Among my friends talking about cake mixes around me used to be taboo. For some reason they thought I was going to judge them for using a box mix.
I realize not every one views cooking and baking as therapeutic and fun like I do. I even realize that there are some people that have the exact opposite view on cooking and baking as I do. Which is good, it keeps me employed : )
I have no judgement against cake mixes (other than my hydrogenated oil phobia). It was all my mom used growing up and my first experiences in cake making. You can make a decent cake using the box mixes and following the directions. But really...who wants just a decent cake? Obviously I think you can get a superior cake from scratch (and if y'all just knew how easy it was you wouldn't be the least intimidated!), but there are also some things you can do to cake mixes to get a pretty good cake out of them too. I'm going to share my wisdom with you so you never have to eat lackluster cake again (made by you any how).
Don't follow the directions. All the oil and water, eh. There are only two cakes I make using oil and neither of them are any thing vanilla based or chocolate based. You can find the cake mixes that call for butter. GET THEM. Butter makes every thing better. Seriously. Once equipped with the right kind of cake mix, continue to ignore the directions. You are going to be asked to add water. DON'T DO IT. You could pretty much add any thing else in your refrigerator and it will taste better than adding water. Here are some suggestions:
Any type of citrus juice (obviously it will flavor your cake)
Just add the substituted ingredient in the amount that the cake calls for and you can follow the directions from there.
If there is one area that I promise will take your cake to the next level it's making your own frosting. Again, for some reason people find it super intimidating, but I promise it's ridiculously easy. If the thought of butter cream intimidates you, you could start off a bit easier with something like a ganache or just using homemade whipping cream. A frosting 101 post may be coming soon.
However if you think you may be up for trying a cake from scratch that takes about the same amount of effort as a box mix, you MUST try this cake! It's ridiculously easy and super tasty. It's perfect for summer as well because it's light and fruity. Plus, if you make it right...almost healthy.
I'd been hearing people rave about yogurt cakes and hadn't ever tried one, so I wanted to give it a go. It being a different cake base than I was used to I used a trusted recipe as a starting place. However I wanted to do some thing differently. So here is the recipe I ended up using:
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (normally I would recommend just regular olive oil but I didn't have any, I like the extra depth it added to the cake)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup lime juice
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
I don't have an exact recipe, these are guesstimates, if you like less sugar add less, more add more.
20 strawberries sliced and hulled (or 1 bag frozen strawberries)
1/3 cup sugar
squeeze of lemon juice
Place strawberries in a container with sugar and lemon juice (I may be known to occasionally add a drop of Grand Marnier as well) stir slightly and refrigerate over night. Puree with blender, or food processor. To obtain a thicker sauce, boil for a few minutes on the stove, adjust sweetness to taste.
For frozen strawberries, defrost and them place them in saucepan with sugar and lemon juice, bring to a boil, and let boil until desired thickness, tasting and adjusting sweetness to taste. Cool then puree in blender or food processor.
The sauce takes more time but I always make a lot of it and freeze it when fruit is fresh in season. I do the same thing with peaches and will use the fruit purees to make home made ice cream, and to add to cupcakes.