Delicious Poke Cakes

Delicious Poke Cakes: 80 Super Simple Desserts With an Extra Flavor Punch in Each Bite
Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore
St. Martin’s Griffin, 2017

Current food trends dictate that I first read the title Delicious Poke Cakes as poke, the Hawaiian raw fish salad, and thought, hey, I love poke, bring it on. So I was surprised to get this book and realize that it was poke, like you do on Facebook, that is “to prod or push, especially with something narrow or pointed, as a finger, elbow, stick, etc.” The poke cake is an old creation in which a cake is poked with a fork, skewer, chopstick, or spoon handle and then a liquid, gel, or custard is poured over the cake so the holes made by poking fill with the liquid, adding flavour, texture and visual drama when the cake is cut.

While poke cakes of various types have been around for years (lemon loaf, for instance, with the glaze on top), the most famous of all the genre must be the holiday layer cake that came to prominence in the 1970s in which red and green gelatin is poured over/into layers of white sponge cake. We had one of these in our house every Christmas when I was growing up, and while I’m not sure anybody actually ate any of it, what with all the other piles of candy and treats around, it was always fun to make.

This book, by Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore offers 80 recipes for different styles of poke cakes, employing everything from the old stand-by gelatin to custard, pudding, caramel, peanut butter, and even whisky.

While Wyss and Moore do offer recipes for “made from scratch” yellow, white, and chocolate cakes at the beginning of the book, most of the recipes are made with cake mixes. The authors use the justification of time and convenience, but to my mind, if you’ve still got to add milk and an egg to the cake mix, and you’re going to the trouble of mixing up a liquid topping/filling, you might as well just skip the mix and go with the scratch recipe. Certainly it will taste better minus all those unnecessary stabilizers and such, no?

My other complaint is that I’d have liked more photographs — one for every recipe, ideally, and probably less than half the recipes have an accompanying image. If the point of poking the cake and adding a topping is to add visual appeal, then allowing the reader to see the finished product would be a good thing.

The book is well laid-out with clear and concise instructions and readable fonts. Given that methods vary greatly depending on the cake’s ingredients, the authors do a good job of explaining the steps of each cake.

There are definitely some creative flavour combinations here and many of these recipes have a bit of a science element to them (the use of gelatin, or soda pop to create a specific texture or effect, for instance); as such they would be great fun to make with kids.

This is a good, fun, family cookbook and a creative baker could take these cakes from homey to sophisticated. Just please use the “from scratch” recipes provided, and replace things like the suggested tub of whipped topping with real cream.

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