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~Gone Bananas: Double Banana Pudding Poke Cake~

IMG_6159Retro recipes with a history to report or a story to share, are fun for me to write.  While plenty of versions for this particular cake are available on the internet, my reason for adding "mine" is two fold:  plenty of present day cooks have no idea what a poke cake is, and, this particular one is, one of three poke cake recipes my mom made when I was growing up in the 1960's and '70's. Because banana pudding is classic and traditional Southern fare (a layered dessert of vanilla cookies, sliced bananas, vanilla pudding and meringue), that would indeed qualify this banana-pudding poke cake for Southern-style status, but poke cakes in general are not Southern.

Banana-pudding poke cake is Southern-style.  Poke cakes per se are not Southern.

IMG_6166Jell-O's poke cake recipes were very trendy in the 1970's.

Thanks to some savvy, now-retro, Jell-O ads in various woman's magazines in the latter 1960's and early 1970's, poke cakes started showing up on dessert tables at America's picnics and potlucks.  My mother subscribed to Women's Day and Redbook, and, I know these publications to be the sources for her three poke cake recipes (banana, chocolate and lemon).  As a working mom, this type of crowd-pleasing cake was quick-and-easy for her to make using just a few store-bought convenience items:  a boxed cake mix, a compatible flavor of Jell-O pudding, and, a tub of non-dairy whipped topping.  Additionally (more-often-than-not), most poke cakes got garnished with crunchy cookies (ex: vanilla, chocolate or lemon), which were often crushed to crumbs.

As a family, all of us loved mom's pudding poked cakes.  

IMG_6056Poke cake per se:  It's a cake baked in a 13" x 9" x 2" cake pan.  While the cake is still quite warm (almost hot), the handle of a wooden spoon is used to poke a goodly-number of evenly-spaced holes into the surface -- like a drill boring holes in a block of wood.  Not-quite-set-yet pudding gets poured or ladled over the holier-than-thou surface, which drizzles down and settles in the holes, filling them up to the top.  The entire surface then gets slathered with a layer of non-dairy whipped topping -- as much as the cake pan has room left to accommodate. Served after a few hours in the refrigerator, my mom's poke cakes were so puddingly-rich and whipped creamily-delish, she often scooped portions into bowls rather than slicing and plating.

Jello-cake-recipe-1978-purple-poke-cake-1-630x850All that said, poke cakes aren't all poked with a wooden spoon and drizzled with a box of prepared pudding.  Some get poked with a toothpick and drenched with a box of prepared gelatin -- my mom never experimented with the creative color schemes of gelatin-themed poke cakes. There's more and fast forward to present day.  Bakeries and home cooks are starting to revisit retro poke cake recipes, updating them with impressive, high-quality buttery-rich scratch-made cakes drizzled with fancy French pastry creams, fruity mousses or chocolate ganache, finished with freshly-whipped real-deal cream. Whether store-bought or scratch-made: all poked cakes are a fun time waiting to happen. 

Dad's favorite:  Gone Bananas Banana Pudding Poked Cake.  

IMG_6030Mom amped up the banana-flavor in her version of the original Jell-O recipe -- which explains why my dad went bananas for this cake:

Besides the requisite 1 cup water, 1/3 cup vegetable oil and 3 large eggs, she added 1, 3.4-ounce box instant banana pudding, 2 teaspoons banana flavoring (I use pure extract), along with 1 additional egg (to add the extra moisture necessary for the dry pudding). Mom's favorite cake mix: 1 Duncan Hines yellow mix.

IMG_6032 IMG_6032~ Step 1.  Spray the inside of a 13" x 9" x 2" clear glass baking dish with no-stick cooking spray. Using a hand-held mixer and a large rubber spatula, prepare the cake mix as the package directs, adding the additional box of banana pudding, banana extract and egg.  Bake cake on center rack of preheated 325° oven 22-24 minutes, until puffed through to the center and a cake tester, when inserted in several spots, comes out clean.  Remove cake from oven and place on a wire rack to cool, for 5-6 minutes.

IMG_6051 IMG_6051~ Step 2.  Be brave.  Using the handle of a wooden spoon or the handle of a similarly-shaped spoon, poke holes, quite a few of them, in random but evenly-spaced spots, straight through to the bottom of the cake.  My cakes got poked 54 times.

IMG_6038Mom always amped up the flavoring in the banana pudding too:

2  3.4-ounce boxes instant banana pudding

2  teaspoon banana extract

1  quart whole milk, cold

IMG_6060~ Step 3. Whisk all ingredients together until smooth.

IMG_6064 IMG_6064 IMG_6076~ Step 4.  Do not wait for the pudding to fully thicken. Within 1 minute, begin ladling it over the surface of the poked cake, allowing it to drizzle down into the holes.  Allow cake to continue to cool, uncovered, for 1 hour. Cover baking pan with its lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

IMG_6105 IMG_6105~ Step 5.  Place 1, 11-12-ounce box Nabisco Nilla Wafers, in a 1-gallon food storage bag and zip or twist it closed.  Using your hands or a small rolling pin, crunch or crush the cookies into bits and pieces.  While there will be some fine crumbs, crunchy cookie pieces combined with some crumbs are ideal.  Remove about 1/2-3/4 cups of the cookie crumbs and pieces from the rest and set them separately aside to use at serving time. 

IMG_6129 IMG_6129 IMG_6129 IMG_6129~Step 6.  Spread 1, 8-ounce container Cool-Whip Non-Dairy Whipped Topping* over top of chilled cake, to top of baking dish -- an offset spatula makes this very easy.  Evenly sprinkle cookie crumbs over all and refrigerate, uncovered until serving time, several hours or overnight. Slice and serve cake, garnishing each portion with a few fresh banana slices and a sprinkling of the reserved crunchy cookie crumbs.  Store leftovers in refrigerator up to 3 days (the cookie crumbs on top of the cake get soft, but even 3 days later, this cake is still super-delicious).

*Note:  8 ounces heavy cream and 1 tablespoon sugar, whipped to a very stiff state using a hand-held electric mixer, may be substituted without compromise in any poke cake recipe.

Remove from refrigerator, slice & serve chilled...

IMG_6123... garnished w/banana slices & crunchy cookie crumbs.

IMG_6163Poke a fork in it & go bananas:

Gone Bananas Double Banana Pudding Poke Cake:  Recipe yields 16-20 servings.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 13" x 9" x 2" cake pan, preferably clear glass w/lid; cake tester or toothpick; wire cooling rack; handle of a wooden spoon or a similarly-shaped spoon handle; 1-quart measuring container; wire whisk; soup ladle; plastic wrap; 1-gallon food storage bag; small rolling pin; offset spatula

6a0120a8551282970b01bb07e5756c970dCook's Note:  If you want to make today's banana pudding poke cake using a scratch-made cake instead of a store-bought mix, I must suggest my recipe for ~ A Sweet Cream Cake:  A Dream of an Easy Cake ~.  Simple, straightforward and scrumptious, this poundcake-ish yet light, dream-of-an-easy-cake recipe should be committed to the memory of every cook who ever entertained the thought of a boxed mix in a time of crisis.  

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)


Thanks Penny -- Happy Easter to you and yours too -- Your PA friend, Mel.

Looks fabulous, sounds fabulous !
Have a very Happy Easter !!!
Your CA. friend,

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