at the edges and center bounces back when touched gently, 30-35 minutes.

To make the berry filling:

  • While the cake is baking, make the fruit filling. Add the berries and sugar to a small saucepan and smash with a fork or vegetable masher to break up the berries and combine them with the sugar. Let it sit for about 20 minutes to allow the berries to release all of their natural juices.
  • Add lemon zest, lemon juice, water, and salt to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 5-8 minutes until slightly thickened. Remove from heat.
  • Use a wooden dowel or the end of a utensil about 1-2 cm wide to poke holes about 1 inch apart all over the warm cake, all the way to the bottom of the pan. Spoon berry filling over the cake, encouraging it down the holes as much as possible.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and allow to completely in the fridge, about 1 hour.

To make the topping:

  • With a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or hand-held mixer, beat the whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla to medium peaks. Spread over the top of the cake. Top with additional berries as desired.
  • Serve immediately, leftovers should be stored in the fridge. Can be made up to 1 day ahead and stored in the fridge.

Notes

  • You need a total of 2 cups berries for this cake. You can use strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries as shown, or use a different combination to equal 2 cups.
  • You can use fresh or frozen berries.
Calories: 541kcal, Carbohydrates: 60g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 32g, Saturated Fat: 20g, Cholesterol: 125mg, Sodium: 243mg, Potassium: 125mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 40g, Vitamin A: 1137IU, Vitamin C: 6mg, Calcium: 69mg, Iron: 1mg
Author: Annalise Sandberg
Have you tried this recipe?I’d love to hear about it! Leave a rating and review below, or take a photo and tag it on Instagram @completelydelicious with #completelydelicious.

This recipe was originally published June 2017.