A view of a layered Holiday Poke cake with red streaking the top layer and green streaking the bottom layer. There are marshmallow christmas trees on tierh side of the area where a piece of cake has been removed.

Layered Holiday Poke Cake

We all know that I love my poke cakes, especially for holidays. I love to make the holiday flag poke cake for 4th of July or Memorial Day barbecues, and to be honest, most of the time, I bake my poke cake in a 9X13 inch pan, but occasionally, when I’m not serving a big crowd, and I’m just making a poke cake for our family, I change things up a bit and make a layered poke cake for the holidays.

If you’re wondering why I don’t make a layered poke cake to take to a picnic with other people, I have three reasons.

  • You can easily get 12, or more, servings out of a rectangular cake while the round layered cake tends to serve only 8 people (at least in our house).
  • The single layer cake isn’t likely to shift during the trip to our destination which means it will still look good.
  • I only have to decorate the top of the cake prepared in the 9X13 inch pan, because, usually, I leave it in the pan for transport to our destination and serving.
Jump to Recipe

What will you need to prepare this recipe?

From the Pantry

  • Rigatoni
  • Pasta Sauce
  • Tomato Sauce

From the Refrigerator/Freezer

  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Italian Sausage
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese

From the Root Cellar

  • Brown or Yellow Onion

The ingredient list isn’t very long, but this dish is loaded with flavor. In fact, it’s become one of our family favorites, especially during cooler weather when we love to bake things in the oven.

What is the process for preparing baked rigatoni?

1. Put salted water on the stove to boil the rigatoni.

While you’re waiting for the water to come to a boil, you can begin on the sauce and other ingredients. Just make sure to set a timer if you drop the pasta into the boiling water before the sauce is finished. Overcooked pasta is mushy and won’t taste good in this dish. You want the pasta to be cooked al dente because it will cook longer with the sauce in the oven.

2. Chop the bell pepper and onions and grate the cheese.

I like to dice the onions and pepper into fairly small pieces to distribute their flavor throughout the sauce and the final Baked Rigatoni. It also helps slip the vegetables past any children who might be reluctant to eat them. Sometimes, I buy my cheese already shredded, but other times, I shred it myself. The motivating factor is the price of the cheese.

3. Cook the Peppers and Onions with the Meat

This may seem obvious, but not everyone does this. By cooking these aromatic vegetables with the sausage, you help to improve the overall flavor of the recipe.

4. Put the pasta in the boiling water and set a timer.

Like I mentioned before, it’s easy to get caught up in the cooking process and forget that you need to watch your pasta. I despise mushy pasta, so it’s really important to set a timer for this. You don’t want overcooked pasta.

5. Build your sauce.

While the pasta is cooking, now’s the time to add the tomato sauce, pasta sauce, and water to the meat and vegetable mixture. Bring it to a boil, lower the heat, and allow it to simmer for at least five minutes.

6. Build the layers of the Baked Rigatoni in a 9X13 inch pan.

I realize that the instructions in the recipe might sound backwards because I have you put down cheese and then top it with sauce, but I promise you that this helps to make the sauce extra cheesy and is part of the delicious charm of this recipe. If you absolutely can’t fathom cheese under the sauce, go ahead and do it the other way, but it tastes so much better this way.

7. Bake the Rigatoni and let it rest before serving.

You’ll know when this dish is done when it’s bubbly around the edges. How crispy you like your noodles will determine how long you allow it to bake. One thing that’s important is that you absolutely have to allow this dish to rest at rom temperature for about 10 minutes before digging into it to allow it to firm up a bit.

Baked Rigatoni

That’s all it takes to put a delicious Baked rigatoni on your dinner table. Do you have a favorite pasta dish, or a favorite type of noodle? I have really fallen in love with rigatoni lately. It’s true that the low price is how we became acquainted, but the texture and versatility are making it fast become a favorite. Let us know your favorites by leaving a comment below.

Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.

