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.