Filled with flavor (literally) and so simple to throw together, this humble classic is the perfect go-to for holiday entertaining. We've dressed a few poke cakes up with sweet, festive touches, making each an impressive and decadent dessert you'll be excited to share.

By Darcy Lenz and Darcy Lenz
Updated December 04, 2016
Photo: Daniel Agee; Food Styling: Karen Rankin
| Credit: Daniel Agee; Food Styling: Karen Rankin

At some point during this holiday season, you’re going to find yourself in need of a cake. You’ll want something special to welcome your in-laws to town, you’ll need something for snacking on when the squad comes over to exchange gifts, you’ll need a dish to bring for the reception after your kid’s choir performance, or you’ll sign up to cover dessert at the office Christmas party because last year, there was nothing but stale grocery store sugar cookies that Debbie in accounting brought… and nobody needs to relive that kind of dissappointment again. Somehow, someway, you’re path is likely going to lead you towards baking a cake this month, and what I want to tell you is that poke cake is the way.

Here are 8 reasons why:

Reason 1: It starts with a box mix (i.e. it’s easy).

In fact, poke cake is a mighty fine example of how embracing a box cake mix can allow you to produce an impressive dessert and make your life easier. Even if you’re a pro-baker, there is literally no shame in short-cutting with a boxed mix when the time is right. And when you’re dressing it up with some insanely delicious other elements (filling, frosting, etc.), the time is most certainly right.

Reason 2: We’re talking about a fluffy cake, with pockets of gooey filling inside.

Just in case you’re not 100% sure what a poke cake is all about, let me assure you, this is a good thing.

Reason 3: Poke cake is endlessly customizable.

Not only are your flavor combo possibilities endless, but in response to reason #1 above, if you have a yellow cake recipe you really love and you don’t feel it’s a pain in your ass to make it, you can totally turn your nose up at the box and do that—this is your show.

Credit: Photo: Daniel Agee; Food Styling: Karen Rankin

Reason 4: If you’ve never done it, take my word for it, poking holes in a cake is fun.

Let’s be real, there will likely also come a point during this holiday season that you want to put holes in the wall. Because you should not do that, putting holes in a cake can be a cathartic alternative.

Reason 5: Chocolate Tiramisu Poke Cake

Chocolate Tiramisu Poke Cake image
| Credit: Daniel Agee

Chocolate Tiramisu Poke Cake image Photo: Daniel Agee

Coffee liqueur-spiked pudding fills this rich chocolate cake’s dimples, which is enough to sell me on it. But hey, a fluffy mascarpone and cream cheese frosting on top just sweetens the pot. When poking the holes in your cake, make sure you've made them round enough to allow the custard to seep down into the cake; you may want to use the round handle of a wooden spoon to do this. If you want to make this tiramisu-inspired treat without the booze, simply swap the liqueur for 1/4 cooled, brewed coffee. Coarsely chopped chocolate-covered espresso beans sprinkled over top of the whole cake make the perfect finishing touch.

Reason 6: Salted Caramel Gingerbread Poke Cake with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting

Salted Caramel Gingerbread Poke Cake with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting image
| Credit: Daniel Agee

Salted Caramel Gingerbread Poke Cake with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting image Photo: Daniel Agee

Just read the title of this cake one more time. Salted caramel + gingerbread + pumpkin + cream cheese… seriously, what more could you want? You start this holiday masterpiece with a gingerbread cake mix, which bakes a slightly smaller cake than most standard box mixes—so if you’re prepping this one for a large, cake-loving crowd, you may want to go ahead and bake 2 cakes. If pumpkin isn't your thing, just sticking with a plain, classic cream cheese frosting would be totally fine here. If you choose to go that route, I'd suggest adding a teaspoon of fresh orange zest to your frosting. Orange and gingerbread spices play exceptionally well together.

Reason 7: Vanilla Buttermint Poke Cake with Buttercream Frosting

Vanilla Buttermint Poke Cake with Buttercream Frosting image
| Credit: Daniel Agee

Vanilla Buttermint Poke Cake with Buttercream Frosting image Photo: Daniel Agee

Buttermints are possibly the most delightfully addictive dollar store candy in the known universe, and this poke cake tastes like one giant, melt-in-your-mouth Buttermint (only better, because it’s a cake). White chocolate-peppermint ganache is your poke filling, and makes for an incredibly rich and luscious cake experience. Note: If your white chocolate does not melt completely when you pour warm cream over it, just pop the mixture into the microwave and heat, then stir in 10 second intervals until melted and completely smooth. This snowy white cake, topped with crushed Buttermint candies, makes for a simple, but elegant, presentation, great for any holiday party.

Reason 8: Poke cakes are great for a group.

The poke cake is an established and respected crowd-pleaser—carry yours to the dessert table with confidence. And like most all sheet cakes, it’s easily sliced and served for in a party-type setting.