Strawberry Poke Cake

This Strawberry Poke Cake is made with a moist vanilla cake covered with sweetened condensed milk and a fresh strawberry sauce! It is then topped with cream cheese whipped cream for a delicious strawberry treat that is homemade from scratch!

Strawberry Poke Cake

Strawberry Poke Cake recipe

I’m so excited to finally share this Strawberry Poke Cake with you today! After many versions of this cake, I finally have a winner! I wanted to make it completely from scratch with no cake mix and it took a while to get it just right. I considered using a couple different versions of my vanilla cake and experimented with both of them.

First I played around with my original moist and fluffy vanilla cake. It’s such a wonderful vanilla cake, but it has a large amount of butter and sugar and gives you a little more of a dense cake. When combined with the sweetened condensed milk and fresh strawberry mixture, it was just a little too much.

Next, I played around my newest moist vanilla cake. I love this cake. Such a classic! Light, moist and full of flavor! But when made into a 9 x 13, it was a little more dense than I wanted so I had to make some adjustments. One of the biggest differences you’ll notice is that I decided to use cake flour. I don’t use cake flour that often, so when I do it’s because it really makes a difference. In this particular cake it really lightens the cake up and gives it a very tender crumb.

So how do you make a Strawberry Poke Cake?

Well for starters, you’ll make the cake. This cake uses the traditional creaming method. It also uses a combination of butter and vegetable oil to add both flavor to the cake and moisture that lasts.

Once the cake is baked, you’ll poke it with holes all over. You can poke the holes right away or wait until the cake has cooled. I often like to wait until the cake is cool because I feel like you don’t get as many crumbs coming out of the cake when you poke it, but otherwise there’s really no difference. I use a knife sharpening rod to poke my cake but feel free to use something similar, like the end of a wooden spoon or a large straw. You just want to be sure to have holes large enough that the sauce will be able to fill them.

Best Strawberry Poke CakeBest Strawberry Cake recipe

The first thing that is poured over the cake is sweetened condensed milk. I debated whether not to use it on this cake but ended up deciding it was a definite YES. It adds great flavor and moisture to a poke cake and this cake is no exception.

Following the sweetened condensed milk, the cake is covered in a homemade strawberry sauce. It’s made with a combination of fresh strawberries that are puréed in a food processor, sugar and a little vanilla extract. It’s cooked over the stove for a bit to thicken the sauce a little and bring out the flavor of the strawberries. Most of the sauce will soak into the holes, but some will be left sitting on top of the cake.

I’m often asked if using frozen fruit is ok, and in this cake I’ll go ahead and tell you that it is. Frozen strawberries would work just fine, as long as you have the same amount of strawberry puree to work with.

After adding the milk and strawberry sauce to cake, you’ll refrigerate it until everything is nice and cool, then add the topping.

The topping is a fresh whipped cream made with cream cheese. It’s super easy to make and wonderfully light! It complements the Strawberry Poke Cake perfectly! The cream cheese adds a bit of flavor to the whipped cream so that you have a nice strawberries and cream cake – such a classic flavor for summer!

slice of Strawberry Poke Cake

As with most poke cakes, this one is refrigerated. I will say though that I prefer to serve it a little closer to room temperature. I’m not a huge fan of refrigerating cakes in general – I think it dries them out and takes away from the flavors – but sometimes it’s necessary. With this cake, I would recommend serving a little cool, but not cold.

The final cake really is a party in a pan! The moist vanilla cake, sweetened condensed milk, fresh strawberry sauce and cream cheese whipped cream topping all go perfectly together! It’s a light, wonderful dessert that’d be great to serve at a potluck or just have at home on a fun night in!

Read transcript

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slice of Strawberry Poke Cake

Strawberry Poke Cake

  • Author: Life Love and Sugar
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 32 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 47 minutes
  • Yield: 12-15 Slices
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American


This Strawberry Poke Cake is made with a moist vanilla cake covered with sweetened condensed milk and a fresh strawberry sauce! It is then topped with cream cheese whipped cream for a delicious strawberry treat that is homemade from scratch!



