With pineapple in every layer, this fresh and fruity Pineapple Poke Cake is easy to make with a simple yellow cake mix made with crushed pineapple. Then the cake is poked full of holes and filled with a vanilla-pineapple infused pudding and topped with a pineapple whipped cream that is to die for!
Poke cakes are a favorite not only because they are such a cinch to throw together that anyone can make them, but they taste fantastic and you never have to worry about them being too dry since the cake itself gets poked full of holes and drizzled with a sweet liquid like pudding, sweetened condensed milk, or jello. It's frequently served chilled, which makes it perfect for warmer months when you want something refreshing, fruity, and light.
A pineapple poke cake is one of the best versions of this homey dessert because the tropical flavor of the pineapple is infused throughout the entire thing. It's one of the rare instances when I'm happy to use a cake mix because doctoring it up by adding the crushed pineapple to the cake batter improves the flavor and gives it more of a homemade taste. One slice of this luscious dessert and you'll be hooked!
Why this Recipe Works
- It's a semi-homemade recipe. Whether you decide to use a cake mix and pudding mix or make the yellow cake from scratch, you're going to love it.
- Make-ahead friendly. You can make the entire cake a day ahead and have it ready to take to a party! The pudding soaks into the cake and makes the cake extra moist!
- Serves a crowd: Because this pineapple poke cake recipe is made in 9x12-inch baking dish, it's easy to slice into squares to serve anywhere from 12-16. Although fair warning that you might want more than one slice, it's so good!
This is a quick overview of some of the important ingredients you'll need for this pineapple poke cake recipe. Specific measurements and full recipe instructions are in the printable recipe card below.
- Cake mix: Use your favorite yellow cake mix and the ingredients called for on the package instructions (butter or oil, eggs, and water). A white or French vanilla cake mix could also be used instead.
- Pineapple: You will need a couple of cans of crushed pineapple for this recipe, along with the pineapple juice that they are packed in, so don't discard that juice when you drain it! I also like having a small can of pineapple chunks for decorating the top of the cake (not pictured below).
- Pudding mix: An instant vanilla or French vanilla pudding mix works well for the pudding layer, but other flavors like cheesecake or white chocolate could also be used.
- Heavy cream: A lot of poke cakes use Cool Whip topping instead of homemade whipped cream but I just can't get behind that. Real whipped cream tastes so much better and fresher!
How to Make Pineapple Poke Cake
Start by making the cake mix according to the package directions, which is usually just dumping eggs, oil or melted butter, and water into a large bowl and mixing with a hand mixer for a minute or two until combined.
Drain a large can of crushed pineapple (I find it's easiest to just dump it into a fine mesh sieve over a bowl to catch the pineapple juice), then add the fruit to the cake butter and stir it in.
Transfer the pineapple cake batter to a large rectangular baking dish that has been sprayed with baking spray and bake for 25 to 28 minutes until done and a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean with just a few crumbs sticking to it.
Let the cake cool, then use the handle of a large wooden spoon to poke 20 holes all over the top of the cake, pressing it all the way to the bottom of the pan.
Whisk the pudding mix together with the milk and reserved pineapple juice until combined and starting to thicken slightly, about 1 minute.
Pour the pudding over the cake, making sure to hit each of the holes that you poked earlier so the pudding can soak in rather than just covering the top of the cake. Use a spatula to spread the pudding out in a thin, even layer so that the whole cake gets moistened.
Make the homemade whipped cream by beating your heavy cream in a large bowl with the powdered sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Add more drained, crushed pineapple and fold it into the whipped cream. Be sure to drain the pineapple well since introducing too much liquid at this point can cause the whipped cream to loosen up.
Spread the pineapple whipped cream in an even layer over the whole cake, then decorate with drained pineapple chunks or maraschino cherries.
Poke cakes are almost always made with a cake mix because it's a non-fuss type of dessert, but my yellow cake recipe would be perfect with this cake if you wanted to make the whole thing from scratch. Just make the whole recipe and stir in the crushed pineapple, then bake like normal.
Yes! You could certainly divide your batter into cupcake liners in cupcake pans and bake them that way. Then poke three holes in each cupcake and fill with the pudding, then top with the pineapple whipped cream topping, just like if you were making a sheet cake. They may be messier, but it's definitely doable.
- Don't skip chilling in the fridge. The cake needs time to absorb some of the moisture of the pudding for that classic poke cake texture.
- Use real whipped cream. So many poke cakes rely on a tub of Cool Whip, but homemade whipped cream makes such a big difference. I highly recommend going to that little bit of extra effort for a better tasting cake.
- Make it pretty. A simple garnish of pineapple chunks or maraschino cherries on top of the cake makes the finished dessert look enticing and gives a hint about the flavors inside.
- How to store: Once the pineapple poke cake has been fully assembled, store it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. The cake tastes even better the second day, so this is a great one to make a day ahead.
- How to freeze: You can bake the cake in advance and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw on the counter for a few hours, then make the filling, poke the holes, and assemble the cake with the topping. I do not recommend freezing with the pudding and whipped cream on top.
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Pineapple Poke Cake
- 1 yellow cake mix
- 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, juice reserved
- ½ cup salted butter, melted (1 stick)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 (3.4-ounce) box instant vanilla pudding
- 1 cup whole milk, cold
- ½ cup pineapple juice, from the crushed pineapple - use milk if you don't have the full half cup
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- ⅓ cup powdered sugar
- 1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, juice drained
- 1 (8-ounce) can pineapple tidbits or chunks, for decorating
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9x13-inch pan with baking spray.
- Make the cake mix according to package instructions with eggs, butter, and water. Add the crushed pineapple to the batter and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared pan.
- Bake 25-28 minutes until done. Cool, then poke 20 holes with the end of a wooden spoon.
- In a large bowl, whisk the vanilla pudding mix with 1 cup cold whole milk and ½ cup reserved pineapple juice until it starts to thicken slightly, about 1-2 minutes. Pour over the cake making sure to fill the holes with the pudding. Evenly spread with a spatula to cover the top of the cake.
- Beat the heavy cream and powdered sugar with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or using an electric hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold in the drained 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple, then spread on top of the pudding layer. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
- Garnish with pineapple tidbits or chunks before serving.
- Storing: The cake tastes even better the longer it sits in the fridge so this is a great one to make a day ahead. It will be good for about 4 days in the fridge.
- Freezing: You can bake the cake in advance and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw on the counter for a few hours, then make the filling, poke the holes, and assemble the cake with the topping. I do not recommend freezing with the pudding and whipped cream on top.
- Garnish Variation: Top with maraschino cherries with or instead of pineapple chunks for a brighter pop of color.
- Cupcakes: Divide your batter into cupcake liners in cupcake pans and bake them that way. Then poke three holes in each cupcake and fill with the pudding, then top with the pineapple whipped cream topping, just like if you were making a sheet cake. They may be messier, but it's definitely doable.