One of the most popular recipes on the site, Jack and Coke Cupcakes, turned into a boozy, chocolate poke cake! Rich chocolate cola cake is filled with a whiskey chocolate ganache and topped with a creamy whiskey buttercream frosting.
There’s something about poke cakes that appeals to the masses. Until I made this one, I was never particularly intrigued by them – but the internet sure is.
To be honest, I kinda always thought they were a bit dated and kitschy.
What is a poke cake?
Poke cake is pretty much what it sounds like – it’s a cake that you poke holes in.
Thankfully, it doesn’t mean you’re eating a cake that’s just missing pieces. You actually fill those holes with delicious fillings, like syrups and ganaches, that soak into the cake and add tons of flavor and a bit of whimsy.
Poke cakes started around 1970 when Jell-O invented the dessert to try to increase their sales. Their original recipe was:
- Use white cake mix to bake a sheet cake, then let it cool
- Use a fork to poke holes all over the top of the cake
- Pour strawberry Jell-O mix over the top to fill the holes you made
- Put the cake in the fridge to allow the Jell-O to set
- Once set, you “frosted” the cake with Cool Whip
Quite honestly, that in no way appeals to me. Cake + Jell-O does not sound like a good time – but hey, I could be wrong! Either way, thankfully people have gotten more creative since the 1970s and the types of poke cakes you’ll find on the internet now have any and every flavor you can think of.
Why poke cakes are so popular
Keep in mind, this is all my own opinions and speculation, but here’s what I think poke cakes are such a popular dessert:
- It’s a sheet cake, which means there are no fancy pans, leveling, or layering required
- You don’t need any fancy equipment to make the holes – the end of a spatula or wooden spoon is perfect
- The resulting cake is more moist than a typical sheet cake
- It’s an easy way to “upgrade” boxed cake mix
- You get to let your aggression out by stabbing a cake (what, just me?)
My upgrade: a boozy whiskey chocolate poke cake
I wanted to start trying my hand at poke cakes, but everything I was coming up with felt too boring. So I decided to start with what I knew was already a wildly popular recipe on my site: my Jack and Coke cupcakes.
That recipe was easily to transform into a chocolate poke cake because it already had the element of a chocolate whiskey ganache filling in the middle. I tweaked it a bit to be more fluid, and it’s perfect for filling the holes you poke in the cake!
How much whiskey is in the cake?
In total, there’s about 4 ounces of whiskey:
- 2 ounces (1/4 cup) whiskey in the chocolate whiskey filling
- 1 1/2 ounces (3 Tablespoons) whiskey in the frosting
- 1/2 ounce (1 Tablespoon) brushed over the top of the cake just after it comes out of the oven
That said, you can tweak the amount as you see fit.
I personally feel like the amount I call for in the recipe is just enough where you can definitely taste the whiskey, but not so much that it overpowers the rest of the flavors in the cake.
Do I have to use Jack Daniel’s whiskey?
Nope! You can use whatever whiskey you have, just make sure it’s something you enjoy the flavor of.
I personally recommend Tennessee whiskey, bourbon whiskey or Irish whiskey for the best flavor profile.
Tips for making Jack and Coke chocolate poke cake
- You need the sugar from the Coca Cola. You can’t use any of the reduced or sugar free versions – it won’t work for the purpose of this recipe.
- Glaze the cake with 1 Tablespoon whiskey as soon as it comes out of the oven. It adds even more flavor and moisture to the finished product.
- Let the cake cool before poking. Let it cool for 10 minutes before you start to poke your holes – if you do it while it’s still too warm, the cake will tear and pull more than you want it to.
- Poke enough holes, but not too many! Use the end of a wood spoon, spatula, or similarly sized object to make your holes, and poke 4 holes across the short side and 5 down the longer side. You could also do 5 across x 6 down, but I I find 4 x 5 to be enough to contain the ganache, but not so much that it turns the cake into a mushy mess.
- When you’re making the ganache, don’t jump ahead and add the whiskey too soon. Make sure you add it right at the end, otherwise you’re going to cook off some of that flavor!
- You have to find the balance between having the ganache too cool or too warm. Too cool, it won’t be fluid enough to work with. Too warm, and it’ll melt through your piping bag and just plain cause a mess! Wait to pipe it in until it’s cool enough not to give you trouble when you’re placing it in a piping bag.
- You can omit the vanilla extract. If you want the end result to be as whiskey-y as possible, you can omit the vanilla extract. I think that the vanilla complements the whiskey flavor beautifully, but it does make the whiskey flavor less bold.
How to store poke cake
You can store the chocolate poke cake in the fridge for up to 2 days as long as it’s tightly covered – so using a 9×13″ pan that has a tight-fitting cover is perfect.
Any longer than 2 days and the cake is going to start to take on a weird, mushy texture.
How to serve poke cake
Another great thing about sheet cake style desserts is that serving them is a breeze – just slice into squares, use a spatula to lift it out and place on serving plates. Ta-da!
If you wanted to get cute with it, you could add those little gummy cola bottles or candied lime fruit slices to each slice of cake (the same way I top each of my Jack and Coke cupcakes).
More 21+ desserts
Cakes and cupcakes
- The Best Jack and Coke Cupcakes
- Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes with Blackberry Buttercream Frosting
- Boozy Angel Food Cupcakes with Amaretto-Soaked Strawberries
- Champagne Cupcakes
- Bailey’s Chocolate Pie
- Loaded Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
- Baked Eggnog Donuts
- Chewy Margarita Cookies
- Bourbon Balls
- Cinnamon Buttered Rum Popcorn Balls
- Bourbon Butter Pecan Ice Cream
- Nutella Champagne Dip
- Mimosa Jello Shots
Chocolate Coke Cake
- 12 ounces Coke, don’t use Diet or Coke Zero – you need the sugar that’s in the original
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- ½ ounce whiskey
Chocolate Whiskey Ganache
- 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips
- 2 ounces whiskey
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 ½ ounces whiskey
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
Chocolate Coke Cake
- Preheat oven to 350°F and spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, combine Coke and butter and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add cocoa powder, sugar, brown sugar and whisk until sugars are dissolved and mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes or so.12 ounces Coke, 1/2 cup unsalted butter, 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt
- In a large bowl, lightly beat egg. Add cooled cocoa mixture and stir to combine. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined.2 eggs
- Pour batter into prepared baking dish and bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out with only a moist crumb. Brush the top of the cake with 1 Tablespoon whiskey. Let cool for at least 10 minutes.1/2 ounce whiskey
- Using the end of a spatula or a similar sized round stick, poke holes all over the cake going about 3/4 of the way to the bottom.
- Let cool a bit more while you prepare the chocolate whiskey ganache.
Chocolate Whiskey Ganache
- In a small saucepan, combine chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk and whisk over low heat until chocolate is melted and mixture is completely combined and smooth.14 ounces sweetened condensed milk, 1 cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips
- Whisk in the whiskey until completely combined.2 ounces whiskey
- Pour and spread the whiskey glaze over the cake and then let cool completely before frosting.
- In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy.6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.3 cups powdered sugar
- Once you’ve used about half your powdered sugar, add 1 Tablespoon whiskey and then mix again. This will thin it out a bit, allowing you to continue mixing in the remaining sugar. Continue to add a 1 Tablespoon of whiskey at a time and mix until you’ve used all the sugar and whiskey. Add vanilla and salt and give it one last mix.*1 1/2 ounces whiskey, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, Pinch of salt
- Use a spatula to spread the frosting over the top of the cake. Slice into 24 pieces, serve and enjoy!
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