Strawberry Shortcake Poke Cake

I love strawberry shortcake, so this is a variation on the theme. Tender vanilla cake, baked until moist on the inside and golden brown on the outside (that golden brown caramelization of the sugar in the cake is incredible - you hardly need anything else).

But you know me, I couldn't leave well enough alone so I poked it! After "poking" the entire cake with the bottom of a wooden spoon, I filled the holes with delicious strawberry pie filling (store-bought pie filling, so it's super easy).

Now imagine this scenario: Every forkful of this heavenly dessert boasts cake AND strawberries, in one scrumptious bite. Oh, and there's whipped cream too. I used strawberry pie filling but imagine how great cherry and blueberry would be too...

This is the only cake recipe you need: If you keep one basic vanilla cake recipe, this is the one. It's super simple, made with pantry staples, and comes together in less than 10 minutes. Plus, you can use the batter for cupcakes and layer cakes (just double or triple the recipe for double- and triple-layer cakes).

To highlight how versatile this batter is, consider these variations:

Almond cake: Reduce the vanilla extract to 1 teaspoon and add 1 teaspoon almond extract.
Chocolate chip cake: Add 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips.
Peanut butter chip cake: Add 1/2 cup peanut butter chips.
Nutella poke cake: Fill the holes with Nutella instead of strawberry pie filling - you can also combine chocolate pudding and Nutella.

Now let's get baking!

Strawberry Shortcake Poke Cake

Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
20/21-ounce can strawberry pie filling and topping
Whipped cream for serving
Fresh strawberries for serving, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8-inch square cake pan with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar and beat on medium speed until blended and smooth (mixture with be light and fluffy). Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the vanilla.
Beat in half of the flour mixture. Beat in all of the milk. Beat in the remaining flour mixture and mix until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean or with little bits of cake clinging to it.
Cool on a wire rack (cool completely before "poking").
Using the rounded end of a wooden spoon, make several holes in the cake, about halfway through to the bottom. Like this:
Spoon the strawberry pie filling over the cake and use the back of a spoon to gently guide the filling into the holes. Smooth the surface, leaving the rest of the pie filling (and chunks of fruit) on top. Like this:
Cut into squares and garnish with whipped cream and fresh strawberries just before serving.
Makes 1 cake (about 6 servings)