Popular in the 1970s, poke cakes take their name from how they are made. A hole is poked in the finished cake, typically made from a mix, and filled with Jell-O. Food consultants cookbook authors Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore want to bring the funky cake into the 21st century with Delicious Poke Cakes (St. Martin’s, Nov.). We talked to the pair about how home bakers can update this throwback dessert.
You two have a penchant for turning home bakers on to seemingly outdated desserts. In Delicious Dump Cakes (St. Martin’s) you wrote about modernizing a cake popular during the 1940s, in which the ingredients are "dumped" into the pan without stirring. Why do you think the time is right for the return of the poke cake?
Both poke cakes and dump cakes are easy to prepare, yet taste great, especially with the flavor twists we have created. Both cakes are ideal for busy families, or anyone who wants a delicious dessert. These cakes are effortless, no-fuss sweet treats.
Many early poke cakes relied on mixes and were filled with Jell-O. Your recipes veer from these standards, though.
Yes, the first poke cakes relied on white cake, baked from a mix. They were usually drizzled with colorful gelatin and frosted with whipped topping. But[ our book features recipes [for things like] Cherry Cheesecake Poke Cake, which is topped with a creamy cheesecake layer. We also have a Candy Bar Poke Cake poked with caramel and topped with chopped candy bars; Applesauce Poke Cake poked with maple-cinnamon sauce; and Espresso Brownie Poke, where brownies are poked with sweetened espresso then frosted with chocolate frosting. There is even a chapter featuring adult beverages, which are poked and poured over delicious cakes. The traditional poke cake used a 9 x 13-inch sheet cake, but for added fun we have layer cakes and bundt cakes, and even individual sized “poke ‘n tote” cakes.
What’s your favorite poke cake recipe?
That's kind of like asking which child is your favorite. There are so many delicious cakes and each is ideal for a different event or time of year. That said, [Wyss] might pickPokey Turtle Cake or Golden Rum-Glazed Layer Poke Cake as favorite cakes. [Kathy] will often turn to Caramel Apple Bundt Poke Cake or Carrot Cake Poke Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
What draws you two to baked goods of the past?
Delicious flavors from the kitchen are timeless, and now, more than ever, families want to bake quickly and easily. The no-fuss baking techniques used for dump cakes and poke cakes drew us in.