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! Or try our easy, from scratch Lemon Poppy Seed Cake recipe!

Lemon cake topped with lemon gelatin, cool whip, and nilla wafer crumbs.

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!

If you love Jello, be sure to try our strawberry jello pie recipe next!

Ingredient Notes

Ingredients needed to make a lemon jello poke cake recipe.
  • Yellow cake mix. You’ll also need any ingredients necessary to bake the cake according to package directions (oil, eggs, etc). You could bake my yellow sheet cake instead!
  • Lemon JELL-O. You will use the powdered mix with some boiling water, and pour it OVER the “poked” cake.
  • Lemon Curd. I use my Easy Homemade Lemon Curd Recipe. Substitute store bought lemon curd if preferred.
  • Cool Whip. It’s easy and delicious, but feel free to swap it out for homemade whipped cream if you prefer.
  • Nilla Wafer Cookies. Not just for banana pudding, but they also add the perfect flavor and texture to this poke cake!

Easy Instructions

Step by step photos showing how to make lemon poke cake.

Prepare the yellow cake mix.

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

PRO TIP: Want to make the cake from scratch? Use my vanilla sheet cake recipe!

Holes being poked into a cake using a meat thermometer.


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.


Lemon gelatin being poured over a baked cake.

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

This is what will give you the delicious, spongy light texture to the cake, with lemon flavor!

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!

Whipped cream being spread over the top of a lemon poke cake.

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. Homemade shortbread cookies also crumble nicely on top!

Recipe FAQs

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.

Slice of lemon cake topped with lemon jello and whipped cream.

More Lemon Desserts

Lemon Poke Cake

4.88 from 8 votes
By: Aimee
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.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Chill Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 20 slices


  • 1 box yellow cake mix with ingredients to prepare according to package
  • 1 box lemon JELL-O gelatin 3 ounce
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 pint lemon curd
  • 16 ounce Cool Whip thawed
  • ½ cup crushed Nilla Wafer cookies
Save this Recipe?
Enter your email and we’ll send the recipe straight to your inbox!


  • Prepare yellow cake mix according to package in a 13×9 baking dish. Remove from oven and poke holes all over cake. I use a meat thermometer for this (skewer or wooden spoon handle would work too!).
  • Combine gelatin with boiling water. Pour over warm cake, into poked holes.
  • Refrigerate cake with plastic wrap for 4 hours, or overnight.
  • Before serving, spread lemon curd over top of cake. Top with Cool Whip and crushed cookies.
  • 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.
  • Swap out yellow cake mix for lemon cake mix instead!


Serving: 1slice, Calories: 187kcal, Carbohydrates: 30g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 206mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 18g
Course: Cake
Cuisine: American
Did you make this recipe?Mention @shugarysweets or tag #shugarysweets!

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!

Avatar photo

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**

Learn How To Become a Better Home Baker
Sign up for the Shugary Sweets FREE Email Course Today—soon you’ll say, "I made it from scratch!"

Categories: ,

Posted on June 22, 2021

Comments & Reviews

  1. Oh how I do adore that lemon curd. <3 And man i need to get on the poke cake bandwagon! They always look so wonderful, and this lemon version is no exception! Amazing recipe once again, Miss Aimee! 😀

  2. I have been lemon crazy lately, it’s literally alllll I think about it. Which is weird for a chocoholic!! This cake looks amazing, I’ve actually only ever made a “poke cake” once- back when I was 14- I think I need to change that stat!! And I love that you put the nilla wafers on top- I bet it’s a great crunch with alll that creamy dreamy ness going on!!

  3. I love the idea of the gelatin!! I’m going to have to steal that idea!

  4. What a delicious and perfect summer poke cake. Love the lemon blast this cake has to it. Now I’m craving a poke cake again…it’s been too long since my last one!!!

  5. I have never made a poke cake of any sort before. I think I shall and very soon 🙂 It looks fantastic!!

  6. Yes, I AM obsessed with lemon desserts just like you! This one looks fantastic!

  7. Mmmm, now that sounds amazing! I love lemon desserts of all kind. I’ve never made “poke cake” per se, but I’ve had tres leches cake and this sounds similar. I’ll have to try it sometime!

  8. I haven’t made a poke cake in forever. I think it’s time I change that ; )

  9. Wow, homemade lemon curd! You DID take that extra special step. It looks totally worth it to me!

  10. Yes I DO want this! I’ve actually never had a poke cake, but I have been wanting to try one. And lemon curd? That stuff is amazing! This is a must try! pinned! 🙂

  11. Looks delish and the Nilla wafers just take it to the next comfort-food level for me! pinned

  12. Laughing at myself because I was wondering what exactly a poke cake was and now I know! Thanks for the explanation. I love the little flavor explosion from the lemon curd and gelatin. I have to try this delicious cake.

  13. Can you believe I’ve never had a poke cake!! I definitely need to try this and of course love that it’s a lemon version! Yum!

  14. YUM! I LOVE poke cakes! This lemon version looks like perfection…I love the Nilla wafers that you added.

  15. Love this with the lemon curd and this would be the perfect cake for any summer get together. So easy and tasty, this will happen here soon for sure. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Matt! Lemon curd is eating by the jars around here during the summer! So light and fresh!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating