Eggnog Poke Cake is a delightful holiday twist on a classic dessert. Made with a doctored vanilla cake mix, luxurious eggnog-spiked vanilla pudding, and a luscious Cool Whip topping, it is the perfect way to celebrate the season.
This Eggnog Poke Cake is incredibly easy to whip up, making it a stress-free addition to your holiday dessert lineup. Simply follow the straightforward steps below, and you’ll have a crowd-pleasing dessert ready in no time. And for those looking to add an extra layer of indulgence, you can make this cake a bit naughty by spiking it with your favorite holiday liqueur or rum. It’s the perfect way to take your festivities to the next level!
Ingredients for Eggnog Poke Cake
- Vanilla Cake Mix – Provides the base for the cake, ensuring a light and fluffy texture with a hint of vanilla flavor.
- Ground Cinnamon – Adds warm, aromatic spice that complements the eggnog’s flavors and enhances the overall taste.
- Ground Nutmeg – Infuses the cake with a festive, nutty flavor reminiscent of classic eggnog.
- Eggnog – Plays a dual role in this recipe, adding the signature eggnog taste to both the cake and pudding.
- Canola Oil – Keeps the cake moist and tender while also contributing to its soft crumb.
- Eggs – Bind the cake together, provide structure, and helps it rise.
- Instant Vanilla Pudding – Enhances the cake’s creamy texture and complements the eggnog flavor, making it irresistibly decadent. You will need two 3.4 ounce boxes.
- Cool Whip – Adds a light, sweet topping that complements the richness of the cake and pudding.
Making the Eggnog Poke Cake
- Preheat and prep – Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13 inch cake pan with baking spray, ensuring the cake won’t stick. Set the pan aside.
- Mix up the cake – In a large mixing bowl, mix the cake mix, cinnamon, and nutmeg until well combined. Add 1 cup of eggnog, canola oil, and eggs. Mix until you have a smooth, creamy cake batter.
- Bake the cake – Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature.
- Poke the holes – Using the rounded handle of a wooden spoon, gently poke rows of holes across the entire surface of the cake, keeping them about 1 inch apart.
- Whisk and pour – In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 cups of eggnog and the vanilla pudding mix until the mixture thickens. Pour this creamy pudding mixture over the cake, ensuring it fills the holes. Spread it into an even layer, gently pressing it down into the holes as you go. This layer adds a luscious texture and extra eggnog goodness to the cake.
- Top It off and chill – Generously cover the cake with Cool Whip. Refrigerate for at least two hours to allow the flavors to meld and the cake to set.
- Chill and Set – Once out of the oven, allow the bars to cool at room temperature for about an hour. Then, transfer them to the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours to ensure the cheesecake layer sets properly.
- Garnish and serve – Just before serving, consider sprinkling a touch of cinnamon or ground nutmeg over your Eggnog Poke Cake for a festive final flourish.
Variations and substitutions
Alcohol infusion – For an adult twist, you can spike the eggnog used in the cake batter with a bit of rum, bourbon, or your favorite liqueur. Typically, a good starting point is to add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of rum, bourbon, or liqueur for a standard-sized cake recipe. However, it’s essential to taste the batter as you go and adjust the amount of alcohol to your preference. Keep in mind that the alcohol will bake off to some extent during the cooking process, so the final cake will have a milder alcoholic flavor than the raw batter.
Cake mix flavor – Yellow, white, or spice cake mix can be used instead of the vanilla cake. If using white cake mix, consider adding 2 teaspoons of vanilla to the cake batter to enhance the flavor. If you opt for spice cake mix, simply omit the ground cinnamon and nutmeg from the recipe.
Homemade whipped cream – Instead of Cool Whip, you can use 3 cups of freshly whipped cream for a homemade touch. Sweeten it to your liking with powdered sugar and vanilla extract.
Fresh eggnog – While the recipe typically calls for store-bought eggnog, you can make your own homemade eggnog for a truly authentic touch.
