In a rather uncharacteristic turn of events, it has been over a month since I last posted a recipe for a dessert (or even a dessert masquerading as breakfast). But today, I’m ending the savory streak, and with a recipe that is wholly worthy of breaking the dessert fast: Black Forest poke cake!
I only first heard of poke cakes in the last year or so, but when I mentioned them to my mom, she immediately knew what I was talking about and told me that they were popular back in the 1970s. A little internet sleuthing revealed that indeed, poke cake was introduced in 1969 as a means of boosting Jell-O sales. The concept is simple: the classic poke cake consisted of a boxed white cake mix (baked in a 9×13 pan), a package of strawberry Jell-O poured over holes poked in the top of the cake, and a layer of a whipped topping such as Cool Whip. In recent years, however, with the popularity of poke cakes back on the rise, there have been more and more spin-offs from the traditional version. I’ve seen recipes that call for hot fudge, pudding mixes, or even ice cream in place of Jell-O.
For this Black Forest poke cake, I decided to challenge myself a bit and see if I could make it vegan. To do this, I started with my family’s go-to chocolate cake recipe, which just so happens to be vegan. Instead of Jell-O, I made a simple chocolate “ganache” with vegan chocolate chips and almond milk, and instead of Cool Whip, I used whipped coconut cream. Side note: can I call it “ganache” if it doesn’t have cream? I’m not sure, but I’m doing it anyway.
The verdict? YUM. I think the photos pretty much speak for themselves!
In the recipe notes, I’ve included a few shortcuts or substitutions you can make if you’re not concerned with keeping the recipe vegan. In the interest of full disclosure, however, I myself have not yet tried them, but it’s pretty much impossible to go wrong with hot fudge sauce and whipped cream, you know? Moreover, if you happen to have kirschwasser on hand, I imagine that a tablespoon of it would be a delightful addition to the chocolate ganache!
Have you ever made a poke cake, or any other retro desserts? What are your favorites?
- 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s special dark cocoa powder)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup water
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 3 ounces almond milk (alternatively, you can use the liquid left over from the coconut cream)
- 1/2 tablespoon vegan butter
- 3 tablespoons cherry pie filling (go for the goo, not the fruit)
- 1 1/4 cups cherry pie filling
- 1 can (14 ounces) coconut cream, chilled overnight
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- chocolate shavings (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8 baking pan with cooking spray and line it with parchment paper.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir until all the lumps have been broken up.
- Add the water, vegetable oil, vinegar, and vanilla extract to the mixture of dry ingredients. Mix until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
- Once the cake has cooled, use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke holes in the cake (about 20-25 holes). Poke the handle into the middle of the cake, but not all the way to the bottom.
- Place the chocolate chips and vegan butter in a bowl. Heat the milk in the microwave for 1-1 1/2 minutes, or until bubbling. Pour the hot milk over the chocolate chips, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Stir in the 3 tablespoons cherry pie filling.
- Pour the ganache over the cake, making sure it goes into all the holes. Optional: reserve 1/4 cup ganache to drizzle on top of individual portions. Refrigerate until the ganache has cooled, about 15 minutes.
- Spread the remaining 1 1/4 cups cherry pie filling on top of the ganache.
- Place the unopened can of coconut cream in the refrigerator the night before you plan to serve the cake.
- Scoop out the chilled solid cream from the can, leaving behind the liquid at the bottom (you can use this liquid for the chocolate ganache if you like). Place the cream in the bowl of a mixer and mix until smooth (20-30 seconds is sufficient). Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and mix until fully incorporated. Spread the whipped coconut cream on top of the cherry layer, or top individual slices of cake with dollops of whipped coconut cream. Optional: sprinkle chocolate shavings on top.
- For non-vegan shortcuts, feel free to use hot fudge in place of the chocolate ganache, and whipped cream in place of coconut cream.
- If you would like to make cherry pie filling from scratch, the amounts listed in the recipe for cherry pie French toast casserole will yield approximately what you need for this recipe.
I’m sharing this post at the following link parties: The Wednesday Showcase, Foodie FriDIY, Fiesta Friday, and Recipe of the Week.
Cake Lover says
The photos make me want to eat this right now! I guess I need to plan ahead to make this cake – at least a day ahead to chill the coconut cream (premeditated cake). Looks worth the wait!
