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Bake like a pro with an eggless poke cake trifle recipe

An old-school poke cake gets a decadent twist with salted caramel and chocolate cream

 An American-style poke cake from the 1970s. (Istockphoto)
 An American-style poke cake from the 1970s. (Istockphoto)

How can one take a supermarket cake mix and elevate it? For the answer, rewind to the 1970s and imagine entering the kitchen of an American housewife. She has just brought home a readymade sponge cake mix and cherry Jell-o. Within an hour she makes the batter, puts the cake in the oven and makes a Jell-o solution. While the Jell-o cools and cake bakes, she whips icing and places it in the fridge. After about 30 minutes, the cake is baked and allowed to cool for 15 minutes. Now, the process of upgrading it begins.

A fork is used to poke holes into the cake and the lukewarm Jell-o solution is poured into the holes. The icing is brought out of the fridge and the cake is coated with it, most generously. The creamy white vanilla cake is streaked with red cherry Jell-o and it’s served with a garnish of fruits. A fancy-schmancy dessert is ready.

Also read | It’s apple season, make the most of it with these recipes

Cut to 2021: Inspired by the old-school poke cake, baker and author Deeba Rajpal made a poke trifle in which, instead of Jell-O, she uses salted caramel and layers it with rich chocolate cream. Here's the recipe to make and assemble this richly decadent dessert, originally shared on Rajpal's Instagram handle @pabrecipes. 


For the cake 

Ingredients to make two 5" vanilla cakes

180 g thick yogurt
75 g light olive oil
75 g sugar
Half tsp baking soda
Three-fourth tsp apple cider vinegar
Three-fourth tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
Half tsp vanilla extract
50 gm whole-wheat flour
100 gm all purpose flour


Preheat the oven to 180C.
Lightly grease and line two 5" round baking dishes/tins.
In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, oil, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, salt and vanilla extract. Leave to stand for 5 minutes until bubbly. Then whisk in both flours until smooth.
Transfer batter to prepared baking dishes/tins and bake for 30-35 minutes until light golden brown and a tester comes out clean.
Leave to cool in tins for 10 minutes, then demold and cool completely on rack. Dice up one cake for layer, or you can use the whole cake as a layer if desired.

For the vanilla pastry cream


125g Amul cream
50g ghee
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tsp agar agar
Half vanilla bean scraped
25g sugar


Whisk everything together in a saucepan and simmer over very low heat until thickened, stirring constantly. Alternatively, cook in microwave at full power at 30 second intervals, whisking well between each. It will take approximately 3-4 goes to thicken. Whisk well and cool, stirring now and then. Refrigerate until required.

For the chocolate cream


150 g Amul cream
100 g chocolate, chopped

Heat the cream to very hot. add the chocolate and leave it to stand for 5-10 minutes, until soft.

For the caramel sauce


1 cup granulated sugar
Half cup cream (Amul)
Half cup unsalted butter
Half tsp sea salt


Keep all the ingredients ready. Be careful when you work with melting sugar.

Place the sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat, stir a couple of times, else swirl the pan.

Once all the sugar has melted to an even brown, work swiftly because sugar tends to burn very fast. Immediately add the butter (Rajpal's was straight out of the freezer) and simmer until the butter has melted, stirring often, for a couple of minutes. Be careful since the mixture might splatter.

Now carefully drizzle in the cream as the mixture will continue to bubble rapidly and splatter until the temperatures settle.

Stir in the sea salt, simmer for a minute. Allow to cool a little bit, then pour into a jar, or use as desired. The sauce continues to thicken up as it cools.

Refrigerate the sauce once cooled. It stays good for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

To assemble the trifle

1. Place one cooled cake in a trifle bowl and poke holes through it with a chopstick to make big holes.
2. Pour over 3/4 of the salted caramel sauce. Steep for 2-3 minutes.
3. Pour over the vanilla pastry cream.
5. Layer with diced vanilla cake or place the whole second cake.
6. Drizzle over remaining salted caramel sauce.
7. Top up with chocolate cream


Chocolate and salted caramel poke trifle (Photo: Deeba Rajpal)
Chocolate and salted caramel poke trifle (Photo: Deeba Rajpal)

Also read | An eggless chocolate cake recipe for a quick dessert fix

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