Pumpkin poke cake is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth, oozing with sweet cinnamon filling and smothered with tangy cream cheese frosting. 

Pumpkin poke cake being scooped out of a baking dish.

Never dry or boring, poke cake is a unique dessert experience. Take an ordinary 9 x 13 cake, poke a bunch of holes in it, pour a sweet concoction into the holes, allowing that sweet filling to seep all throughout the cake, and top it all with frosting. Oh, man, it’s so good! Our friends at Kitchn have a good looking recipe collection of ten poke cakes that I can’t wait to try.

Pumpkin poke cake is made with fresh pumpkin, scented with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, and oozing sweet cinnamon filling. Topped with a tangy cream cheese icing, it’s pretty much irresistible. 

Pumpkins are so plentiful right now, although I can’t say the same for canned pumpkin. That stuff seems to have just disappeared from the grocery stories lately. No worries, buy a fresh pumpkin, shred it, and bake up this pumpkin cake. You’ll love it!

Overhead view of multiple pieces of pumpkin poke cake.

About this pumpkin poke cake:

Pumpkin poke cake begins with a packaged white cake mix. If you prefer, you could also make a white cake from scratch. Up to you, but cake mixes are super easy and cheap. Buy a plain white cake mix, not the kind with pudding.

Ingredients for a pumpkin spice cake.

The cake batter is enhanced with three cups of shredded pumpkin and a tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice. All that pumpkin has to make this cake good for you, right? Vitamin A and all that.

It’s a little bit of a hassle to grate the pumpkin but that’s the only hard part of this recipe. After peeling and cutting the pumpkin (save the seeds to roast!), just push the pumpkin through your food processor, using the shred blade. You could also grate it using a box grater.

Ingredients for a cake with pumpkin. Batter already partially mixed up.

PS: This is perfect if those cans of pumpkin are hard to come by at your grocery store!

Stir the pumpkin right into the cake batter and pour all into a 9 by 13 cake pan. Bake the cake and let it cool.

When the cake is cool, poke holes in it! Use a metal skewer, a chopstick, or the handle of a wooden spoon to just poke a whole bunch of holes in your freshly baked cake.  When it’s good and holey, pour a can of sweetened condensed milk spiced with a teaspoon of cinnamon, all over the cake.

Holes being poked in a baked cake with a wooden spoon handle.

We recommend drizzling the filling right into the holes to make sure it really gets down there into the cake. Some of it will run off the sides and that’s just fine. If it seems like quite a bit of the filling is still on top of the cake, give the cake a half hour or so to absorb the filling.

Sweetened condensed milk seasoned with cinnamon, being drizzled over a cake.

Meanwhile, whip up the easy cream cheese frosting. A block of softened cream cheese, a cup of powdered sugar and a bit of heavy cream is all it takes to make this creamy, tangy frosting. Swirl it onto the top of the cake, and then refrigerate the cake for a couple of hours. 

Cake being frosted with cream cheese frosting.

Don’t worry if you can’t wait. It’s good right away, too, but your poke cake is a little better if it sets for a bit and has a chance to absorb the filling. 

Cut into squares and enjoy. Pumpkin poke cake is really good with a cup of coffee or a glass of cold milk.

Pumpkin poke cake on a white plate, more cake in the background.

How to make this pumpkin cake your own:

  • Like nuts? Sprinkle toasted chopped pecans or walnuts over the cream cheese frosting. Or sprinkle on crushed chocolate toffee candy bars.
  • For a caramel pumpkin cake, use a jar of caramel topping instead of sweetened condensed milk.
  • Instead of cream cheese frosting, spread a container of whipped topping on the cake, or even better, homemade whipped cream.

Close up of a slice of pumpkin cake, a bite has been taken out of it with a fork.

Storage Tips

Pumpkin poke cake will keep up to four days in the fridge. Make sure the cake is covered well.

Pumpkin passion

It’s that time of year when everything is pumpkin! Try: 

 

Cake in a clear baking dish, a few slices have been removed.

Pumpkin poke cake being scooped out of a baking dish.

Pumpkin Poke Cake (with real pumpkin!)

Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 50 minutes

Pumpkin poke cake is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth, oozing with sweet cinnamon filling and smothered with tangy cream cheese frosting.

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 white cake mix and ingredients needed as written on the package (you’ll likely need 3 eggs, ½ cup oil, and water)
  • 3 cups finely grated fresh pumpkin
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

Filling

  • 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Frosting

  • 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese (full-fat is best)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • Additional cinnamon for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x13-inch cake pan or spray lightly with cooking spray.
  2. Prepare the cake, following package directions. Stir grated pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice into batter. Pour evenly into prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake is done (toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean). Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. 
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In small bowl (or right in the can), blend together condensed milk and cinnamon. Set aside.
  5. Frosting: Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar and heavy cream in medium sized bowl with electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
  6. When the cake is cool, using a metal skewer, a chopstick, or the handle of a wooden spoon, make holes evenly all over the cake. Pour the condensed milk mixture into the holes and all over the cake, as evenly as possible. If possible, let the cake set a half hour or so before frosting so it has a chance to absorb the filling.
  7. Spread the frosting over the cake. 
  8. Refrigerate, covered, for about 2 hours before serving. If desired, garnish with additional cinnamon. 
  9. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Notes

  • If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, substitute 1½ teaspoons cinnamon, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, and ¼ teaspoon cloves.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1 square
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 242Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 23mgSodium: 94mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 1gSugar: 37gProtein: 5g

RachelCooks.com sometimes provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietitian. Please consult a medical professional for any specific nutrition, diet, or allergy advice.

Did you make this recipe?

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Verdict: So yummy! We love this cake!
Husband’s take: No complaints from anyone with this cake.
Changes I would make: None are necessary.
Difficulty: Easy.