Yes, there’s a bit of planning involved in the making of this cake, but I think it’s well worth it! If you’re in a hurry, though, you can always sub in regular whipped cream 🙂
This looks so amazing Mara, love that first picture with the light shining on those cherries, yummmmm!
Thanks so much, Loretta! I’m glad you like the photo – I must have taken dozens of that same shot just to make sure I got at least one I’d be happy with!
I love it when we bring back some of the old classics and give them a dusting off… and this cake is definitely proof of why we should! It looks so amazing! That “ganache” is killer and I’d say you can call it whatever you want. Yum!!
I completely agree! I recently received an old cookbook as a gift, and I’m looking forward to trying a few recipes and maybe putting my own spin on them. Thanks for stopping by 🙂
Rachael | Spache the Spatula says
Oh man! This looks so moist and delicious! I love that you’ve made it a vegan version!
Thanks, Rachael! It takes a few additional steps to make it vegan, but it’s definitely worth it, since more people can enjoy it that way.
This is the first time I have heard of a poke cake. Sounds delicious and hope to try it out sometime. Happy Fiesta, Mara!
Thanks, Ahila! Let me know how it goes if you do try it!
I love poke cakes and vegan sounds even better. Happy FF, Mara. 🙂
Thanks! While I certainly don’t eat vegan all (or even most) of the time, I love having vegan recipes so that I can share them with a wider range of friends and family members. Thanks for stopping by!
Megan - The Emotional Baker says
Oh gosh! I’m obsessed with this! I’ve made a few vegan poke cakes, but they’ve never been this gorgeous 🙂
Aw, thanks! I’m glad this caught your eye! I hope you get a chance to try it sometime 🙂
Julie is Hostess At Heart says
This is one beautiful cake! I’m just drooling looking at that first photo!
Thanks, Julie! Truth be told, I’m kind of drooling over it, too… 😉
Mara, this looks so much better than any “traditional” Black Forest I’ve seen! Gorgeous! Thanks for bringing this to Fiesta Friday!
You’re too kind! Thanks, Mollie, and thanks for being a host this week!
My pleasure! I love it because it *makes* make the rounds of all my FF faves – sometimes life just gets too crazy!
Melody Procter says
Wow this is the cake of my dreams!!! YUMMY!!
I’m so glad this caught your eye! Please let me know how it goes if you make it 🙂
Melody Procter says
I certainly will 😀
Have a great week!!
Holy cow, this cake looks amazing! Believe it or not, I’ve never made a poke cake. But I clearly need to get over that. And I think I should start with this one. Well done, and for the record…you nailed the photos on this one! 🙂
Thanks, David! This was actually my first time making a poke cake, but it certainly won’t be the last!
Unwed Housewife says
I am crazy about poke cakes and black forest?! What a creative idea. I have to pin this. Thanks for sharing at Fiesta Friday #117!
Thanks so much, and thanks for hosting this week!
J Seaton says
This looks extremely tempting! I don’t know if I’ve ever craved a vegan recipe this much.
Haha, thanks! I’ve made this chocolate cake base (minus the ganache, cherries, and coconut cream) any number of times, and people are always shocked to learn that it’s vegan.
Could this be double and work okay for a 12X18 sheet cake pan?
I’ve never tried making a larger version, but I don’t see why it couldn’t work! Since an 8×8 has 64 square inches and a 12×18 has 216, a triple recipe would be a better match for that pan size. I would also probably check the cake several minutes early – even a triple recipe is proportionally a little less volume in the 12×18 pan than a single recipe in an 8×8, so it may bake a little faster.
Awesome, thank you! I bought all of the ingredients but could not find coconut cream anywhere. Would cream of coconut (already sweetened kind) work? Maybe without adding the powdered sugar then?
I didn’t actually realize that there is a product called “cream of coconut,” but as far as I can tell from doing a little internet sleuthing, it sounds like they are quite similar (if not identical), other than the question of sweetener. It may still need a bit of powdered sugar, but you can always taste as you go and add sugar as needed 🙂
Is there a non-vegan version where I could add eggs?
This recipe looks amazing and a lot easier than making a black forest cake (my favourite). Can’t wait to try.