This Easy Coconut Poke Cake has all the flavor of a 3-Day Coconut cake with half the work. The recipe is a boxed cake mix soaked with creamy coconut syrup and topped with fluffy whipped cream and flaked coconut.
- What is a Poke Cake?
- Why You'll Love this Coconut Poke Cake
- Coconut Poke Cake Recipe
- Creamy Coconut Cake Ingredients:
- Working with Frozen Coconut
- How to Make Coconut Poke Cake
- How to Make the Coconut Poke Cake Filling & Frosting
- Substitutions & Alternate Flavors for a Coconut Cake with Cake Mix
- Pro Tips for a Coconut Cake with Box Mix
- How to Make Creamy Coconut Cake with Toasted Coconut
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
- How to Store a Coconut Poke Cake
- Can I freeze a Coconut Poke Cake?
- Equipment Needed to Make a Poke Cake
- Shop Here:
- More Coconut Recipes...
This Easy Coconut Cake is one of my family's favorite cakes. And even though it's a really easy cake to make (especially when you skip splitting the layers as I do), sometimes I want it to be even easier.
This is exactly what I did for my Daddy's birthday. I didn't want the extra work of a layer cake and with my big family, easy = winning! I added some Happy Birthday candles and it was perfect for our family get-together.
What is a Poke Cake?
Well, the name says it's all. A poke cake is a cake that is first baked, then usually left in the pan. Most often a straw is used to poke holes in the cake, then a filling or topping is poured over it to run down into the holes and soak into the cake. Because the cake is saturated, it's almost always very moist with added flavor throughout.
The filling is sometimes a liquid, sometimes a sauce, and sometimes something thicker like pudding. Most poke cakes are topped off with Cool Whip or even homemade frosting. Then there can be nuts, coconut or something else sprinkled on top!
Why You'll Love this Coconut Poke Cake
Not only is this cake refreshing and delicious, but you're also going to love it for so many other reasons. As previously stated, it's really easy to make. Don't let the number of ingredients intimidate you... it comes together so quickly!
Also, it's the perfect cake for a potluck or office party because serving it is fool-proof. And because this cake can be made in a disposable pan, clean-up is a cinch. This makes it a great cake to take to a family recovering from illness or as a treat for a family with a new baby.
Coconut Poke Cake Recipe
This cake is basically the same ingredients and recipe as my Easy Coconut Cake, but in poke-cake style. This is one of those desserts that's so easy, you're going to want to whip it up for all of your potlucks, office parties, and family get-togethers!
I've seen a similar recipe called a Coconut Cream Poke Cake because it includes cream of coconut in the recipe. This recipe is different.
There is a creamy mixture poured over the cake after it has holes, but there is no cream of coconut. Instead, we're going to make our own delicious cream because I sometimes can't find cream of coconut in my small town grocery store. Plus, as I've already said, this is adapted from my original 3-Day Coconut Cake recipe. So let's get to the details...
Creamy Coconut Cake Ingredients:
For the cake:
- Yellow Cake Mix - this cake also works great with white cake mix. Pillsbury is my preferred brand but use whatever you like!
- Eggs - use large eggs at room temperature. It's actually best if all ingredients are at room temperature!
- Sour Cream - Greek yogurt is a great substitute for sour cream.
- Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix - I love making coconut poke cake with pudding because it adds extra moisture and firmness to the cake. Note: use the dry mix in this recipe - do not make the pudding first! I have a large box in the picture, but you'll only need the 3.4-ounce box.
- Vegetable Oil
- All-purpose Flour
- Frozen coconut - see notes below
- Sour Cream
- Cool-Whip - I'm usually a big advocate of fresh whipped cream and you could absolutely use fresh whipped cream here, but for whatever reason, most poke cake recipes call for whipped topping.
- Flaked, sweetened coconut - this is the dryer coconut found on the baking aisle.
Working with Frozen Coconut
Frozen coconut needs to be thawed before use. I usually place it in the refrigerator the night before, but you can also place it in a shallow dish of warm water to thaw it quickly.
It is much softer and holds onto a lot more moisture than grated coconut. In most cases, one can be substituted for the other, but in this recipe, the frozen coconut has a much better texture and coconut flavor for the filling & frosting. I highly recommend using the frozen if you can find it.
Find frozen coconut near the frozen fruits and/or frozen desserts in the grocery store. Bird's Eye is the only brand I can find locally but you might see other brands in your grocery store.
Now... let's get to the recipe for Coconut Poke Cake.
