My mom’s holiday poke cake

When my mom found out she had leukemia, she did what she had always done… she thought about how she could make everyone else feel better about it.  She had a job that she loved, that she wasn’t ready to leave, and friends who she’d worked with for over 20 years.  So she decided instead of making a big deal about leaving because she was sick, she’d ease her leaving by showing up at friends’ desks with a gift for them.  Something to distract everyone from what they didn’t know how to talk to her about. So she made this book:

The book was filled with all her favorite recipes, pictures from her travels, and funny little sayings.  The recipes are all recipes that I know from my childhood including Holiday Poke Cake.

My mom made Poke Cake every Christmas, along with tons of all our favorite kinds of cookies.  Poke Cake is awesome because it can be changed to fit any holiday!  For Christmas we had one layer cherry and one layer lime.  When the Suns were in the playoffs when I was young we had grape and orange.  Fourth of July?  Blueberry and Strawberry.

Last week Ryan had to work 3 shifts in a row (that’s 72 hrs in a row for those counting at home), which is always miserable for both of us.  So I decided I’d go down to visit him halfway through, and I hardly ever show up at the station without baked goods.  It’s only polite.  :-)

Ryan wanted orange, so I did a green layer with it.  Truthfully… not my favorite poke combo.  The cake itself is very easy to make.  You make a white cake box mix in two round pans, let the layers cool, then poke them with a fork, prepare jello in two different colors, then drizzle over the poked layers. Then stick them both in the fridge for 3 hours.

After 3 hours, take them out of the fridge and unmold them.  Put some warm water in the sink, and let the pan sit in the warm water for about 20 seconds.  Theoretically the layers should just come right out.  Mine got stuck a little, but that’s what frosting is for.

*Aside for photo geeks: I should apologize for the darkness of my photos.  I remembered at 2am last night that today was Monday, and therefore Amanda N post day (why did I pick Monday?!?!).  As a result, my photos are not processed. I like to take my photos dark in my kitchen and then ‘fix’ the exposure in my raw files.  That way I don’t get a lot of grain by upping the ISO to compensate for the fact that our kitchen is lit like a cave.  The end*

Anyway… a tip for frosting in general.  I put smallish pieces of wax paper under the edges of my cake.  When you frost, any spill-over will get caught on the wax paper.  When you’re done frosting, voila!  Just pull the wax paper out from underneath the cake. The result is really pretty when you cut it.

I thought I was a genius for making the fire boys a pretty cake until I saw what was in their fridge….  Good thing those boys get to workout on shift.

I’ll be featuring other recipes from my mom’s little recipe book in weeks to come.  Every time I pull it out to make something I wonder if my mom didn’t actually make that book just for me.  What a gift, to have all her best recipes in one place.

The Holiday Poke Cake recipe is below.  This particular taste combo gets a 3 out of 5.  Tell me, what fun color combos would you put together for a special occasion?

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7 Responses to My mom’s holiday poke cake

  1. Aunt Peg says:

    What an amazing woman your Mom was. I have my Mom’s recipe box. Although I don’t cook–I love to look at those stained recipe cards and remember the tastes and smells. I have that same recipe on a recipe card. Beautiful memories! Thanks for sharing. PK

    • Amanda N says:

      Awe, thanks for writing that Peg. Just goes to show that the good ones go too soon, huh? I have some of my mom’s actually recipe cards, but my dad has most of them. Hopefully some day I’ll have them! I’m with you, I love the stains on old family recipe cards.

    • Jane Bennett says:

      I have those family recipes too. Don’t you love the ones that say, “Shortening about the size of an egg” or “add flour till gloppy”? That 2nd one is from my mom’s homemade noodle recipe. Ahhh, the memories.

  2. Jen says:

    Wow. I LOVE that your mom made that book. What an incredible woman. And thanks for sharing a recipe from it! :)

    • Amanda N says:

      Yeah, she was something else. When she was in the hospital she spent her time writing poems and funny songs. :-)

  3. Kristen says:

    That truly is a special gift from your mom – one you’ll treasure forever. I think every family needs to have that kind of book!

    I used to have poke cake all the time when I was little and had totally forgotten about it. Thanks for stirring up some great memories!

  4. Leslie Keidel says:

    Amanda’s mom was the most wonderful woman I have ever known. She made everything seem so simple yet so right. I make several of her staples for my family and miss her every time I make them but my family benefits from her receipts and her memory.

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