Monday, May 11, 2009

Cake Mix Tricks

Most of the time, imitations just can't compare to the original. I give you: Spraytans. Toupees. Press-on nails. But every once in a while, the "fake" version actually holds its own, and that (you may be surprised to hear me say) is the case with cake mix. Don't get me wrong, I still prefer to bake things from scratch when I can, but sometimes you just really need a shortcut (when two coworkers birthdays fall in the same week, say). But I'm not crazy- I draw the line at the pre-made frosting from a tub, which, to me, doesn't come close to the real thing. My easy peasy buttercream frosting recipe goes perfectly with any of these cakes.

Starting with a basic vanilla or chocolate cake mix, you can add in special flavors (whatever floats your boat or the honoree loves). Here are some of my favorite flavor combinations (and I'm sure you can come up with your own!)

Lemon-Raspberry Deliciousness
Start with simple yellow or vanilla cake mix, and replace the water called for on the box with fresh squeezed lemon juice, add one tablespoon of lemon zest. Spread raspberry jam between the layers (or drop half a tablespoon into the batter of each cupcake, and decorate with fresh raspberries.

Creme de Menthe Chocolate Cake
Start with Devil's Food cakemix, and replace the water called for on the box with Creme de Menthe liquor or Pepperment Schnapps (or use the water and 2 tablespoons mint extract). After frosting, decorate the cake or cupcakes with fresh mint sprigs (or Andes mint candies).

Chocolate Orange Cake
Start with chocolate cake, and replace the water called for on the box with orange juice. Add one tablespoon of orange zest. Decorate frosted cake or cupcakes with candied orange rind.

Easiest Buttercream Frosting
(no one said it was going to be good for you).
1 pound box (about 3-3/4 cups) powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 - 4 tablespoons milk
Feel free to add citrus zest, cocoa powder, or anything else that you think will taste good in it.

And no one will ever know you were faking it. Unlike, say, those clip-in hair extensions.

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