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Easy Banana Pudding Poke Cake

This banana pudding poke cake is a moist vanilla cake loaded with mashed banana, filled with vanilla pudding, and topped with freshly sliced bananas, whipped cream, and crushed Nilla Wafers.

side view of a slice of banana pudding poke cake with more cake and a jug of milk in the background.

Easy Banana Pudding Poke Cake

I think at this point we’ve established just how much I love poke cakes. And for good reason! Not only are they so easy to make, but they taste so decadent and delicious and can be made with so many different flavors.

Recently, I’ve become obsessed with any banana-flavored dessert. It started with a copycat Magnolia Bakery banana pudding and no-bake banana pudding cheesecake. Now, I’m expanding my roster of banana desserts with this delicious banana pudding poke cake. This easy banana pudding cake comes together seamlessly thanks to a boxed vanilla cake mix that I jazz up with a few flavorful ingredients. This is a dessert I’ll be making time and time again!

Why You’ll Love This Pudding Poke Cake

  • Easy ingredients. One of the things I love most about poke cakes is how simple they are to make. This recipe starts with a basic boxed cake mix made better with mashed banana, brown sugar, and buttermilk.
  • Moist and tender. The brown sugar in this cake recipe adds a warm sweetness while the buttermilk creates the ultimate moist and tender texture.
  • Delicious banana flavor. This poke cake is filled with vanilla pudding, then layered with sliced banana, whip, and plenty of crushed Nilla wafers. It has all the flavors of banana pudding wrapped up in a mouthwatering homemade cake.
closeup side view of a square slice of banana cake topped with Nilla wafers.

Key Ingredients

Here are a few ingredient notes to keep in mind before you start on your poke cake recipe. Scroll to the recipe card below for the full list of ingredients and amounts. You can skip the ingredients listed on the cake mix box and follow the recipe as written.

  • Vanilla Cake Mix – I like to keep the recipe super simple with a cake mix. If you want to make it entirely from scratch, use my Easy Vanilla Cake recipe.
  • Brown Sugar – I use light brown sugar, but whatever you have on hand will work.
  • Buttermilk – If you have buttermilk already, use that. Otherwise, you can check out my homemade buttermilk substitute using regular milk and lemon juice or vinegar.
  • Oil & Eggs
  • Pure Vanilla Extract
  • Bananas – The riper, the better. Bananas with any green on them won’t be nearly as sweet!
  • Instant Vanilla Pudding – Or, if you like an even more intense banana flavor, you can use instant banana pudding for the filling. I prefer vanilla so the cake and toppings and cake stand out more.
  • Cool Whip – You can also use homemade whipped cream if preferred.

How to Make Banana Pudding Poke Cake

This pudding poke cake takes next to no time to prep! Here’s a quick summary of the recipe:

  • Make the cake: In a bowl, mix cake mix, brown sugar, buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Beat until blended, then add the mashed bananas and mix until incorporated. Pour into a 9×13″ baking dish, then bake until set. Cool for 20 minutes.
  • Poke the holes: Using the handle end of a wooden spoon, poke holes all over the top of your cake. Make them deep enough to add the filling, but not too deep.
  • Add the filling: In a bowl, mix vanilla pudding mix and milk. Immediately pour the liquid mixture over the cake, then spread evenly to get the filling into the holes. Place into the fridge until cooled.
  • Top and serve: Lay sliced bananas over the top of the cake, cover with Cool Whip, then top with crushed Nilla Wafers.
two slices of poke cake on a white plate set on a teal kitchen towel.

Tips and Tricks

I’ll warn you now, you’ll be as obsessed with this banana pudding poke cake as I am. Luckily, it’s one of the easiest desserts to make. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Mash the bananas well. You’re more than welcome to leave a few bigger pieces if you like a little texture in your cake, but I prefer the banana to be fully mashed.
  • How to tell the cake is done. To make sure your cake is cooked all the way through, insert a toothpick into the very center. If it comes out clean, it’s good to go. If there are still moist crumbs on the toothpick, it needs a few more minutes. This cake is quite dense.
  • Cool slightly before poking. I recommend letting the cake cool for about 20 minutes before you poke the holes. You want it to still be warm, but if it’s too hot you’ll end up with a mess.
  • Make it ahead of time. The best part about poke cakes is they really just get better as they sit and all those flavors meld together. I recommend making yours the day before you plan to serve it! You can always add the fresh bananas and Cool Whip before serving to maintain freshness. See below for more make-ahead and storage tips.
a fork being plunged into a slice of banana poke cake topped with a nilla wafer.

