Poke Cakes Are The Secret To Great Flavor Distribution

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To revitalize the Jello-O mold-loving world of the 1950s and 60s, when homemakers seemingly encased everything from cherries to shrimp in gelatin, the company invented the Jello-O poke cake. The punchline ripe named cake was developed by General Foods Kitchens and first appeared in a 1976 Jello-O advertisement and recipe booklet.

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the highly processed cake creates a tie-dye effect with bright colors striping the finished product. The tie-dye-loving homemakers of the 70s instantly made poke cakes a popular dessert due partly to the foolproof recipe that homemakers could count on as they began to work outside the home, leaving less time to dedicate to the kitchen. Beginning with a boxed cake mix, a poke cake requires a package of Jell-O in any flavor or color and a container of Cool Whip.

To appreciate the colors, a white cake mix was made according to package directions in the form of a sheet or double-layer cake. Once baked, the cake was poked with a fork, creating channels throughout the cake. Warm Jell-O was then poured on top, seeping into the crumb and filling all those tiny holes. After the cake cooled for several hours, allowing the Jell-O to set, Cool-Whip was added on top concealing all the holes.

The technique not only produces an interesting effect when the cake is cut, but all those holes distribute flavor throughout the cake, adding, in this case, a fruity flavor and leaving a very moist cake to enjoy.

Modern poke cakes

Baker Anne Byrn, author of "The Cake Mix Doctor" cookbooks and "A New Take on Cake," points out that injecting a cake with syrup began long before the 1970s. European kitchens have been revitalizing stale or dry cakes for centuries. The French genoise sponge cake, Spanish tres leches, and Italian tiramisu are flavor combinations that have been enjoyed for generations, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Although bakers may not be using Jell-O this time around, Insider reports the retro, kitschy poke cakes are making a comeback. The modern version uses the handle of a wooden spoon to poke larger holes in the cake to deliver a dose of flavor in each bite and uses a variety of liquids, from caramel and fudge to liquors like Baileys and fresh berry compotes.

Today's poke cakes focus less on the visual effect the poke cake provides and more on the flavor and how the technique moistens the crumb. Modern combinations include red velvet with condensed milk to a decadent Butterfinger poke cake with a base of devil's food cake that's poked and filled with sweetened condensed milk, hot fudge sauce, and warm caramel, that's topped with Cool Whip and garnished with crushed candy bars. With unlimited flavor combinations, whether you begin with a boxed mix or make the cake from scratch, a poke cake is definitely an option.