Baked Rigatoni

This is a simple and delicious baked pasta dish that's perfect for a family meal or to serve to company. The recipe is made from simple to find ingredients and has become a family favorite. The total cost for this meal is
Prep Time 29 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Resting Time 10 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 8


  • 1 pound Dry Rigatoni Noodles cooked according to package directions ($0.99)
  • 1 pound Italian Sausage hot or mild according to your preference ($2.99)
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper diced ($0.78)
  • 1 Medium Onion (Yellow or Brown) ($0.20)
  • 1 (24 ounce) jar or can Pasta Sauce ($1.59)
  • 1 (8 ounce) can Tomato Sauce ($0.34)
  • 2 cup Water
  • 2 cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese ($1.99)
  • 1 cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese ($0.89)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  • Put water on stove to boil for cooking the pasta.
  • Once the water is boiling, cook pasta according to the package directions.
  • While you're waiting for the water to come to a boil, cook the sausage with the onion and bell pepper until the meat is thoroughly cooked and lightly browned.
  • Once the sausage is cooked, add pasta sauce, water, and tomato sauce to the pan with the meat mixture and stir well to combine.
  • Bring to mixture to a boil and reduce heat.  Allow to simmer for 5 minutes
  • Place 1 cup pasta sauce in the bottom of a 9X13 inch pan.
  • Now, you will begin layering the baked rigatoni dish into the baking dish
  • Place one-half of the cooked rigatoni on top of the sauce.
  • Sprinkle one cup shredded Mozzarella and 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese evenly on top of the noodles.
  • Evenly distribute two cups of the meat and pasta sauce mixture on top of the cheese.
  • Spread the remaining pasta on top of the sauce.
  • Add the remaining cup of Mozzarella cheese evenly distributed on top of the pasta.
  • Finish the dish by carefully spreading the remaining meat sauce over the top of the cheese.
  • Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 – 45 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Keyword bell pepper, brown or yellow onion, garlic, ground beef, Italian Sausage, mozzarella, parmesan cheese, pasta sauce, rigatoni, tomato sauce

The Layered Poke Cake is a great holiday dessert and can be changed up for different holidays. The cake in this post is a “Christmas Poke Cake” which used red and green gelatin on the different cake layers, but there are other possible color combinations.

Color combinations for layered holiday poke cakes for different occasions:

  • Green and Purple for Halloween on a yellow or orange tinted cake
  • Purple and Yellow for Easter on a white cake
  • All Green for St. Patrick’s Day
  • Red and Blue for 4th of July on a white cake
  • Red for valentine’s day

These color combinations can also work with a single layer cake, but the different colors would have to be added separately and the cake chilled between layers.

Why did I choose this combination of flavored gelatin?

The answer is a simple one. During the summer, I love to drink cherry limeade. As a result, cherry and lime gelatin seemed like a great combination to use on my cake. I chose a white cake for this recipe because the colors of the gelatin would show up better on a white cake than if I used a yellow cake.

How to I make a layered poke cake?

A round cake layer, still in the pan with large holes poked in the top

The first step is to make two 9 inch round layers using a white cake mix. If you prefer, you can make this cake using 8 inch square pans instead. It doesn’t really matter. You just need two cakes that are the same size. Bake your cakes according to the package instructions, then allow them to cool in their pans, and poke holes in the top.

Red liquid gelatin is streaming onto the top of a round cake layer with large holes poked into it.

I used the handle of a wooden spoon to poke holes in my cake, but be careful not to go all the way through to the bottom. Some people prefer to use a fork. The choice is yours. There really isn’t a right or wrong way to do this.

A layer of white cake poked with holes is covered with green gelatin

Once you have poked the holes into your cake, mix up the gelatin. and pour one color on top of one cake and another color on top of the other. Cover both cakes, still in their pans, with plastic wrap and put them into the refrigerator and allow the gelatin to set up. This takes at least 3 hours, but sometimes, I let them stay in the fridge overnight.

A cake coated in red liquid gelatin is covered with plastic wrap.

Once everything has set up, Remove the cakes from their pans. If they’re stuck, dip the bottom of the pans in hot water for about 10 seconds, then try again. Don’t do what I did, and just cut around the edges with a knife before dumping it out.

A red colored cake has a large crack in it breaking off nearly  one-fourth of the cake.  It is st with the pieces closely approximated.

As you can see, my cake broke, but no worries. I used it as the top layer, and covered it with frosting. No one noticed. They were too busy eating to notice that the cake had been broken and reassembled.

