With a distinctive lemon flavor and not usually overly sweet, lemon cakes are delicious! This Lemon Poke Cake is a twist on classic lemon cakes, and with lemony pudding infused throughout the cake, it is moist, flavorful, and fun to make!

a piece of lemon cake

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This is a fabulous Lemon Poke Cake recipe. It’s easy to make, and with a few convenient shortcuts, you don’t need many ingredients. I also love that you make this cake in a 9×13-inch baking dish, so there’s enough for the crowd.

Lemon Poke Cake

This cake is made in a few steps. First, you make the cake. Then you make the pudding and add it to the cooked cake. Finally, add the whipped cream topping; it is amazing on this cake! The whipped topping has a light lemony flavor that accentuates the lemon cake flavor so well.

lemon cake with whipped cream

I love this cake for dessert any time, but it’s especially fabulous as an Easter dessert, with Sunday brunches, or anytime you need to take a cake to a gathering or potluck. It stays so lovely and moist thanks to the pudding, so you could even make it the day before (the whipped topping is best made before serving.)

If you love lemon, then this is the cake for you!

bite of cake

Why I love this recipe

  • It’s so bright and lemony flavored – everyone loves it!
  • It’s easy to make, thanks to a few cooking shortcuts.
  • This cake makes a 9×13-inch cake, so there’s enough for everyone!

ingredients for Lemon Poke Cake

Gather these ingredients

  • Lemon cake mix – 1 box.
  • Water
  • Vegetable oil
  • Eggs
  • Instant lemon pudding mix – 2 packages.
  • Vanilla extract
  • Milk – Any kind of milk.
  • Lemons – You need the zest from the lemons.
  • Heavy whipping cream – Chilled.
  • Lemon curd – Make your own or buy it premade.
  • Powdered sugar

how to make a lemon cake

How to make this easy Lemon Poke Cake recipe

Give yourself some time because the cake needs to be fully cooled before adding the pudding pokes.

  • Preheat your oven to 350-F and spray a 9×13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Combine the cake mix, water, vegetable oil, and eggs in a large bowl and mix well. 
  • Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth it into an even layer.
  • Bake the cake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Cool the cake completely; about an hour.
  • Combine the pudding mix, milk, vanilla, and 2 teaspoons of lemon zest in a bowl. Whisk until smooth.
  • Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke a hole in each inch of the cake. Plan for about 80 holes – 10 rows of 8 across. 
  • Pour the pudding over the cake and use a spatula to press the pudding into the holes.
  • Cover and refrigerate the cake for an hour.
  • Pour the cold heavy whipping cream into a cold bowl and whip with electric beaters on high speed until stiff peaks form. 
  • Add the lemon curd and powdered sugar. Whip for another 20-30 seconds to combine, then spread over the chilled cake.
  • Sprinkle the remaining lemon zest over the top and serve!

9x13 cake with whiopped cream and lemon garnish

Tips & substitutions

  • If you’re pressed for time, make the cake base the day before and cover it and pop it into the fridge. Then finish the cake.
  • Don’t let the pudding set up before adding it to the cake. Runnier pudding will get into the holes much easier than set pudding.
  • You can dry the lemon zest before using it by spreading it on a paper towel and leaving it on the counter or near a window. Shift it around, so it dries evenly.
  • Don’t overbeat the whipped cream for the topping. 
  • Make your own lemon curd – it is easy to make! 

a serving of Lemon Poke Cake

Serving suggestions

Lemon Poke Cake has a bright, lemony flavor that works so well as dessert after tasty meals of grilled salmon, pesto chicken, or shrimp sliders.  You really can’t go wrong with this dessert!

taking a bite of cake with lemon pudding


The cake will keep for 3-4 days covered in the fridge, but it is the whipped cream topping that won’t keep as well. Once it is whipped and on the cake, it will slowly deteriorate, so plan on eating the cake as soon as you frost it. You can keep the leftover cake in the fridge, and the whipped topping will be fine, it just won’t be quite as pretty as when it was fresh.

gooey bite of cake

Check out these awesome lemon dessert recipes while you’re here

a piece of lemon cake
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Lemon Poke Cake

This Lemon Poke Cake is a twist on classic lemon cakes, and with lemony pudding infused throughout the cake, it is moist and flavorful.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
refrigerate: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Yield: 12
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  • 15.25 oz box lemon cake mix
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 3.4 oz pkg instant lemon pudding mix
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups cold milk
  • Zest of 3 medium lemons, divided

Whipped cream:

  • 1 ¾ cups heavy whipping cream, chilled
  • ¼ cup lemon curd
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Spray a 9×13-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.


  • In a large bowl, combine cake mix, water, vegetable oil, and eggs. Mix until thoroughly combined.
  • Pour batter into the prepared baking pan smooth into an even layer.
  • Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Cool the cake completely, for about 1 hour.


  • Use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke holes over each inch of the cake. Make about 80 holes (8 across by 10 rows). Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the pudding mix, milk and vanilla, and 2 tsp lemon zest. Whisk together until smooth.
  • Pour pudding over cake and spread evenly with a spatula, allowing the pudding to run into the holes in the cake.
  • Cover and refrigerate the cake for 1 hour.


  • Pour the cold heavy whipping cream into the cold bowl and whisk on high speed until medium to stiff peaks form, about 1 minute. Do not over beat.
  • Add the lemon curd and powdered sugar. Whisk together for about 20-30 seconds, and spread evenly over the chilled cake.
  • Top with remaining lemon zest.


Tips to dry lemon zest:
Spread the lemon peel out onto a papertowel.
Leave on the counter in your kitchen or near a bright window.
Move it around to allow it to dry evenly. 
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
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a lemon slice on top of lemon cake