  • 2 3/4 cups (358g) cake flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup (168g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (310g) sugar
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups (300ml) milk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk


  • 1 1/2 lbs strawberries, pureed*
  • 1/2 cup (104g) sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  • 1 3/4 cups (420ml) heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 3/4 cup (86g) powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • Strawberries, for topping, optional


1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C) and grease a 9×13 cake pan.
2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
3. Add the butter, sugar and oil to a large mixer bowl and beat together until light in color and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Do not skimp on the creaming time.
4. Add the eggs and mix until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated.
5. Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until mostly combined.
6. Add the milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
7. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated. Do not over mix the batter.
8. Add the batter to the prepared cake pan and spread evenly.
9. Bake for 28-32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out with just a few crumbs.
10. Poke holes all over the cake. I use a knife sharpening rod, but you could also use something like the end of a wooden spoon or a large straw. The holes can be poked when the cake is warm or after it has cooled.
11. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the can and spread it evenly so that it can soak into the holes.
12. Add the pureed strawberries, sugar and vanilla extract to a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until it begins to boil. Boil for 1 minute
13. Remove the strawberry sauce from the heat and pour it over the cake, spreading it evenly and letting the juices soak down into the holes. There will still be a thin layer of the sauce on top of the cake.
14. Cover the cake and refrigerate cake until completely cooled.
15. To make the whipped cream, add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract to a large mixer bowl. Whip on high speed until soft peaks form.
16. Add the cream cheese and whip on high speed until stiff peaks form and whipped cream is smooth.
17. Set aside about 1 cup of the whipped cream and then spread the rest evenly onto the cake.
18. To finish off the cake, top it with swirls of the remaining whipped cream and some additional strawberries. I sliced some strawberries very thinly and added a layer of those on top of the cake, then added the piped whipped cream.
19. Store the cake in the fridge until ready to serve. Allow the cake to sit out for about 45 minutes before serving. Serve the cake cool, but not cold (it just tastes best that way). The cake is best when stored well covered and eaten within 3-4 days.

* about 3 1/2 – 4 cups of chopped strawberries

Keywords: strawberry cake recipe, vanilla cake recipe, homemade cake recipe, strawberry sauce



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Recipe rating

  1. Holly

    I made this for my grandmother’s birthday and it was so incredibly amazing! I highly recommend this recipe. I used frozen strawberries to make the mixture to pour over the cake and cooked it just a little longer since it had more liquid in it. Turned out great, just a little darker red.

    I also saw some of the comments about the cream cheese being an issue so I took the time to whip mine separately before adding to the whipped cream a bit at a time to avoid lumps. I had no issues! Thank you for another wonderful recipe!

  2. Sumayyah

    Hello, can I substitute all purpose flour for the cake flour? I was going to do the substitute by adding cornstarch but I ran out 🙁

  3. Cheryl Wells

    How would you compare your cake to a boxed cake mix?  I want to do everything you do but with a boxed cake but not sure if it would maybe soak into the cake.

  4. Jo'Ann

    I recently made this cake. It is absolutely delicious, very light, a perfect summer cake. Everyone loved it! In fact my husband told me it was one of the best cakes I ever made. I only used sweetened whip cream for the topping and did not add the cream cheese, although next time I make it, I will adding the cream cheese to the topping. I am thinking about trying it with a fresh peach topping. This cake is a keeper!!

  5. Alice

    So, I made this, but when made the strawberry puree, I started to doubt the recipe. I did not see how so much thin liquid could be pour on a cake without turning it into a sugary swamp. I was so doubtful
    that I didn’t want to waste my cream cheese, so I just topped it with whipped cream the next day. (The creamed cheese would have been good, but the whipped cream worked too and was a little lighter.) I am glad to say that my worries were unfounded. It was wet, but not falling apart soaked like I feared. The texture was good, and the flavor was fantastic, and it’s all gone. I am sorry I was a doubter!