A green layer of cake is under a red layer of cake. White frosting is visible between the layers.

Once the gelatin on the cake has set up, gelled, assemble frosting and frost the cake, stacking the layers on top of one another with a layer of frosting between them. Then, simply cover the entire cake with the remaining frosting.

A layer of white frosting is being applied to the top of a red layer of cake stacked on top of a green layer of cake.

As you can see, we opted to decorate this cake using some Christmas themed Peeps, but you don’t have to do any decorating beyond frosting the cake.

A cake frosted with white frosting is topped with green marshmallow peep christans trees, and brown marshmallow peep reindeer alternated around the top and sides.

There are other simple ways to decorate the cake

  • Place holiday themed, or colored, sprinkles on the cake
  • Decorate using Candy
  • Use different types of cereal to decorate
  • Color part of the frosting with food coloring and decorate either the top or sides with a different color

Of course, if you’re a talented cake decorator, you could actually pipe some flowers onto the cake, but I don’t do that often. I prefer to let the children have fun sticking things to the top of our cakes.

A view of a layered Holiday Poke cake with red streaking the top layer and green streaking the bottom layer. There are marshmallow christmas trees on tierh side of the area where a piece of cake has been removed.

What do you think of this Layered Poke Cake? Do you prefer this to the single layer poke cake? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.

Layered Holiday Poke Cake

Layered Holiday Poke Cake

This simple, but delicious cake is begins with a storebought cake mix. The addition of flavored fruit gelatin makes the cake moist and adds interesting flavor. The frosting, made from a combination of vanilla instant pudding and whipped topping is light and fluffy. This cake can be decorated, but we opted to stick some seasonal marshmallow peeps on ours as a simple way to make a festive holiday cake. Total cost for this recipe is $5.00 or about $0.50 per serving.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Chilling Time 4 hrs
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 10
Calories 474 kcal


  • 1 (15.25 oz) box white cake mix plus ingredients to make the cake per package instructions ($1.74)
  • 2 (4 serving size) boxes gelatin (I used cherry and lime for this cake) ($1.16)
  • 2 (4 serving box) vanilla instant pudding ($0.98)
  • 2 cups milk ($0.14)
  • 1 (8 ounce) carton frozen whipped topping ($0.98)


To Prepare the Cake

  • Bake cake according to package directions.
  • Allow cake to cool in pan.
  • Using a fork, or the handle of a wooden spoon, punch holes into the top of the cooled cake. The smaller the size of the holes, the closer you need to place them in order for the gelatin to soak into the cake. Take care not to pierce through to the bottom of the cake. You only want to pierce about 3/4 of the thickness of the cake.
  • Mix each package of gelatin with one cup boiling water in separate bowls.
  • Stir gelatin mixture for two to three minutes until it's completely dissolved in the water.
  • Pour the gelatin mixture over each cake–one color on each cake, distributing it evenly over the surface of the cake.
  • Cover pans and allow to chill in the referator for 3 hours.

For the frosting

  • Mix both packages of instant vanilla pudding mix with two cups milk until thickened.
  • Fold in coolwhip until well combined.

To assemble the cake

  • Arrange strips of wax or parchment paper around the edges of cake serving plate.
  • Place on layer of the cake onto the plate with strips of paper just under the edge..
  • Cover the top of the layer with frosting.
  • Place second layer of cake on top of the first. Taking care to center it.
  • Apply frosting to the top and sides of the cake.
  • Decorate as desired (optional)
  • Remove strips of parchment paper from around cake.
  • Chill in the refrigerator for one hour before serving to allow pudding to set up.
Keyword cake, cool whip, gelatin, instant vanilla pudding, poke cake

The following nutrition information is calculated for one serving (on-tenth) of the layered poke cake prepared according to the recipe above.

Layered Poke Cake Nutrition Label

Disclaimer:  Nutritional information is calculated using online tools such as those available at cronometer.com or verywellfit.com.  We make every attempt to ensure that the information is calculated correctly, but this information should be considered estimates.   Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe.  In addition, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition-fact sources, databases, and the algorithms used.   You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.  Under no circumstances will PattyCakesPantry.com be responsible for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information provided. 

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