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story.lead_photo.caption Pudding Poke Cake made with yellow cake and chocolate fudge pudding. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

My husband recently celebrated a birthday. I won't age him publicly, but let's just say it was a big one. Big enough that we would have done something special if not for the coronavirus pandemic.

As it was he didn't feel like celebrating, so instead we had a quiet evening at home. We ordered delivery pizza, and I didn't even bake him a cake. Which is shameful if you consider how simple and easy it is to make his favorite birthday cake.

He calls it a pudding cake, but you may know it as poke cake. And it is stupid easy: Bake any cake mix according to package directions, in a 9-by-13-inch pan, poke holes in it with the handle of a wooden spoon, pour your favorite flavor of prepared instant pudding over the cake and refrigerate until set. That's it. If you're feeling fancy, add whipped cream and chopped candy bars.

His preferred combination is yellow cake with chocolate pudding, but you could use any combination you like. I'm partial to chocolate cake with caramel or butterscotch pudding and whipped cream. White cake with lemon pudding is also excellent as is lemon cake with vanilla pudding and strawberry cake with pistachio pudding.

You're really only limited by your imagination and available cake and pudding flavors. Of course, you needn't stop at pudding, you could drizzle the poked cake with fudge sauce or caramel sauce or even sweetened condensed milk.

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Pudding Poke Cake

  • 1 (15.25-ounce) box cake mix PLUS ingredients listed on package (water, oil/butter, eggs)
  • 1 (4-serving) box instant pudding mix
  • 2 cups cold milk
  • Whipped cream plus any other toppings you desire, optional

Heat oven to 325 degrees (350 degrees if using a glass pan). Grease the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan.

In a large bowl, prepare cake mix according to package directions. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool cake in pan set on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Using the handle of a wooden spoon or other tool ½-inch in diameter, poke holes almost to bottom every ½ inch, wiping spoon handle occasionally. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine pudding mix and milk and whisk or blend on low speed for 2 minutes. Pour pudding over cake, spreading it with a rubber spatula to fill the holes and evenly cover the cake. Refrigerate until chilled and set, about 2 hours.

Cake can be served as is, or topped with whipped cream and other toppings as desired.

Makes about 15 servings.

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