This Old-Fashioned Lemon Cake Recipe is a true reflection of a sunny afternoon in your grandmother’s kitchen, the scent of freshly grated lemon zest filling the air. The zingy lemon flavor is combined with a subtle sweet glaze, making it a delightful treat that appeals to young and old alike.
There’s something undeniably charming about classic recipes that have stood the test of time. One such delightful treat is the Vintage Lemon Jello Poke Cake my Mom used to make.
This dessert embodies the essence of retro baking, with its light, citrus flavor and irresistible moist texture. Made with a few simple pantry ingredients, it is a quick delicious dessert, perfect for summer entertaining!
What is a “Poke Cake”?
Before we dive into the details of this lemony delight, let’s talk about the magic of poke cakes.
Dating back to the 1970s, poke cakes have been a beloved dessert in American households for decades.
The concept is simple yet brilliant: a basic cake, typically a boxed mix, is baked and then “poked” all over its surface with the handle of a wooden spoon, or bamboo skewer. The holes created by the poking are then filled with a luscious liquid, pudding, or sauce, allowing the cake to soak up all that delicious flavor. In this case, lemon!
Growing up Mom made two different poke cakes! Every June both cakes were made. Why?
Because my twin brothers birthdays are in June. Each liked a different one! (Of course! Why make life easy on Mom. Lol)
My brother John loved what we referred to as “Yum-yum” cake, or as I call it, Red, White and Blue Poke Cake. The other, was this Best Lemon Poke Cake, that my brother Jim requested! I love them both! (The cakes and my brothers!)
Ingredients You’ll Need
Here’s a list of ingredients to create this delightful Vintage Lemon dessert.
For the Cake:
- 1 (15.25 oz.) Lemon Cake Mix, or Yellow Cake Mix -any brand will work, I prefer Duncan Hines.
- 2 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
- 1 (3.0 oz.) lemon gelatin
- ¾ Cup Cold Water – You can substitute Orange Juice, or lemonade, not lemon juice, for the water for a more in-depth citrus flavored cake.
- ¾ Cup Vegetable Oil
- 4 eggs
For the Lemon Glaze:
- 2 cups powder sugar, sifted
- 1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
How To Make The Best Lemon Lovers Cake
Preheat oven to 350° (F).
Prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish by spraying the bottom and sides, with non-stick baking spray with flour, or line the pan with parchment paper.
One of the things I love about this lemon jell-o poke cake is how easy it is to make. Rather than going through the effort of a homemade scratch cake, this delicious cake, is made with a cake mix! Score one more point for the Lemon Lovers who love an easy dessert!
I use a lemon cake mix, but you can use yellow cake mix instead. Both work well, so don’t hesitate to use what you have on hand.
In a large bowl add cake mix, 2 Tablespoons of All-purpose flour, and lemon jell-o. Use a wire whisk to break up any lumps and combine dry ingredients.
Tip: This recipe originated in the 1970s when boxed cake mixes held more cake mix. To help off-set the loss of cake mix, and keep the original recipe as exact as possible, I add a few tablespoons of flour.
Add water (or citrus juices), oil, and eggs…
Beat batter by hand, or with an electric handheld mixer, for 5 minutes to combine wet and dry ingredients.
TIP: A word of warning, be careful not to over mix the cake batter. Too much air can cause your cake to go flat during baking. No one likes flat lemon desserts, unless it’s lemon bars…then flat is good. (I love a good lemon bar! Don’t you?)
Pour cake batter into the prepared 9 x 13 baking dish. Place dish in the center of preheated oven.
Bake for 35–40 minutes until cake has slightly pulled away from the sides of the cake pan, and the cake springs back when gently pushed in the center.
Preparing Easy Lemon Glaze
In a medium size sauce pan, add 2 cups powder sugar and 1/3 cup lemon juice. This creates a delicious sweet lemon flavor glaze.
Mix until combined. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stirring occasionally. Once mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat and set aside.
TIP: For extra flavor you can add 1-2 tablespoons lemon zest.
How to prepare holes for poke cakes
While the cake is still warm, poke holes all over the top of the cake using a wooden spoon handle, chopstick, or bamboo skewer.
I find this step particularly therapeutic! Something about repeatedly stabbing something that helps release tension! Note I didn’t say to visualize the cake as…(fill in the blank)! (Looks around sheepishly…lol)
TIP: I prefer to use a smaller stick to create the holes in this poke cake since the glaze is so thin. It helps to evenly distribute the glaze throughout the cake. In addition, since the “glaze” is the frosting for this cake, smaller holes create a prettier finished product.
