The Best Lemon Poke Cake Recipe with Jello Mix

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Whip up an easy lemon poke cake recipe with lemon Jello mix, a sweet lemon glaze and a quick whipped cream frosting. Makes a moist, light and fluffy Jello cake with simple ingredients and tons of bright, citrusy flavor! 

It's no secret that I love a good poke cake. I've made my fair share of orange Jello poke cakes, and I even make a red, white and blue strawberry poke cake for the 4th of July!

sliced square of lemon Jello poke cake with a forkful of lemon Jello poke cake on a decorative white plate with Cool Whip frosting and a slice of fresh lemon on top

Like my Grandma, I also love lemon desserts, as evidenced by my favorite lemon Texas sheet cake. So I figured it's high time that I married the two together to make the ultimate lemon Jello poke cake. This is one of the best cakes I've ever made, and it's so easy to make!

Why This Is the Best Lemon Poke Cake Recipe

  • It's an easy recipe to make, and it uses simple, budget-friendly ingredients that you may already have in your pantry.
  • This is a must-have recipe for all of the lemon lovers out there. It makes a moist and spongey cake that's bursting with bright, citrus flavor in every bite!
  • For the sake of ease, this recipe uses a lemon cake mix. You can also use a homemade lemon cake if you don't care for store-bought cake mixes.
  • This light and refreshing lemon cake is best served cold, so it's perfect for a hot summer day!
  • Since it's best served straight out of the refrigerator, lemon poke cake is a great make-ahead dessert for parties, potlucks or any other special events.
  • This would make the best Easter dessert! I can assure you that it would not last very long.
lemon Jello poke cake with Jello and a whipped cream frosting in a large blue and white baking pan

Ingredients Notes & Substitutions

This moist lemon cake recipe uses pretty simple ingredients, so may already have everything you need…

  • Lemon Cake Mix – You can use a homemade cake mix, but I usually just use a store-bought lemon cake mix for this recipe. To make this a gluten-free lemon poke cake, just use a gluten-free lemon cake mix. As always, be sure to check all of your other ingredients over to ensure that they are truly gluten-free.
  • Water, Eggs and Canola Oil – Although I give rough estimates for the water, egg and canola oil ingredient amounts, the ingredient amounts or even the ingredients themselves can vary. For example, some cake mixes call for milk and butter, and other cakes mixes just call for more eggs. As always, I recommend that you follow the directions on the package for whichever cake mix you use.
  • Lemon Jello Mix – I use a lemon gelatin mix for this recipe, but you can use any flavor you want. If you're making this recipe gluten-free, you'll want to use a gluten-free lemon gelatin mix.
  • Lemon Juice – You can squeeze fresh lemon juice out of fresh lemons, but I use bottled lemon juice from the grocery store.
  • Cool Whip – I use Cool Whip for this recipe most of the time. You can also use homemade whipped cream, Dream Whip, etc.

You can find a full ingredients list with instructions in the recipe card below.

How to Make Lemon Poke Cake with Jello

Before getting started, grease up a 9×13 cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Then preheat your oven according to the package directions for your cake mix.

Make the Lemon Cake Batter

  • In a large mixing bowl, use a spatula to gently fold your cake mix, water, eggs and canola oil together according to the package instructions for your cake mix. Folding the ingredients together will help to avoid over-mixing the cake batter. Over-mixing can result in a weak structure that falls easily after baking; you want the ingredients to be just well-combined. If you're using an electric stand mixer with a paddle attachment, this will take about 2 minutes on medium speed.
  • Pour the cake batter into the 9×13 cake pan that you greased up in the first step, and bake it in your preheated oven according to the package instructions for your cake mix. It's done when a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
2 step collage showing how to make lemon poke cake recipe

Once your lemon cake is fully baked, let it cool for about 15-20 minutes before moving on to the next step.

How to Make the Jello Topping

  1. Whisk your Jello mix into the boiling water in a glass measuring cup until completely dissolved. This may take a few minutes.
  2. Use a fork to poke holes all over the top of your lemon poke cake. Try to poke these holes around 1-2 inches apart. Spacing them any closer allows too much of the topping to seep in, which may result in a soggy poke cake.
  3. Slowly pour the Jello mixture over the entire cake, and then let it cool for another 10-15 minutes.
  4. While your cake is cooling, whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl. This will be your lemon glaze.
  5. Next, pour or spoon your lemon glaze all over the top of the cake, making sure to spread it evenly.
  6. Finally, you'll want to let the cake cool to room temperature before spreading Cool Whip or whipped cream all over the top with a spatula.
6 step collage showing how to make lemon Jello poke cake recipe

I like to let poke cake chill for at least a few hours in the refrigerator before serving. You can slice and serve it right away, but chilling it gives the toppings plenty of time to seep down and infuse into the cake to make this the perfect dessert.

You can serve lemon cake with a sprinkling of fresh lemon zest or even fresh slices of lemon on top. Lemon poke cake is bright and refreshing with a sweet, citrusy flavor that pairs well with vanilla ice cream. This is the best cake for a warm summer day!

sliced square of Jello lemon poke cake on a decorative white plate with a whipped cream frosting and fresh grated lemon zest on top

Expert Tips and Recipe FAQ's

Can I make this recipe gluten-free?

Yes, you can make this a gluten-free lemon poke cake. As I stated in the ingredients notes above, you'll want to use a gluten-free lemon cake mix, and you'll probably need to find a gluten-free lemon gelatin mix. As always, be sure to check all of your ingredients over to ensure that they are truly gluten-free!

Why did my cake fall in the middle?

