Lemon Poke Cake is a cool and creamy dessert with lots of lemon flavor. It’s the perfect make-ahead dessert for anyone who loves lemon.
They’re easy yet impressive, the kids love helping “poke” the cake, and they’re just really delicious.
And now we have one more to add to the collection: a light and citrusy Lemon Poke Cake with Lemon Jell-O.
It’s lighter than it looks—the combination of cake and lemon Jell-O melts in your mouth, and the Cool Whip adds a light sweetness and creaminess to complement the cake.
And, you only need a handful of ingredients to make it: lemon gelatin, Cool Whip, white cake mix, and the ingredients to make the white cake mix into a cake (usually eggs, oil, and water).
This layered Lemon Poke Cake would be such a pretty addition to a holiday dinner table. I love the bright yellow color for Easter, especially!
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Tips for making lemon poke cake
- This cake is easy to make, but it does require a lot of hands OFF time (baking and cooling the cake, letting the gelatin set, letting the frosting set). So plan accordingly. You can even make it over the course of two days.
- Use something thin for poking the holes. I like using a drinking straw, but a skewer or even the tines of a fork work great.
- To remove the cakes from the pans easily, we’ll dip the bottom of the pans in warm water first. The cakes pop right out with this trick!
- Don’t forget to defrost the whipped topping in the refrigerator, so it’s ready when you frost the cake!
Hooray for short ingredient lists! Here’s what you’ll need to make this lemon jello cake:
- White cake mix, made according to package directions. This usually includes egg whites, oil, and water. You could also use yellow cake mix here, but I like the contrast between the white cake and the lemon gelatin.
- Lemon gelatin—make sure it says “gelatin dessert” on the box and not “pudding/pie filling”
- The frosting is simply a whole tub (8 ounces) of Cool Whip. Any brand of whipped topping works great.
How to make Lemon Poke Cake
Start by making a white cake mix according to package directions.
Pour into two 8-inch or 9-inch round pans, and bake according to package directions.
After removing the cakes from the oven, poke each cake at ½-inch intervals using a straw, a fork, or a skewer.
Pour two cups of water into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat. Whisk in two (3 oz) packages of lemon gelatin (such as Jell-O). You can also use one (6 oz) package.
Pour 1 cup of gelatin over one cake layer. It will soak into the cake. Pour the remaining gelatin over the other cake layer.
Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or until chilled.
When you’re ready to frost the cake, place each pan in a shallow bowl (or sink) of warm water. This will help it release easily from the pan.
Tip: if you want the layers of the cake to be completely white, use a large serrated knife to gently saw off the very top of each cake. This will reveal the white cake underneath, making the overall presentation look nicer, in my opinion. This is optional and does not affect the taste. You can see what the top of the unfrosted cake looks like after removing the very top in the photo above or below.
Turn one cake layer out onto a cake stand. Dollop 1 cup of whipped topping (such as Cool Whip) on top and spread evenly.
Top the whipped topping with the remaining cake layer.
Frost the top and sides with the remaining whipped topping.
Refrigerate for at least one hour to allow the whipped topping to set before slicing.
Garnishing the cake
A simple lemon twist looks so pretty on top! To do so, thinly slice a lemon, lay it flat, then slice halfway through each slice. Twist gently to make a “swirl” garnish.
If you want to get fancy, check out this tutorial on how to make a lemon twist!
Can I make Lemon Poke Cake ahead of time?
Lemon Poke Cake is designed to be made ahead of time! You can successfully make the cake layers up to 3 days in advance. Keep them tightly covered, still in the cake pans, in the refrigerator.
Once the cake is frosted, I recommend serving it within 24 hours for best results.
Frequently Asked Questions
Poke cake should be stored in the refrigerator. It will last for several days if tightly covered.
You can successfully make poke cake with any flavor of sugar-free gelatin.
A skewer, a drinking straw, or a fork are the best instruments for poking a poke cake. Poke the cake at ½-inch intervals.
Poke cake should be fully chilled before slicing and serving. This typically takes 2–3 hours in the refrigerator.
Lemon Poke Cake should be stored, covered, in the refrigerator. It will last for several days once frosted, but I recommend serving it within 24 hours for best results.
I don’t recommend freezing poke cake. The gelatin has a high likelihood of making the cake soggy after the freezing/defrosting process.
Variations on Lemon Poke Cake
There are a variety of ways to switch up the cake. Here are a few ideas:
- Use another variety of fruit gelatin (lime, orange, grape, cherry, strawberry, etc.)
- You can also use sugar-free Jell-O, if you’d like.
- Bake the cake in a 13×9-inch pan. All ingredient quantities remain the same.
- Make this cake non-dairy by frosting it with a non-dairy whipped topping (TruWhip is one brand available at many grocery stores). Check the label on the cake mix to ensure that it’s dairy free, too.
- Top the cake with some store-bought lemon cookies for some crunch and extra lemon flavor.
More poke cake recipes
If you like coconut, you have to try this Coconut Poke Cake. It tastes like tres leches cake, but with coconut!
And if you want a classic, this 13×9-inch Jell-O Poke Cake is a classic. I make it with raspberry Jell-O, but you can use any flavor that you like.
Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and/or comment below!
Lemon Poke Cake
- 1 box white cake mix, made according to package instructions
- 2 cups water
- 2 small packages (4 oz each) lemon gelatin (such as Jell-O)
- 1 tub (8 oz) whipped topping, defrosted (such as Cool Whip)
- Bake cake mix according to package directions in two greased 9-inch round pans. Let cool completely and remove from the pans.
- (Optional step for presentation purposes): Use a serrated knife to trim the browned top and bottom from the cake rounds. This creates a pure white cake.
- Wipe the cake pans clean, and place the cakes back into the pans. Poke holes in the cakes at ½ inch intervals using a straw, a fork, or a skewer.
- Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Take off the heat and whisk in the lemon gelatin. Whisk for 2 minutes, or until completely dissolved.
- Pour a heaping 1 cup of the lemon gelatin mixture on top of one of the cakes (it will seep into the holes of the cake you created). Pour the remaining gelatin mixture on top of the other cake.
- Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or until chilled.
- Run a butter knife around the edges of the cake pans. Dip the bottom of the cake pans in hot water for 10 seconds. Carefully remove one cake from the pan and place on a serving platter.
- Place 1 cup of whipped topping on top and spread around. Place the other cake layer on top, then cover the top and sides with the remaining whipped topping.
- Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, then slice and serve.