Cooking Gone Awry: Box Cake Mix

glazed rum bundt cake

Baking My First Cake

Angel Food Cake pan photo from Wikepedia

When I was 9 years old, with the help of my 7-year-old cousin and my 5-year-old brother, we baked our very first cake from a box cake mix.

After playing outside, we decided that we needed an afternoon snack. So we rummaged around the kitchen and found a box of yellow cake mix.

With written directions and pictures on the box, how hard could it be to bake a cake? All we needed were eggs, water, and vegetable oil. We mixed everything together in a bowl and poured the mixture into an angel food cake pan.

Since Auntie's oven didn't have an interior light, we couldn't watch the cake bake. It also didn't have a timer so we had to sit at the kitchen table and watch the wall clock for 20 minutes.

Quiet! Don't Let the Cake Fall!

Book jacket: Wise Words and Country Ways for Cooks

If we talked, it was in hushed tones because we believed the old wives tale about cakes falling if you make a lot of noise. According to the book, Wise Words and Country Ways for Cooks by Ruth Binney, this depends on the type of cake you're baking. However, a cake shouldn't be disturbed before the mixture, which is a liquid, has a chance to set.

Auntie Gets Suspicious

Ten minutes passed. Auntie, who had 6 kids, must have known something was wrong because the house was too quiet. When she came out to check on us and saw us sitting at the table, she asked, "What are you doing?"

My gut response would have been, "Nothing." However, her feet-apart, hands-on-hips, and finger-ready-to-wag-you're-in-BIG-trouble-if-you-don't-tell-the-truth Mom stance made me think I better go with the truth, so I said, "We're baking a cake."

"You're pretending to bake a cake?" she asked.

We all shook our heads no.

She checked in the oven. A whiff of golden cake scent wafted through the air.

"Well, alright then," she said

Finally, when the last 10 minutes had passed, we stabbed the cake several times with a fork to test that it was done. Then we had to wait for it to cool down enough before taking it out of the pan.

Cooking Gone Awry

This is where things went awry.

We each took a turn shaking the cake out of the pan, but it wouldn't come out. We banged the pan on the counter, but the cake wouldn't come out. We tried prying it out with a butter knife. It still wouldn't come out.

We had no idea what we did wrong until Auntie asked if we oiled the pan and dusted it with flour.

None of us remembered that step being written on the box.

No matter. Auntie, 6 cousins, my brother, and I we all grabbed a fork and ate the cake straight out of the pan. It was good even without frosting.

Not a Cake Baker

I don't bake cakes that often. The last time I baked a cake from scratch was a ginger pound cake for the church barbeque 2 years ago. The recipe is from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri. The book is available to order through Link +, which is a service provides that helps you borrow books, music scores, and government documents from many libraries throughout California for free with your San José Public Library card.

Trying Cake Mix Recipes with My Library Card

So, I figure for this blog I would try a few box cake mix recipes available through the San José Public Library. Each cake took less than 90 minutes to prep and bake.

Cake #1: Cinnamon Sugar Cake covered with Almond-Chocolate Biscotti Crumble

Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Desserts Small cinnamon sugar cake with almond-chocolate biscotti crumble

The Cinnamon Sugar Cake Crumble recipe is from Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Desserts: Quick and Easy Delicious Desserts, Nothing Is Made from Scratch by Food Network star, Sandra Lee. This cake was easy to make; however, I had to go to two grocery stores to find biscotti. One of my co-workers drew a thumbs-up sign on the recipe description card.

Cake #2: Double Chocolate Rum Cake with Raspberry Sauce and Chocolate Glaze

Book cover: Cake Mix Doctor Baked and plated double chocoloate rum cake with raspberry sauce and chocolate glaze

This Double Chocolate Rum Cake with Raspberry Sauce and Chocolate Glaze is found in The Cake Mix Doctor Doctor by Anne Byrn.

Alcohol or Juice in Cakes

Book cover: The Boozy Baker

I was told that if you find a recipe that has alcohol in it, you can substitute juice for the alcohol. What kind of juice? The What's Cooking America website has a list of non-alcoholic substitutions.

I substituted pineapple juice for the rum. I felt that raspberry and pineapple would make a good pairing in the sauce.

This is an excellent cake for the holidays. One co-worker described this cake as, "a yummy chocolate hug".

If you want to use alcohol in your baked goods, try the book The Boozy Baker: 75 Recipes for Spirited Sweets by Lucky Baker.

Cake #3: Cranberry Layer Cake with walnuts and butter and cream cheese frosting

Cake Mix Creations Cranberry Layer Cake with Butter and Cream Cheese Frosting with Walnuts and a Single Cranberry

I made a cranberry layer cake last week for our staff meeting and holiday potluck. The recipe is from Cake Mix Creations: 216 Easy Desserts That Start with a Mix, published by Taste of Home. With butter and cream cheese frosting and a hint of orange zest, this dessert can be made with fresh or frozen cranberries.

Other cookbooks that use box cake mix recipes...

Book Cover: The Everything Cake Mix CookbookBook cover: 13-by-9: The Pan That CanCool Cake and Cupcake Food Art

Special Thanks

I would like to thank my co-workers at the Evergreen Branch Library and Village Square Library for being willing cake tasters and assuring me that the cakes were blog-worthy.


Wonderful storytelling Monique!

Cake can always be fixed by adding booze!

Just wanted to add how great this blog series is, Monique. I love how you weave stories from your childhood and books from the library effortlessly. As an amateur baker, I can't wait to try these tips!

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