Berry Poke Cake (vegan, gluten-free)

Vaguely Patriotic Poke Cake
Vaguely Patriotic Poke Cake

So this week is the both the classic summer holiday of Independence Day in the US. I know maybe cake isn’t the first thing one thinks of when you think of summer holiday picnics, but this week is also my birthday, so cake is important. So your theme is: BERRIES. Hah. Actually, berries are one of the more awesome things about summer, and cake is the one truly awesome thing about birthdays, so here’s a berry-themed cake that also just happens to be color-appropriate for a few upcoming holidays — nicely, this works as well for Bastille Day as it does for Independence Day. It’s multi-purpose. This is good, because every day is better with cake.

This is a riff on a cake my mother used to make — a poke cake, where you soak your cake with gelatin. Her “recipe” came from a magazine recipe (I’m going to guess Better Homes and Gardens, but it might have been the Parade magazine section from the Sunday paper) and involved box cake mix, a box of Jell-O, Cool Whip (which I absolutely adored for all of my formative years) and berries on top. My FrankenCake version involves other people’s recipes instead of boxes, but combined to make “classic” poke cake that is gluten-free, vegan, and completely without preservatives or weird flavorings. This is a dense, moist cake, flavored by the gel, topped with a whipped cream and berries. Served cold, this is great for summer. I mean, it’s berries. What is there not to love?

You’ll make the cake, cool it, poke holes in it, make a fruit gel, pour it on, cool it, and the “frost” and decorate it. Because it needs to cool completely, twice, this is a good make-ahead recipe. The day before is a good idea, adding the “frosting” and berries not long before serving.

Cake Assembly
Cake Assembly

IMPORTANT NOTE: In case you skipped reading to go straight to the recipe, this is not a “day of” recipe. You need to cool this twice, and the coconut milk for the topping must be refrigerated overnight.


Patriotic Berry Poke Cake

1 carton of strawberries or other fresh berries is also needed to decorate the top of the cake.

Cake (very lightly adapted from Gluten Mama’s GF Vegan Vanilla Cake)

  • ¾ cup sorghum flour
  • ¾ cup tapioca starch
  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ½ cup plain almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 4 oz (1/2 cup) unsweetened applesauce (I use the snack pack sizes)

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Lightly grease an 8″x11.5″ pan, or a 9″ square pan.

Add lemon juice to almond milk and set aside.

Mix dry ingredients. Then add wet ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Pour into prepared pan and bake 35 minutes or so — cake is done when lightly browned on top.

Cool completely, and then poke holes all over the cake with a fork. The more holes, the more your fruit gel will penetrate, so I’d suggest holes no more than 1/2 inch apart, all over the cake.


Vegan Fruit Gel (I used this recipe from Manjula’s Kitchen)

Poke and Gel the Cake
Poke and Gel the Cake


  • 1/2 cup blueberry juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon agar agar powder


If you need to, juice and strain blueberries to get blueberry juice. I just had a bag of frozen berries I picked last summer, so I defrosted them and ran them through a food mill and then a strainer. This made more juice than I needed, but this also makes more gel than you need for the cake.

Mix the agar agar into your water. Add all the ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Boil for three minutes.

Pour very slowly over the top of your hole-poked cake (this is easier to do if you aren’t taking photos while pouring), letting it soak in, and stop when the gel stops soaking in. You may have a little leftover, so just make a serving of gel for later.

Put the gel-soaked cake in the fridge and chill for 3-4 hours or overnight.


Coconut Whipped Cream (see recipe here at Oh She Glows)


  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk without guar gum, refrigerated over night
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • OR 3 teaspoons of vanilla sugar
  • A chilled metal bowl and electric mixer, with whisk attachment if you have it.


Flip your can upside down in the fridge. To open it, flip it back upright and open it. Pour off the watery part (you can use this for things, but I don’t like it much, personally.)

Put JUST the solid part in your chilled bowl and whip it with your whisk attachment or mixer.

Add the sugar and vanilla (or vanilla sugar) and whip again. Taste it. It’s amazing. Add sugar or vanilla if needed.

Use the coconut whipped cream to frost the cake, being generous in your application. Top the cake with berries and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

This cake is ready for its close-up
This cake is ready for its close-up

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