Looking for an easy poke cake recipe? Boston Cream Poke Cake has your name written all over it!
Have you ever had a Boston Cream Pie? It actually isn’t a pie at all, it is a cake. The original Boston Cream Pie was created by a French chef for the opening of the Omni Hotel, then known as the Parker House Hotel in 1856.
It was two layers of yellow sponge cake with a French pastry cream and a velvety ganache topping. It also had a sprinkle of powdered sugar, although this commonly melted into the ganache so many folks didn’t realize it was even there.
Since, it has become a standard dessert in New England and was proclaimed the official dessert of Massachusetts in 1996. You can find wedges of Boston Cream Pie all over the United States with varying recipes, but always with the same same three elements: yellow cake, vanilla custard and chocolate ganache.
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Boston Cream Poke Cake Recipe
The three master elements can all be made from scratch, but that defeats the purpose of a pudding poke cake, which is generally defined by ease. Yellow boxed cake mix is the base.
Even though you are using a boxed cake mix, you can still use a hand electric mixer or stand mixer. You can also get your arm workout in and do it by hand. Just don’t overmix the cake mix, it results in a dry cake.
Vanilla custard can be made from scratch using decadent egg yolks and a tempering method, but instant vanilla pudding is just as good. And believe me, I like making homemade custard. While this recipe isn’t a traditional French custard recipe, it is close enough and gets the job done.
Chocolate ganache is the only shortcut I don’t like to take. Some folks use a rich, chocolate frosting, but buttercream can’t compare to thick and fudgy ganache.
It is also easier to spread. I don’t know if you ever tried to spread chocolate frosting over a layer of pudding, but it is very challenging to do. This is why many poke cakes use a whipped topping instead of actual frosting.
Chocolate ganache is poured over the pudding layer making it super easy!
What is chocolate ganache? Chocolate ganache can be classified as a sauce, frosting or chocolate glaze that is made from chocolate and cream.
It is shiny and rich, but not overly sweet. The amount of chocolate and cream will determine the final consistency.
Some ganaches are made with sweetened condensed milk, but I find this to be too sweet.
Boston Cream Pie Poke Cake is positively delicious, but lacks the color I like to have in my dishes, so I garnish with colorful berries like raspberries and strawberries and few mint sprigs.
Boston Cream Poke Cake Ingredients
- Box of yellow cake mix – Part of what makes this cake so easy is that it uses a box mix. An easy cake is the base to this easy boston cream poke cake recipe, and this one step makes it that much easier.
- Vegetable oil – This is a standard ingredient for boxed cake mixes, and is probably already on hand in your pantry.
- Eggs – Eggs provide structure, leavening and richness to a cake. Whenever a recipe calls for eggs, always assume it is referring to large eggs unless otherwise noted.
- Instant pudding mix – Instant vanilla pudding mix is what we use to make the creamy vanilla pudding filling. It’s arguably the best part of the entire cake, and is very similar to the filling of a boston cream donut.
- Milk – When making an instant pudding, it’s important to have cold milk rather than room temperature.
- Heavy cream – When hot heavy cream is mixed with chocolate chips over a double boiler, this makes a great base foe chocolate ganache.
- Semi-sweet chocolate chips – The rich chocolate glaze that is poured over this delicious poke cake is made with these chocolate chips as a base. You could use milk chocolate chips if desired.
- Light corn syrup – We use this in the ganche to help give it a little sweetness. It also helps to ensure a smooth and shiny texture.
How to Make Boston Cream Poke Cake
- Prepare oven and pan. Preheat oven and coat a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.
- Make cake layer. In a large mixing bowl, combine yellow cake mix, water, vegetable oil and eggs. Mix until just combined. Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake until cake passes the toothpick test.
- Poke holes. Remove cake from the oven and poke with the end of a wooden spoon or a straw while still hot. Make many holes. The more holes you make in the top of the cake, the more space for the delicious pudding to hide. Allow the cake to cool slightly.
- Make pudding mixture. While cake cools, whisk together pudding mix with milk. It will be liquidy, but will start to thicken as you whisk. When you start to feel resistance allow to stand for a few minutes.
