Pumpkin poke cake is an easy fall dessert oozing with sweet cinnamon filling and smothered with tangy cream cheese frosting. Made with real shredded pumpkin!
Why you’ll love it: moist and tender homemade pumpkin poke cake is easy to make and bursting with cozy fall flavors.
How long it takes: just 20 minutes of prep
Equipment you’ll need: a mixing bowl, 9×13-inch cake pan, and a wooden spoon for poking.
- 1 Recipe Overview
- 2 The Best Pumpkin Poke Cake Recipe
- 3 Why You’ll Love This Pumpkin Poke Cake Recipe
- 4 What Is a Poke Cake?
- 5 What You’ll Need
- 6 How to Make a Pumpkin Poke Cake
- 7 Tips for Success
- 8 make this pumpkin Poke cake your own
- 9 Ways to Serve Pumpkin Poke Cake
- 10 How to Store a Poke Cake
- 11 More Fall Dessert Ideas
- 12 Get the Recipe: Pumpkin Poke Cake (with real pumpkin!)
The Best Pumpkin Poke Cake Recipe
This easy pumpkin poke cake is a doctored-up cake mix filled with fresh pumpkin, scented with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, and oozing with sweet and creamy 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 puree! With all the fall baking going on, there’s a shortage at the grocery stores lately. No worries, buy a fresh pumpkin, shred it, and bake up this pumpkin cake. You’ll love it!
Why You’ll Love This Pumpkin Poke Cake Recipe
- Easy to make. This semi-homemade Pumpkin poke cake begins with a packaged white cake mix. It cuts down your shopping list and makes this recipe super easy!
- Full of flavor. Every inch of this poke cake is infused with real pumpkin and pumpkin spice, drenched in creamy cinnamon filling, and smothered in cream cheese frosting. It’s all of your favorite fall flavors wrapped up in one easy dessert.
- Make-ahead. A poke cake is actually a million times better if you make it a day ahead. This pumpkin poke cake recipe is perfect to prepare in advance for parties, gatherings, and holidays all season long.
What Is a Poke Cake?
A poke cake is a retro cake recipe made by poking holes in a 9 x 13 sheet cake, which is then filled with something sweet, like condensed milk, caramel sauce, or even Jell-O. The filling seeps all throughout the cake, and afterward, you top it off with creamy frosting. Oh, man, it’s so good! This pumpkin poke cake is my fall spin on a classic and versatile cake recipe.
What You’ll Need
Let’s go over the key ingredients you’ll need to make your delicious pumpkin poke cake! Don’t forget to scroll to the recipe card for the full ingredient amounts, recipe directions, and nutritional info.
- 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.
- Fresh Pumpkin: The cake batter is enhanced with three cups of shredded pumpkin. All that pumpkin has to make this cake good for you, right? Vitamin A and all that.
- Pumpkin Pie Spice: We’ll further boost the fall flavors of this pumpkin cake recipe with a tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice. I use my homemade version, but you can just as easily use your preferred ready-made spice blend from the store.
- Sweetened Condensed Milk and Cinnamon: To make the creamy poke cake filling. Make sure that you’re buying sweetened condensed milk and not evaporated milk, which is unsweetened.
- Frosting: I use my homemade cream cheese frosting recipe. The tangy flavor pairs perfectly with the pumpkin and spice in the cake. You’ll need cream cheese, powdered sugar, and heavy cream, plus additional cinnamon for garnishing the finished cake. I recommend full-fat cream cheese and cream for the best frosting texture.
How to Make a Pumpkin Poke Cake
One of the best things about poke cakes is that they require so little effort to turn out delicious. Here’s how to make this easy pumpkin poke cake:
- Make the cake batter. Prepare the box cake mix according to the package directions. Stir the grated pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice right into the cake batter.
- Bake. Pour the cake batter into a greased 9 x 13 cake pan. Bake at 350ºF for 30-35 minutes, and then let it cool.
- Poke the holes. When the cake is cool, poke holes in it! Use a metal skewer, a chopstick, or the handle of a wooden spoon to poke a whole bunch of holes all over your freshly baked cake.
- Add the filling. When the cake is good and holey, pour a can of sweetened condensed milk spiced with a teaspoon of cinnamon all over the cake.
- Make the frosting. Meanwhile, whip up the easy cream cheese frosting by creaming together a block of softened cream cheese, a cup of powdered sugar, and a bit of heavy cream.
- Frost and chill. Spread the frosting over the top of the cake, dust it with cinnamon, and then refrigerate the cake for a couple of hours before serving.
When you’re ready to serve, cut your cake into squares and enjoy. Pumpkin poke cake is really good with a cup of coffee or a glass of cold milk. See below for more serving suggestions!
Tips for Success
Follow these tips for pumpkin poke cake perfection, every time:
- If you’d prefer to make this cake with pumpkin puree, replace the grated pumpkin in this recipe with one (14-ounce) can of pumpkin puree. Make sure that you’re using 100% real canned pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling.
- Don’t overmix the batter. Make sure that you don’t overwork your pumpkin cake batter. Too much mixing yields a tough, dense cake.
- Don’t poke all the way through to the bottom of the cake. Poke just about halfway down, this way the filling won’t run right through and pool in the bottom of the pan.
- Drizzle the filling right into the holes to make sure it really gets right down 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.
- Chill the cake. It’s good right away, too, but your poke cake is even better if it sets for a bit in the fridge and has a chance to absorb the filling.
make this pumpkin Poke cake your own
Looking for fun ways to change up the flavors and ingredients in your pumpkin poke cake? Here are some of our favorite variation ideas:
- 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 poke cake, use a jar of caramel topping or homemade caramel sauce 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.
Ways to Serve Pumpkin Poke Cake
We love serving this pumpkin poke cake topped with whipped cream and a sprinkle of crushed pumpkin spice candied walnuts or chopped spiced pecans. It’s also incredible topped with a spoonful (or three) of homemade apple compote. For an extra-indulgent fall dessert, serve slices with scoops of homemade vanilla ice cream, or even no-churn cinnamon ice cream for a cozy fall twist.
How to Store a Poke Cake
- Fridge: Pumpkin poke cake will keep up to 4 days in the fridge. Make sure the cake is covered well.
- Freezer: Alternatively, you can freeze this poke cake for up to 2-3 months. I recommend freezing cakes before they’re frosted whenever possible. Store the cake airtight, or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. Defrost the poke cake in the fridge before frosting and/or serving.
- 1 box 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
- 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese (full-fat is best)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- Additional cinnamon for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13-inch cake pan or spray lightly with cooking spray.
- Cake: Prepare the cake, following package directions. Stir grated pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice into the batter. Pour evenly into the prepared pan.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the cake is done (toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean). Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
- Filling: Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In a small bowl (or right in the can), blend together condensed milk and cinnamon. Set aside.
- 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.
- Frosting: Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, and heavy cream in a medium-sized bowl with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
- Spread the frosting over the cake.
- Refrigerate, covered, for about 2 hours before serving. If desired, garnish with additional cinnamon.
- If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, substitute 1½ teaspoons cinnamon, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, and ¼ teaspoon cloves.
- Store airtight in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.