  6. SB

    I love all your recipes!!! Your blog is my go-to because I’ve just had so many successes, and this was no exception! Amazingly light sponge and just delicious balance of flavors. I made half the quantity in a 10″ springform pan and it turned out great. Love love love!

  7. Erin

    I used the base vanilla cake from this recipe for a butterscotch polk cake I was making, and it turned out wonderfully! The vanilla cake has wonderful flavour, and it is SO moist, soft, and fluffy, with a light and springy crumb. It’s my new favorite vanilla sheet cake recipe, and I know I’ll be using it again and again! 🙂

    1. Lindsay

      You will want to use all purpose flour. A common substitution is to use all purpose flour, but for every cup you would remove 2 tablespoons of flour and add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.

  8. Linda Beate

    Hi! I made this cake with mascarpone and it was really delicious 🙂 I brought in the leftovers for work and got compliments from literally eyeryone 🙂 I want to make again now, but this time I need the cake to be lactose-free. Most of the dairy ingredients can be bought as a lactose free version in the stores. But I’m struggling to figure out the Sweetened Condensed Milk. Does it have a function in the cake, or is it just for flavour? Any ideas what i could use as a substitute? Thanks in advance xx

    1. Lindsay

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! The mascarpone sounds wonderful! As for a substitute, some people use pudding, though it is thicker. Could you use the lactose-free milk with pudding? You could also just leave it off. It’s meant to add some flavor and lots of moisture to the cake, kind of like tres leches cake. But you don’t have to use it.

  9. Hb

    This cake is so delicious! Definitely a keeper! The only change I made was using almond extract in the strawberry sauce instead of vanilla. It’s added a satisfying depth and nuttiness to the flavor. Next time I will try to find a way to work in some lemon- I just have to decide which component to add it to. 

  10. Merry

    Would it be okay if i made this ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge for a couple hours? Or would it get too soggy?

    1. Lindsay

      Definitely! In fact, most poke cakes really are best if they have a little while to sit before serving. I typically make them a night ahead.

  11. Tina

    This recipe came out great, I loved the cake flavor on its own and the the layer of strawberry sauce + cream cheese whipped cream just made this dessert truly something special. I made everything except for the whipped cream mixture, I bought whipped cream and creamed it together with the cream cheese & remaining topping ingredients. I also had to let my cakes bake for an additional 10 minutes or so. I was so afraid of putting too much strawberry sauce but I could’ve used more. Mines didn’t go all the way down to the bottle such as the one posted here. I also added lemon juice to cut some sweetness in the strawberry sauce. My sauce didn’t come out as red as yours did , I’m wondering if I mix strawberry jello mix with it will it come out a bit more red with more strawberry flavor. Made 2 of these cakes I’m already on my 4th slice:-)

  12. Sam

    Ur recipe is amazing! I made this dessert and my family loved it…..its a crowd pleaser. Thanks for sharing ur recipe.

  13. Suzette

    Has anyone used Cool Whip instead of heavy whipping cream? No whipping cream in the house and too tired to go get it. 

  14. Cindy

    NO matter how long I whipped the whipped the whipping cream with the added cream cheese it did not form any kind of peaks it turned to soup!

    1. Lindsay

      Hmm, was the whipping cream nice and cold? Did you use the full amount of powdered sugar? It should definitely form peaks. I’ve used that whipped cream many times without an issue.

  15. Heather

    I made this cake and it came out pretty well. The cake was tender and tasty. The sweetened condensed milk gave it an interesting taste. I was worried it would be a mushy mess after I added the strawberry purée, but it came out fine. I think I should have made larger holes for the condensed milk and strawberry purée to seep in to. My whip cream/cream cheese was a little lumpy but still tasted great. Everyone enjoyed!