Reduced sugar – For a lighter version, consider using a sugar-free cake mix, sugar-free pudding, low-fat eggnog, and zero-sugar Cool Whip.
Tips for success
- Use instant pudding – To achieve the right texture and consistency, be sure to use instant pudding mix, not the cook-and-serve kind. Instant pudding sets quickly and is ideal for this recipe.
- Cold eggnog – When preparing the pudding layer, use cold eggnog. Cold eggnog helps the pudding thicken rapidly, ensuring it’s creamy and sets perfectly within the cake.
- Choose the right tool for poking – Ensure you’re using the right-sized tool to poke the holes in the cake. Aim for something between 1/4 and 1/2 inch in diameter to ensure the holes are large enough to accommodate the delicious eggnog pudding mixture. I find that the rounded handle of a wooden spoon or the thick end of a chopstick works well for this task. Unlike some poke cakes that may use a fork, this recipe’s thicker filling requires larger holes for optimal flavor infusion.
- Smooth the pudding layer – When pouring the pudding over the cake, take your time to spread it evenly and gently press it into the holes. Using a rubber spatula can be especially helpful for achieving a smooth and even layer, ensuring that the pudding fills every nook and cranny for a decadent texture throughout the cake.
- Chill for flavor fusion: – Allow the cake to refrigerate for at least two hours before serving. This resting period allows the flavors to meld, resulting in a more flavorful and cohesive dessert.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to three days. Be sure to wrap the pan tightly with plastic wrap before storing, or transfer the leftovers to an airtight container.
This cake should not be frozen. The texture of the pudding will change once thawed and make the cake soggy.
Eggnog Poke Cake FAQs
Absolutely, making this cake in advance is not only possible but often a fantastic idea. In fact, allowing it to chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight can actually enhance the flavors and overall texture of the cake.
The benefit of making this Eggnog Poke Cake ahead of time is that it allows the eggnog-infused pudding layer to meld with the cake, resulting in a richer and more harmonious flavor profile. Additionally, the cake has time to set, making it easier to slice and serve neatly.
When poking holes in the cake, it’s crucial to maintain a spacing of approximately 1 inch between each hole. If the holes are made close together, it can compromise the cake’s structural integrity. The excess moisture from the pudding may weaken the cake, causing it to become overly moist in certain areas and potentially leading to it falling apart when sliced. To ensure the cake retains its delightful structure and texture, proper hole spacing is essential, allowing for a consistent infusion of eggnog flavor while maintaining its overall stability.
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Eggnog Poke Cake
- 1 (15.25 ounce) box of vanilla cake mix
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 4 cups eggnog divided
- ⅓ cup canola or vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 2 (3.4 ounce) boxes of instant vanilla pudding mix
- 1 (8 ounce) tub of whipped topping, thawed
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9×13 inch cake pan with baking spray and set aside.
- Whisk together the cake mix, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl until well combined. Add 1 cup of eggnog, oil, and eggs and beat until well combined.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature.
- Poke rows of holes over the surface of the cake 1 inch apart using the rounded handle of a wooden spoon.
- Whisk the remaining 3 cups of eggnog and vanilla pudding in a large bowl until it thickens.
- Pour the pudding over the cake and spread it into an even layer, pressing it down into the holes as you go.
- Top the cake with whipped topping and refrigerate for at least two hours to allow the flavors to meld.
- Garnish with a sprinkling of cinnamon or ground nutmeg before serving if desired.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to three days. Be sure to wrap the pan tightly with plastic wrap before storing, or transfer the leftovers to an airtight container.
- This cake should not be frozen. The texture of the pudding will change once thawed and make the cake soggy.
- I used Betty Crocker vanilla cake mix in this recipe. If you use a different cake mix, adjust the oil and egg quantities based on the package directions and replace the water called for on the box with eggnog.
- Be sure to use instant pudding mix and not the cook-and-serve kind.