Lemon Poke Cake

Deliciously easy Lemon Poke Cake! Made with boxed cake and lemon gelatin, this poke cake gets even better when you add homemade lemon curd. It’s the dreamy creamy citrus dessert of your dreams.

We love poke cakes. Strawberry JELL-O Poke Cake first won my heart as a child. Now this lemon version is giving it a run for its money!

Lemon Poke Cake: delicious, easy poke cake recipe with Lemon JELL-O and homemade lemon curd!

Why this Recipe Works

Making a poke cake is seriously one of the easiest things to bake for dessert. And they are perfect for bringing to potlucks, bbq’s, and summer picnics! Everyone loves them!

If you’re asking yourself, “what is a poke cake” let me tell you this, there are many answers to that question. Depending on who you ask!

Poke cakes are typically made using a boxed cake mix and a 13×9 baking dish. While the cake is warm out of the oven, you can do SEVERAL things:

Growing up, my family always chose the last option. Adding gelatin. It’s a perfect spring/summer treat!

Ingredient Notes

Yellow cake mix. You’ll also need any ingredients necessary to bake the cake according to package directions (oil, eggs, etc).

Lemon JELL-O. You will use the powdered mix right from the package for this lemon poke cake recipe.

Lemon Curd. I use my Easy Homemade Lemon Curd Recipe. Substitute store bought lemon curd if preferred.

Easy Instructions

STEP 1. Prepare the yellow cake mix.

Bake according to package instructions in a 13 x 9 baking dish.

STEP 2. Poke

Poke holes all over the top of the cake immediately after baking. You can use a wooden skewer, wooden spoon handle or a meat thermometer for this step.


Combine the gelatin mix with boiling water. Pour it over the top of the cake.

STEP 4. Chill and serve

Refrigerate the lemon poke cake for at least 4 hours. Before serving, spread lemon curd over the top. Top with cool whip and crushed Nilla wafers. Enjoy!

Tips and Tricks

  • Lemon Curd Substitute. Lemon pudding makes a great alternative to the curd for topping the cake. Whisk a box of lemon pudding mix with 2 cups of milk and pour it over the cake before chilling.
  • Cake mix flavors. White cake mix is delicious with this poke cake recipe too. Or for an extra strong lemon flavor, use a lemon cake mix instead!
  • Nilla wafer topping. Reserve a few whole Nilla wafer cookies to garnish the top of each slice of lemon poke cake.
Does poke cake need to be refrigerated?

Poke Cakes should be chilled before serving and stored in the refrigerator until ready to eat. It keeps well in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.

What can I use instead of Nilla wafers?

If you don’t have Nilla wafers available where you live, any kind light and crispy wafer cookie can be used. You can also leave off the cookie topping. You’ll still have a delicious lemon JELL-O cake!

Is Poke cake supposed to be runny?

Before chilling this lemon poke cake it will look very wet. As it chills, the JELL-O sets up in the holes of the cake just like it would in a bowl. That’s why you need several hours to let the cake set up in the fridge before serving.

Grab a box of JELL-O and whip up an easy crowd pleasing dessert with this Lemon Poke Cake Recipe. We know you’ll love it!

Lemon Poke Cake: delicious, easy poke cake recipe with Lemon JELL-O and homemade lemon curd!

MORE Lemon Desserts

Yield: 20 slices

Lemon Poke Cake

Prep Time 10 minutes
Chill Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 10 minutes

Delicious lemon cake topped with lemon curd and cool whip!


  • 1 yellow cake mix, with ingredients to prepare according to package
  • 1 box (3oz) lemon JELL-O gelatin
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 pint lemon curd
  • 16oz Cool Whip
  • ½ cup crushed Nilla Wafer cookies


  1. Prepare yellow cake mix according to package in a 13x9 baking dish. Remove from oven and poke holes all over cake. I actually use a meat thermometer for this (skewer or wooden spoon handle would work too!).
  2. Combine gelatin with boiling water. Pour over warm cake, into poked holes.
  3. Refrigerate cake with plastic wrap for 4 hours, or overnight.
  4. Before serving, spread lemon curd over top of cake. Top with Cool Whip and crushed cookies.
  5. Store in refrigerator for up to 4 days. ENJOY.


  • Use homemade or store bought lemon curd (found in baking aisle).
  • If you'd like, you can substitute lemon pudding for the curd. After pouring your gelatin on the cake, whisk 1 box (3.4oz) instant lemon pudding mix with 2 cup milk. Pour over cake. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Top with Cool whip and cookies.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

1 slice

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 192Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 211mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 1gSugar: 19gProtein: 2g

Did you make this recipe?

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About Aimee

Aimee is a dessert lover (specifically rice krispie treats), workout enthusiast, self-taught foodie, and recipe creator.

Learn more about Aimee.

Affiliate Disclosure:**There may be affiliate links in this post! By clicking on them, or purchasing recommended items I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love! Thank you for supporting Shugary Sweets! See my disclosure policy for more info**

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Posted on May 4, 2014

Comments & Reviews

  1. I love making fast desserts like this but, I won’t use that INSTANT pudding for anything I’ll make my own or use the COOK N SERVE TYPE. That instant has such a imitating taste that I just can not put on one of my desserts I feed my family. Really it is a little more time making your own but just think your fammily will love you more for taking a little more time for them. If you don’t have time make it up the day you mke the cake. You have to leave the cake set anyway.

  2. Hello there,

    jello typically calls for one cup boiling water, then adding a cup of cold water? Does this recipe emit adding the cold water? I added in about a half cup and poured over my warm cake with holes in it and it kind of just made the entire cake super moist / didn’t really “fill holes.” It’s currently in the fridge and I’m sure it’s still good but… messy.

    Let me know for next time!


      1. It sound like that it only uses the hot water. That why the jello will run down in the cake better. If it is colder it will be thicker and it will be harder to get in the holes

        1. Your cake will be real wet and moist right after pouring on your jello. The jello will set up in the cake just the same as if it was in a bowl by itself. Don’t worry this will happen just take the time it is saying to wait. Don’t rush this. I’m 61 years old and I’ve been baking since I was 7. I’ve made these cakes for around 40 years and they are great. Take your time and ENJOY YOUR HARD WORK.

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