Spoon the icing over the top of the cake while it is still warm.
TIP: I like to go slowly over the entire top of the cake making sure the glaze runs down into all the holes.
Finishing Mom’s Lemon Jello Cake
Allow the cake to completely cool before cutting into squares. Top the cake with slices of lemon and mint, or lemon and rosemary, for a pretty, yet simple, presentation.
This cake is best served at room temperature. To make sure you serve a moist cake, before and after serving, cover with plastic wrap. The cake does not need to be refrigerated.
This Vintage Lemon Jello Poke Cake is a dessert that will transport you back in time with its delightful blend of flavors and its unmistakably retro charm.
Whether you’re hosting a family gathering, a potluck, or just want to savor a sweet treat, this classic recipe is sure to become a favorite in your repertoire.
So, roll up your sleeves, unleash your inner baker, and enjoy a taste of the past with this wonderfully nostalgic lemony creation!
FAQ’s about Lemon Boxed Cake Mix Dessert
- Why is it called a “Poke Cake”? Poke-and-Pour-Cakes received their name from having holes poked into the top of the cake, while still warm, with a wooden spoon handle, chopstick, or bamboo skewer.
- Can I use store bought lemon juice or is it best to use fresh squeezed? I ALWAYS recommend using fresh squeezed when possible. It adds a better depth of flavor.
- If I can’t find lemon jell-o can I substitute lime or orange gelatin? YES! Just be sure to swap out the juice you are using in the glaze, so the flavors don’t compete against each other.
- How long can I store this cake? If covered with plastic wrap this cake will last 4–5 days. You can freeze the cake slices by wrapping them individually and freeze up to 2 months.
Other Favorite Lemon Dessert Recipes
- Easy Lemon Berry Angel Food Cake
- Easy Mock Lemon Chiffon Cake
- Easy No-bake Lemon Cream Pie
- Mile High Lemon Meringue Pie
- Lemon Blueberry Bread with Glaze
- Meyer Lemon Creme Brulee from Soulfully Made
Thanks for visiting my Nest today!
- 1 (15.25 ounce) lemon, or yellow, cake mix
- 1 (3.0 ounce) lemon gelatin
- 2 Tablespoons All-purpose flour
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- ¾ cup water - you can substitute with orange juice or lemonade
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups powder sugar
- 1/3 cup lemon juice - fresh squeezed if possible
- Preheat oven to 350° (F)
- Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with non-stick baking spray with flour, or line baking dish with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl add cake mix, lemon jello, and 2 Tablespoons flour. Mix with wire whisk to remove lumps and combine dry ingredients.
- Add water, or juice, eggs, and oil. Mix with electric handheld mixer, or whisk, for 5 minutes to combine.
- Pour into prepared baking dish. Place dish in the center of preheated oven and bake for 35–40 minutes until cake slightly pulls away from sides and center springs back when lightly pushed.
- Remove cake from oven. Poke holes all over cake as soon as you take the cake out of the oven.
- In a medium sauce pan, over medium-high heat, mix powder sugar and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Once mixture boils, remove from heat and spoon over the top of the cake. Allow cake to cool before cutting into squares and serving.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
100 Pack Yellow Plaid Paper Napkins for Birthday Party Supplies (6.5 x 6.5 In)
10PCS Lemon Tiered Tray Decor,Summer Tiered Tray Decor,Lemon Kitchen Decor Rusticl Farmhouse Wooden Signs,Lemon Rolling Pin,Lemon Bead Garland for Everyday Tier Tray Home Decor(Tray Not Included)
Certified International Lemon Zest Melamine 9" Salad/Dessert Plates, Multicolor, Medium, Set of 6
Whisks for Cooking, 3 Pack Stainless Steel Whisk for Blending, Whisking, Beating and Stirring, Enhanced Version Balloon Wire Whisk Set, 8"+10"+12"
KitchenAid 6 Speed Hand Mixer with Flex Edge Beaters - KHM6118, Contour Silver
DOWAN Casserole Dish, 9x13 Ceramic Baking Dish, Large Lasagna Pan Deep, Casserole Dishes for Oven, 135 oz Deep Baking Pan with Handles, Oven Safe and Durable Bakeware for Lasagna, Roasts, Wedding Gifts, White
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 462Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 62mgSodium: 346mgCarbohydrates: 75gFiber: 1gSugar: 56gProtein: 5g