Lemon Poke Cake

If you’re unfamiliar with the idea, a poke cake is a simple, yet genius concept. After baking a yellow or white cake, holes are poked over the top. Then, the cake is covered with some mixture that will then seep down into those freshly-poked holes. After some refrigerator time, the cake is frosted.

I used a version of a yellow cake that is my normal go-to. It’s more dense than not, but that allows it to hold up to all the pokes and the thick, heavy topping.

There are some old-fashioned versions with little tunnels of freshly-mixed Jell-O brightening up a standard cake. Some versions use pudding. I simplified a bit by mixing condensed milk and fresh lemon juice. It’s a thick mixture and will not soak completely into the cake. That’s perfectly fine. No cause for concern!

Lemon Poke Cake is a bright, refreshing, delicious cake. It's always a crowd-pleaser! - Bake or Break

Of course, what better way to top off a refrigerated cake than with cream cheese frosting? Splash in a little more lemon juice for even more lemon flavor.

The three components of this cake are all lemon-flavored. Each one has just a hint of lemon. The finished cake still maintains a very gentle lemon flavor. There’s no doubt that this is a lemon cake, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with it. It’s lovely and cool and just the thing for dessert on a summer day.

Lemon Poke Cake

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Lemon Poke Cake


For the cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 & 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1-1 & 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 cup sour cream

For the topping:

  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

For the frosting:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9"x 13" baking pan.

To make the cake:

  1. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in lemon juice and lemon zest. Gradually add flour mixture, mixing just until combined. Stir in sour cream.
  3. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a pick inserted into the center comes out clean.

To make the topping:

  1. Whisk together condensed milk and 1/4 cup lemon juice until smooth. Using the round handle of a wooden spoon*, poke holes about 1/2 inch apart over entire surface of warm cake, making sure not to poke all the way to the bottom of the cake. Pour mixture over cake. Note that not all of the mixture will be absorbed into the cake.
  2. Allow cake to cool completely. Refrigerate cake for at least 1-2 hours to allow topping to set and soak into cake.

To make the frosting:

  1. Beat cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice until smooth.
  2. Spread evenly over topping of cool cake. Refrigerate at least an hour before serving.


*Some of you have encountered issues with the condensed milk mixture not soaking into the cake. While I successfully used a fork to make many, many holes in the cake, I've changed the directions to use the round handle of a wooden spoon to make the mixture soak into the cake a bit easier. As is mentioned above, not all of the mixture will be absorbed. Keep cake refrigerated.

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