- Pour pudding into deep holes. Pour pudding mix over cake, patting down into the holes. Use a toothpick and prick more holes into the cake and pudding. Tap the whole dish several times to allow the pudding to settle into the cake. Chill.
- Make chocolate ganache. When ready to frost, prepare chocolate ganache by heating heavy cream in a double boiler over high heat. When hot and about to boil, remove from heat and whisk in semi-sweet chocolate chips and light corn syrup. Whisk until smooth.
- Cool and pour over cake. Allow to cool for a few minutes. While still warm, pour over cake. Cover and chill for 30 minutes before serving.
- Cupcakes – They get a little messy if you don’t eat them with a fork, but make them the same way, following directions for cupcakes on the boxed cake mix. You might use less pudding, too. Just set it aside and it is by itself.
- Pudding – Instead of the french vanilla pudding, you could try other flavors. While it isn’t the traditional method of making a Boston Cream Pie, feel free to put your stamp on the recipe and using whatever flavor of pudding floats your boat. It would probably taste delicious with banana too!
- Chocolate frosting – If you don’t want to use or make a rich chocolate ganache, you can use a ready-made tub of chocolate frosting. It’s just a little harder to spread over the pudding.
- Different pan size – You can use a 9×9 baking pan for making a poke cake, however you might have more pudding than you need for a 9×13. Just set it aside in a little bowl and eat it by itself.
Storage and Freezing
Storage: I’d say this delicious boston cream poke cake is best served within 24 hours of baking, but you can keep it in the fridge and nibble on it for up to a week. Cover in plastic wrap or put in an airtight container.
Freezing: I would recommend freezing without the caramel drizzle or whipped cream. Store in the best airtight container you can find and wrap with plastic wrap for 3-4 months.
More Easy Cake Recipes
Boston Cream Poke Cake
- 15.25 ounce box yellow cake mix
- 1 cup water
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 5.4 ounce box Instant French Vanilla Pudding
- 2 cups cold milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 heaping cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- strawberries , for serving
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine yellow cake mix, water, vegetable oil and eggs. Mix until just combined.Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes, or until cake passes the toothpick test.
- Remove cake from the oven and poke with the end of a wooden spoon or a straw while still hot. Make many holes. The more holes, the more space for the delicious pudding to hide.
- Allow the cake to cool slightly.
- Meanwhile whisk together French Vanilla pudding mix with milk. It will be liquidy, but will start to thicken as you whisk. It will take about 2 minutes. When you start to feel resistance allow to stand for 2 minutes.
- Pour pudding mix over cake, patting down into the holes. Use a toothpick and prick more holes into the cake and pudding. Tap the whole dish several times to allow the pudding to settle into the cake.
- Chill for a minimum of 30 minutes.
- When ready to frost, prepare chocolate ganache by heating heavy cream in a double boiler over high heat.
- When hot and about to boil, remove from heat and whisk in semi-sweet chocolate chips and light corn syrup. Whisk until smooth.
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes. While still warm, pour over cake.
- Cover and chill fro 30 minutes before serving.
- If you’ve tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was!
Oh my goodness! This was so delicious and easy to make, especially with the instant pudding shortcut. This recipe has a downside, though – It’s really hard to stop at just one piece. I could easily have eaten the entire cake myself!
A delicious dessert that’s easy to make? I’m totally in. Yum!
This looks delectable! I’ve always been a huge fan of Boston cream donuts so I need to make this cake STAT.
My dad is from New England so this was a fun recipe to make for him! It was easier than I expected it to be!
Oooh, this cake looks so good! I especially love that layer of pudding. Such a wonderful combination of flavors and so easy too.
Great birthday cake for my husband who loves Boston Cream Pie. This is his favorite now as well as large enough for a family party. Made it yesterday. Love it!
Love the combo of two delicious types of cakes in one! All of your baking tips are so helpful too. Thanks!
I’ve had and LOVE Boston Cream Pie but I’ve never had a cake version – and this has me drooling! I prefer cake to pie and WOW – a slice of this in my hand wouldn’t last long!
Never tried this cake anytime. But it is totally moist and looks delicious too.
I have never heard of this cake before, but it looks lovely and light.
I totally want to try this, it looks delicious & easy!