I’ve been thinking about making this strawberry poke cake ever since I watched the episode of Cook’s Country on which it was featured. I’ve never heard of it, but apparently the idea originated from Kraft in 1969 as a way to increase Jell-O sales. The basic concept starts with a white cake baked in a 13 x 9 pan. After the cake cools you poke holes in the cake and then pour a strawberry syrup over the top. The syrup seeps into the wholes and creates pinkish-red streaks throughout the cake. The cake is topped first with strawberry “jam” made from the strawberry solids and then a layer of whipped cream.

There’s a great picture of this cake on the Cook’s Country website. You have to register to get access to the recipes, but registration is free. My pictures don’t do it justice. It’s a really cool looking cake and, even more importantly, it’s delicious! The white cake pairs wonderfully with the strawberry syrup and topping. The syrup keeps the cake moist but doesn’t make it soggy.

Strawberry Poke Cake
from Cook’s Country

For the Cake:
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for preparing pan
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for preparing pan
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large egg whites
1 3/4 cups sugar

For the Syrup and Topping:
4 cups frozen strawberries
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons strawberry-flavored gelatin
2 cups heavy cream

For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 baking pan. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl. Whisk milk, vanilla, and egg whites in large measuring cup.

With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down bowl as necessary. Add flour mixture and milk mixture alternately, in two batches, beating after each addition until combined, about 30 seconds each time. Using rubber spatula, give batter final stir. Scrape into prepared pan.

Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan, at least 1 hour. Once cool, cake can be wrapped in plastic and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days.

For the syrup and topping: Heat 3 cups strawberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, juice, and water in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cover and cook until liquid is deep red and strawberries are softened, about 10 minutes. Strain liquid into bowl, reserving solids, then whisk gelatin into liquid. Let cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, poke about 50 holes in top of cooled cake. (A great tool to poke the holes with is a wooden skewer. You want holes all over the cake but try not to poke all the way down to the bottom of the cake. If you do, all of the strawberry liquid may end up on the bottom of the pan.) Slowly pour cooled liquid evenly over top of cake. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until gelatin is set, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

Pulse reserved strained strawberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, and remaining strawberries in food processor until mixture resembles strawberry jam. Spread strawberry mixture evenly over cake. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream with remaining sugar to soft peaks. Spread cream over strawberries.