    Lone your recipes! Thank you.

  16. Maria

    Delicious! I made this cake for a family gathering and I received so many compliments! Thank you! Will be making it again!

  17. Sunuchakan

    My mixture of whipping cream and cream cheese came out to liquid. It deoes not stay fix over the cake like your. I don’t know what I did wrong.

      1. Sunuchakan Sanguanmith

        I used the stand mixer to mix everything together. I tried 2 times, but it didn’t worked for me. Did you use any specific whipping cream?

      2. Lindsay

        I actually use my store brand heavy whipping cream (Publix). Are you using HEAVY whipping cream or just whipping cream? There’s a different amount of fat between which can make a difference.

  18. Aracelis Reyes

    Just wondering if anyone who has made this cake thought the sweetened condensed milk made cake too sweet.  Some of my family members and i don’t like cakes when they are too sweet and i thought that the strawberry purée made with sugar combined with the milk would be overly sweet.  Any comments appreciated cause I would really love to try thia

  19. Sandy

    How do you get the “pokes” to come out so visible? I poke all the way to the bottom of the pan, but they never look like that. It seems the liquid doesn’t soak all the way into the poke hole.

    1. Lindsay

      Hmm, it could be from the size of what you use to poke the holes. I use a knife sharpener, so maybe that’s wider?

    1. Lindsay

      Gosh, I don’t really measure, but maybe 1/2 to 1 inch apart. I like to have plenty of holes for the filling to seep into without ruining the structure of the cake. I push all the way down to the bottom.

  20. Shannon

    I do have one question…I have this in the fridge right now! But I typically whip my whipping cream cold. But when I added my room temp cream cheese it immediately went into little chunks!! It was impossible to beat until it was smooth! Not very appealing!  What is your suggestion! Beat the whipping cream when it is room temp?

    1. Lindsay

      Hmm, I’m sorry you had trouble with chunks. Mine usually smooths out fine (I use a stand mixer – don’t know if that makes a difference). You could try beating the cream cheese separately, so that it’s smooth before adding it to the whipped cream. You definitely want to use cold heavy whipping cream for whipped cream.

    2. Paula

      I mixed up the order and started whipping up the cream cheese and sugar first. I added the cream in slowly after and it formed nice peaks! A stand mixer makes a huge difference! I also let it go for several minutes. 🙂

    1. Lindsay

      Hmm, probably practice cutting a LOT of cakes. 🙂 I also wipe the blade of the knife with a paper towel between cuts.

  21. Jenny

    This looks wonderful! I made it and will be bringing it to a potluck today. Haven’t yet had the chance to taste it, but looking forward to it 🙂

    I had a little bit of trouble baking the cake. Not sure if I went wrong somewhere? After 32 minutes of baking, the outside was dark golden brown and edges were done, but this inside was still gooey! I had to bake it for another 10+ minutes or so. Also, wondering if you have any tips on the frosting. I had the cream cheese at room temp, but it I couldn’t quite get all the lumps our and it never formed stiff peaks. Any tips are appreciated. LOVE your blog!!!

    1. Lindsay

      I hope you enjoyed it!

      For baking time, it could simply be a difference in our ovens. Hard to say for sure. Hopefully it baked up alright. For the whipped cream, were you using a hand mixer or stand? I find that the stand mixer tends to do a better job getting out the lumps and producing a stiffer whipped cream. But in the future, you could definitely beat the cream cheese until it’s smooth separately and then add it.

  22. Angela

    I am going to make this for my husbands birthday. I am so smitten with your berry marscarpone cake that I am going to replace the cream cheese in this recipe with marscarpone. This looks so delicious I am so excited to make it. I received so many compliments from the berry marscarpone cake, some people even declared it was the best cake they have ever had. Thank you for so many wonderful recipes.

About Lindsay

I'm a wife and mom to twin boys, a baby girl and a sweet black lab with a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the sugar!

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