Common Questions

Why is it called a poke cake?

Poke cakes get their name from the fact that after the cake is baked, holes are poked in the top and a pourable topping is added, such as pudding, condensed milk, or even Jell-O.

Can I use different flavors of cake and pudding?

Absolutely! There are so many variations of poke cake that you can try. Chocolate poke cake, Jello poke cake, the limit does not exist.

What keeps the bananas from turning brown in the pudding?

Adding a layer of whipped cream over the sliced bananas helps to seal them and prevents them from browning. Only slice your bananas just before you’re ready to use them and add the topping.

Make-Ahead and Storage Tips

  • Make-ahead: To make this pudding poke cake ahead of time, prepare the cake and add the filling up to 1-2 days in advance. Leave off the whipped topping until you’re ready to serve. Refrigerate the cake and whenever you’re ready, make a fresh batch of whipped cream and add it to the cake just before serving.
  • Storing: The fully assembled poke cake must be stored in the refrigerator. It will last in an airtight container for 3-5 days, but the bananas are freshest in the first day or two.  
  • Freezing: I don’t advise freezing the assembled poke cake. Instead, bake the banana cake, allow it to cool completely, and then freeze it airtight. Defrost the cake at room temperature and then add the filling and whipped topping.

More Cake Mix Recipes You’ll Love

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closeup of a slice of banana pudding poke cake topped with a Nilla wafer and whipped cream.

Easy Banana Pudding Poke Cake

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  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 32 minutes
  • Total Time: 47 minutes
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This easy banana pudding poke cake is a moist vanilla cake loaded with mashed banana, filled with vanilla pudding, and topped with freshly sliced bananas, whipped cream, and crushed Nilla Wafers.


Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 1 box (15oz) vanilla cake mix
  • ½ cup (110g) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup (236ml) buttermilk
  • ½ cup (118ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
  • 2 medium bananas, smashed

For the Toppings:

  • 1 package (3.4 oz) instant vanilla pudding 
  • 1 ¾ cups (414ml) milk
  • 2 to 3 medium bananas
  • 8 ounces (226g) Cool Whip
  • Nilla wafer cookies for garnish

Instructions

For the Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine cake mix, brown sugar, buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs & vanilla extract. Beat on medium–high speed until all ingredients are well blended. Add the smashed bananas and continuing mixing until the bananas are well incorporated. Use a spatula to mix the batter from the bottom of the bowl to the top to ensure it’s well mixed.
  3. Pour the batter into a 9-inch by 13-inch pan and bake at 350°F for 28 to 32 minutes until the cake is set. Test the cake by inserting a toothpick into the center. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done. Allow the cake to cool for 20 minutes.

For the Filling:

  1. While the cake is still warm, take the end of a wooden spoon or another round object and poke holes all over the top of your cake.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the vanilla pudding mix and the milk and whisk just until the liquid starts to dissolve. Immediately pour the pudding mix over the top of the cake and try to spread it evenly. Put the whole cake in the refrigerator until it is completely cooled.
  3. Prior to serving, slice the bananas and lay across the top of the cake and cover Cool Whip.
  4. Take a few Nilla Wafers and crush them in your hands to sprinkle over the top.
  5. Keep this cake refrigerated.


Notes

Cake is adapted from the Cake Mix Doctor

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 slice
  • Calories: 329
  • Sugar: 35 g
  • Sodium: 345.1 mg
  • Fat: 13.2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 49.2 g
  • Fiber: 0.8 g
  • Protein: 4.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 39.9 mg

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4 comments on “Easy Banana Pudding Poke Cake”

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    Elizabeth @ Confessions of a Baking Queen

    I cannot wait to hear about your Portland trip my sisters and I are debating where to go for a couple days in October. This banana pudding cake looks awesome, my sisters would be all over this! And I love a good cold cake esp in this california heat!