How to Make Coconut Poke Cake
1. To begin, preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with Baker’s Joy. You can use a real pan or a disposable pan.
2. Mix the cake ingredients in a large mixing bowl and pour the cake batter into the pan. *Do not use the package directions - add the ingredients listed in this recipe. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
3. Allow the cake to fully cool. Using a straw, poke holes all over the cake, about an inch apart.
How to Make the Coconut Poke Cake Filling & Frosting
2. Reserve 1 cup of the mixture and set aside. Pour the remaining mixture over the top of the cake. This may seem like a really wet coconut cake but the liquid is absorbed into the cake making it reallly moist but not at all soggy.
3. Scoop the Cool Whip into the same mixing bowl and fold in the reserved cup of coconut mixture. Gently stir until incorporated.
4. Spread over the cooled cake.
5. Sprinkle the top with flaked coconut.
6. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours (up to 3 days). Enjoy!
Substitutions & Alternate Flavors for a Coconut Cake with Cake Mix
There are so many ways to change up this boxed cake mix recipe. There are also a substitutions you can make! Here are some of my suggestions:
- This cake is really light and not overly sweet with the Cool Whip frosting but if you want to make a sweeter, richer cake, try topping it with Cream Cheese Buttercream or Vanilla Frosting, then sprinkling the coconut flakes on top!
- If Cool Whip is not your thing, you can absolutely whip up some heavy cream to stiff peaks and add a little vanilla extract to make homemade whipped cream!
- Pina Colada Poke Cake: Add a layer of crushed pineapple before adding the final layer of Cool Whip Frosting to make a delicious tropical flavored cake!
- Almond Joy Cake: Use Chocolate Buttercream on top and then mix sliced almonds in with the coconut on top!
- Coconut Key Lime Poke Cake: Mix ½ cup of Key Lime juice into the coconut mixture before pouring over the poked cake. You can also top with toasted coconut and Key Lime zest.
Pro Tips for a Coconut Cake with Box Mix
- While you can absolutely follow the box directions, this cake tastes more homemade by changing just a few ingredients (listed in my recipe).
- For the best outcome, have all your ingredients at room temperature before starting. In particular, you'll want the frozen coconut thawed.
- Make sure the cake is completely cooled before adding the frosting. If not, the Cool Whip mixture will melt if put onto a warm cake. You could even chill the cake in the refrigerator if you want to speed up the process.
- Use a disposable pan for really easy clean-up! This also works great when you want to take the cake to a potluck, an office party, or gift it to a friend.
- For the very best cake, you must allow it to soak and absorb all of the flavors for at least 4 hours. If you can wait, 24 hours is best!
How to Make Creamy Coconut Cake with Toasted Coconut
There seems to be a lot of interest in making this cake with Toasted Coconut. I have a full post here on How to Toast Coconut, but here's the short version...
Spread the shredded coconut evenly on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 325°F for about 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, stir the coconut until it every minute or so until it gets to your preferred golden color. It will burn easily, so keep a close watch on it.
For tips and photos, check out this post.
Use the toasted coconut in place of the flaked coconut for the last step of the recipe.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
I love to use a regular drinking straw, but if you don't have one,, you can certainly use a fork, or even a knife. I've even seen someone use the handle of a wooden spoon. The important thing is that you get holes in the cake so the filling can run down into the cake.
Yes and no. When you initially pour the filling over the cake, it will seem wet, but as it soaks in, you'll end up with a super moist cake that will melt in your mouth but will not fall apart (unless you poke way too many holes).
Yes! Coconut Cake with cake mix and pudding mix makes for an incredibly moist cake that also holds up well and won't fall apart even though it's soaked with a coconut/sour cream mixture.
How to Store a Coconut Poke Cake
This is one of those cakes that gets better with time for sure! I recommend covering it with plastic wrap in the fridge for at least 24 hours before serving. Even better, it'll still be delicious up to 5 days later. So if you need to make a dessert ahead of time for an event - this cake will be perfect!
Regardless of whether you keep it for a few hours or a few days, it absolutely needs to be stored in the refrigerater!
Can I freeze a Coconut Poke Cake?
No, I don't recommend it. This cake will get soggy and have a very unappealing texture if frozen and then thawed. But because it can be prepared days ahead of time, hopefully you won't need to freeze it!
Equipment Needed to Make a Poke Cake
- Mixing Bowls
- Hand Mixer or Stand Mixer
- Silicone Spatula or Spreader
- Straw or fork (for poking holes)
- 9x13 Baking Dish or Disposable pan the same size