But I come bearing holiday desert and baking information. No pictures because I'm very lazy and normally the things I make come with excellent intentions but may or may not look the way I initially saw them on Pinterest. Blah. Alright, on with it then...
For baking with boxed cake mixes:
Nothing is easier and there is no shame if you're incapable of reproducing a simple recipe your grandmother has given you in hopes of carrying on family food stuffs. Cake mixes from the grocery store are an easy (and super cheap!) way out. Add flare to cakes with simple, low-cost add-ins or swap-outs.
- Tried and true! Add instant pudding mix to any boxed cake for a super-moist interior. Coordinate with the same flavored pudding or switch it up! I've added butterscotch pudding to chocolate cake mix, seasonal pumpkin pie pudding to spice cake mix, or Hershey's White Chocolate to anything, it's amazing! Do this with all the other box directions for a moist, fluffy cake!
- Replace the water that is called for in basic cake mixes for a more rich, moist batter. True, it comes out a bit more dense (like when you add milk to scrambled eggs instead of a bit of water) but it's so rich and decadent. This is best done with chocolate and Devil's food cake mix but can work with anything.
- For a more exquisite, rich flavor that again, works best with chocolate and dark chocolate cake recipes, add coffee (in the same amount called for) to your cake and go about as instructed. It doesn't necessarily taste like coffee when it is finished but it as a more well-rounded chocolate flavor - something with a "mocha" twang, to it! If you're looking for that flavor, however, go for adding espresso rather than straight up day-old decaf. It'll give a rich, bold flavor with touch of coffee essence. You could do this with other batters but I can't think of anything better than doing it with chocolate!
- Go about regular directions and before popping your cake in the oven, add a dollop of sour cream. Trust me! It won't go bad or turn the cake, it'll simple make it moist, light, and fluffy! Also, it cuts a bit of the sweetness if you're not looking for something overly sweet. Works with any batter! This works well with sugar-free batters.
- Oh, wait, do the same with the frosting, too, to cut sweetness and add a bit of, "mmm, what's in this frosting, it's delicious!" to your menu. Adding a bit of sour cream helps out with the bitterness of some sugar-free frostings, too.
- Cream cheese doesn't play well with wet cake batter but if you're looking to add a bit of richness to canned or home-made frosting, cut it with a bit of whipped cream cheese. Use whipped because it folds in easier with the lumps and bumps of the stuff in the foil. Cream cheese frosting from the store is often too sweet. I add my own whipped cream cheese or sour cream and it works out really well. This works well with sugar-free recipes, too.
- You can also cut frosting with straight up whipped cream. Adds a touch of sweetness, but if you fold it in just right, it's smooth and creamy and a bit lighter! Use sugar-free whipped cream if you're in the mood for the texture without the "guilt" that somehow, people get when they have sugar. I'll never understand.
Holiday baking add-ins:
- They sell bags of crushed candy canes and boxes and boxes upon boxes of the darn things everywhere now. Take the crushed stuff (or make your own with a few candy canes, a plastic baggie, a rolling pin, etc.) and sprinkle it over a finished dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate frosting. So decadent and so season-appropriate.
- Drizzle candy melts or melted almond bark over brownies, cakes, cookies, and allow to dry for a bit of pizzazz. This is mostly cosmetic because let's face it, most melted candy "faux chocolate" is for show, anyway, but it certainly is pretty most of the time. Add sprinkles for fun!
- Two cookies + frosting in the middle + rolling them in sprinkles = fun deserts for little hands.
- Extracts are amazing things! You can find coffee extract, almond, lemon, peppermint, orange, everything extract in the spice aisle of any grocery store. In the craft or baking department, there are more specific (less authentic, however) baking oils that will flavor your creations with any combination you choose. For the holidays, I love orange oil and chocolate cake and candies, rum-flavored toddy cookies and fudge, or as mentioned above, add a bit of peppermint oil to chocolate and white cakes or hell, put it in your morning coffee for a wake-up call! (Also allow room for whipped cream and peppermint shards, of course!)
- Add chocolate chips (white, chocolate, dark, milk, butterscotch, peanut butter, caramel, oh God, the variety!) to any batter be it cakes, cookies, fudge, brownies, whatever! These add richness and a sense of, "hey, you're an awesome baker!" to your menu. Throw any in the batter and most cakes and cookies with cook at the same time stated on the box with not alterations.
- Throw some salt on the bottom of your baking sheet or baking pan before you pour in your batter. (And after you've greased or buttered it up, of course!) This gives a different touch to the whole cake or cookie. Salt on the bottom keeps things from getting too sweet. Do this especially if you're doing caramel anything!
I want to say that's it because I've left a ton more here than I expected. But do give these things a try this season (or any season)! There are too many possibilities and too many cheap ways to jazz up boxed cake mixes for anyone to use a plain ol' boring recipe time after time. I bid you goodnight. Finals are this week.