box cakes

We are celebrating can month at Sizzleworks, which makes me want to share with you the tips and tricks that a great friend and pastry chef Kelley and I have formulated over the years, to achieving a fantastic, light, flavorful cake from a box mix. And yes, Virginia, it is not cheating to make a cake from a box!

1. Buy a premium brad mix, not a store brand. When you find a brand you like, stick with it. 

2. Preheat the oven for at least 15 minutes.

3. Prepare your pans: spray with non-stick spray, line the bottom with parchment, spray again. I am a huge fan of the Trader Joe’s coconut oil spray — it doesn’t have canola oil in it, which tends to get a funny aftertaste when exposed tot he high heat of the oven.

4. ALL ingredients should be at room temperature before mixing. That includes eggs, water, oil, or butter (in box mixes calling for butter,  we use the salted kind!)

5. Use LARGE eggs … different sizes will throw off the recipe.

6. Sift the cake mix when adding it to the mixing bowl.

7. Combine all of the wet ingredients: water, fat, eggs, and stir them together, then add them to the dry mix in the bowl. Mix on low speed just until combined.

8. Mix the batter for 2 minutes more on medium speed. USE A TIMER! The batter should be thick and smooth. Pour into prepared pans, and bake as directed on the box. HOWEVER, set the timer for 5 minutes less that the recommended baking time, and check to see if the cake is done. You can always add more time, but you most definitely do not want to overcook your cake.

Pastry chefs do not use toothpicks to tell if their cakes are done. We use three tells:

  • you can smell the cake
  • the top springs back when touched gently
  • the sides are just beginning to pull away from the pan

Be sure to cool your cake on a wire rack at least ten minutes before removing it from the pan. And cool it completely before frosting.


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