This is most likely because the cake was under-baked in the middle, causing it to fall while cooling. Remember, the cake is fully baked when a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. As I stated in the instructions, I also recommend that you don't over-mix your cake batter, which can result in a weak structure that is more prone to falling after you take it out of the oven. Last but not least, don't open the oven door until the cake has fully baked. It's unlikely, but the rush of cold air into the oven can cause the under-baked cake to collapse. When all else fails, don't be afraid to leave a comment below, and maybe we can get to the bottom of it together!

Why is my poke cake soggy?

Assuming that you didn't use too much Jello mix, and assuming that you didn't poke the holes on top of the cake too closely together, you most likely did not bake it long enough. Always be sure to bake your cake for the correct time and at the correct oven temperature that is specified in the instructions. And always use the toothpick test to ensure that it is fully baked before pulling it out of the oven. If you've done all of the above and you're still having trouble, here is a great guide with some tips and tricks on how to avoid a wet cake.

How do you store lemon poke cake?

Store your leftover cake for up to 2-3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Believe it or not, this cake is best served cold, so I usually chill it beforehand anyways!

Can you freeze poke cake?

Yes, you can freeze poke cake, but I would recommend doing it before you add the whipped cream topping. Once you've poured the jello mixture over the top of the cake, cover it with plastic wrap or transfer it to an airtight container and into the freezer for up to 1 month.

When you're ready to frost and serve the cake, pull it out of the freezer and set it in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. Once the cake has thawed, spread on the whipped cream and serve!

Recipe Variations

sliced square of lemon poke cake served up on a decorative white plate with Cool Whip frosting and a slice of fresh lemon on top

More Lemon Cake Recipes

If you try this recipe, why not leave a star rating in the recipe card right below and/or a review in the comment section further down the page? I always appreciate your feedback. You can also follow me on Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. And subscribe to my email list too!

sliced square of lemon Jello poke cake with a forkful of lemon Jello poke cake on a decorative white plate with Cool Whip frosting and a slice of fresh lemon on top

Lemon Poke Cake

Easy lemon poke cake recipe with Jello mix. Moist, light and fluffy Jello cake with simple ingredients and tons of bright citrus flavor!
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Print Pin Rate
Course: Cakes, Dessert, Desserts, Easter, Fruit Desserts
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 12
Calories: 391kcal
Author: Mel Lockcuff

Equipment

Ingredients

Lemon Poke Cake

Lemon Glaze & Topping

Instructions

How to Make the Lemon Cake

  • Before getting started, grease up a 9×13 cake pan with nonstick cooking spray, and preheat your oven according to the package directions for your cake mix.
  • In a large mixing bowl, use a spatula to gently fold your cake mix, water, eggs and canola oil together until just well-combined*. If you're using an electric stand mixer with a paddle attachment, this will take about 2 minutes on medium speed.
  • Pour the cake batter into the 9×13 cake pan that you greased up in the first step, and bake it according to the package instructions for your cake mix. You can tell that it is done when a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • Once your lemon cake is fully baked, let it cool for about 15-20 minutes before moving on to the next step.

How to Make the Jello Topping

  • While your cake is cooling, whisk the Jello mix into the boiling water in a glass measuring cup until completely dissolved.
  • Use a fork to poke holes about 1-2 inches apart all over the top of your lemon poke cake.*
  • Slowly pour the Jello mixture over the entire cake, and then let it cool for another 10-15 minutes.
  • While your cake is cooling, whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small mixing bowl. This will be your lemon glaze.
  • Next, pour or spoon your lemon glaze all over the top of the cake, making sure to spread it evenly.
  • Finally, you'll want to let the cake fully cool before spreading Cool Whip or whipped cream all over the top with a spatula.
  • Once the Cool Whip is spread on top, I recommend chilling your lemon Jello poke cake in the refrigerator for at least a few hours before serving. This gives the lemon flavor time to infuse into the cake.
  • Once chilled, serve and enjoy your lemon poke cake with a sprinkling of lemon zest or even a slice of fresh lemon on top!

Notes

*Although I give rough estimates for the water, egg and canola oil ingredient amounts for the cake mix, the ingredient amounts or even the ingredients themselves often vary. Be sure to follow the directions on the package for whichever cake mix you use. 
*Take care not to over-mix the cake batter; this will result in a weak structure that falls easily after baking. You want to gently fold the ingredients until just well-combined.
*Be sure not to poke the holes in the top of the cake too closely together. Otherwise, too much of the topping will seep in, resulting in a soggy poke cake.
Can I make this recipe gluten-free?
Yes, you can make this a gluten-free lemon poke cake. Simply swap out the cake mix with a gluten-free lemon cake mix, and you'll probably need to find a gluten-free lemon gelatin mix. As always, be sure to check all of your ingredients over to ensure that they are truly gluten-free!
How do you store lemon poke cake?
Store your leftover cake for up to 2-3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Believe it or not, this cake is best served cold, so I usually serve it straight out of the refrigerator!
Can you freeze poke cake?
Yes, you can freeze poke cake, but I would recommend doing it before you add the whipped cream topping. Once you've poured the jello mixture over the top of the cake, cover it with plastic wrap or transfer it to an airtight container and into the freezer for up to 1 month.
When you're ready to frost and serve the cake, pull it out of the freezer and set it in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. Once the cake has thawed, spread on the whipped cream and serve!

Nutrition

Calories: 391kcal | Carbohydrates: 67g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 44mg | Sodium: 379mg | Potassium: 64mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 48g | Vitamin A: 93IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 120mg | Iron: 1mg
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