Pillbox

Boring boxes no more: Cake mix gone wild

Nobody will believe these melt-in-your-mouth cake batter truffles came from an ordinary, from-a-box cake mix.  (credit: Laura Scherb/Assistant Pillbox Editor) Nobody will believe these melt-in-your-mouth cake batter truffles came from an ordinary, from-a-box cake mix. (credit: Laura Scherb/Assistant Pillbox Editor) Pumpkin spice cupcakes are perfectly autumnal and easy. (credit: Laura Scherb/Assistant Pillbox Editor) Pumpkin spice cupcakes are perfectly autumnal and easy. (credit: Laura Scherb/Assistant Pillbox Editor) Butter pecan miracle cookies satisfy any sweet tooth. (credit: Laura Scherb/Assistant Pillbox Editor) Butter pecan miracle cookies satisfy any sweet tooth. (credit: Laura Scherb/Assistant Pillbox Editor) It might look the same as its humdrum cousin from a box, but this fixer-upper cake will have people asking for your “homemade” cake recipe. (credit: Laura Scherb/Assistant Pillbox Editor) It might look the same as its humdrum cousin from a box, but this fixer-upper cake will have people asking for your “homemade” cake recipe. (credit: Laura Scherb/Assistant Pillbox Editor) Nobody will believe these melt-in-your-mouth cake batter truffles came from an ordinary, from-a-box cake mix.  (credit: Laura Scherb/Assistant Pillbox Editor) Nobody will believe these melt-in-your-mouth cake batter truffles came from an ordinary, from-a-box cake mix. (credit: Laura Scherb/Assistant Pillbox Editor) It might look the same as its humdrum cousin from a box, but this fixer-upper cake will have people asking for your “homemade” cake recipe. (credit: Laura Scherb/Assistant Pillbox Editor) It might look the same as its humdrum cousin from a box, but this fixer-upper cake will have people asking for your “homemade” cake recipe. (credit: Laura Scherb/Assistant Pillbox Editor) Pumpkin spice cupcakes are perfectly autumnal and easy. (credit: Laura Scherb/Assistant Pillbox Editor) Pumpkin spice cupcakes are perfectly autumnal and easy. (credit: Laura Scherb/Assistant Pillbox Editor) Butter pecan miracle cookies satisfy any sweet tooth. (credit: Laura Scherb/Assistant Pillbox Editor) Butter pecan miracle cookies satisfy any sweet tooth. (credit: Laura Scherb/Assistant Pillbox Editor)

Cake mix is the bane of bakers everywhere. It’s a miracle when you’re in a pinch, when you’re feeling lazy, or when you’re just absolutely craving that from-a-box taste that nobody should like but almost everyone actually does.

But when you use a cake mix just to make a cake, something inside you dies a little bit. The little baker inside you who serves as your baking Jiminy Cricket sits down and puts his head in his hands and sobs. Isn’t there a compromise — something that can make everyone happy?

Of course there is. In fact, there are a lot of options. So without further ado, here’s a selection of recipes that uses cake mix in unexpected ways to make something fabulous, even more so.

Cake Mix Cake: Enhanced Version
You might be skeptical, but you won’t believe how much more delicious and homemade this version tastes.

1 box of cake mix
1 teaspoon of vanilla
3 eggs
¼ cup of vegetable or canola oil (or applesauce as a low-fat option)
1 cup of milk

Instead of the cup of water that the directions indicate, use a cup of milk. Bake according to the directions on the mix’s box and marvel at your amazing skill.

Cake Mix Truffles
Adapted from loveveggiesandyoga.com.

1 cup of cake mix
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon of sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl and use your palms to roll the mix into one-inch balls. Put them on a tray and refrigerate for an hour or two. At this point, if you have the patience of a saint, you can roll the truffles in the melted chocolate and refrigerate them again.

Cake Batter Milkshakes
You need these now. I don’t care how cold it is. Adapted from abeautifulmess.com.

1 box of cake mix (my favorites are red velvet and Funfetti)
4–5 cups of milk
4–5 scoops of ice cream (feel free to go crazy with your flavors here)

Throw it all in a blender and find a straw. A big one.

Funfetti Pancakes
Adapted from wifessionals.com.

1½ cups of Funfetti cake mix
2 tablespoons of oil
¾ cup of milk
1 egg

Mix together until bubbles form. Butter a skillet and heat the mixture over medium-low heat. Cook small pancakes for no longer than three minutes on each side. You have to watch these guys pretty closely to make sure they don’t burn. If you want the true breakfast of champions, top these babies with a glaze by microwaving Funfetti icing and milk until the texture is smooth.

Dessert Dip
Adapted from eat-yourself-skinny.com.

1 box of cake mix (my favorite is Funfetti)
2 cups of vanilla yogurt
1 cup of Cool Whip
Dip vehicles: animal crackers, graham crackers, or fruit, if you’re being healthy.

Mix it all together and prepare to die of dip happiness. Fair warning: This makes a ton of dip — like an entire mixing bowl. I hope you’re either searching for the cure for the everyday blues or inviting your entire floor to dessert.

Butter Pecan Miracles
They really are miracles for your taste buds. Adapted from tasteofhome.com.

1 box of butter pecan cake mix
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 eggs
½ cup of butter, softened
1 cup of chocolate or butterscotch chips

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Cream the butter, eggs, and vanilla. Add half of the cake mix with the electric mixer, then mix the rest of it in by hand. Stir in the chips, then use two spoons to scoop onto the cookie tray. The batter will be very sticky. Bake for 10–12 minutes or until golden brown.

Luscious Lemon Bars
Adapted from allrecipes.com.

1 box of lemon cake mix
1 egg
½ cup of oil
1–8-ounce package of cream cheese
1 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Mix the cake mix, oil, and egg, then pat into a greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake for 15 minutes. In the meantime, beat together the lemon juice, cream cheese, and sugar. After the cake has baked for the initial 15 minutes, spread the cream cheese mixture smoothly over the top. Bake for another 15 minutes, then slice into bars. Normally, I don’t go for refrigeration of baked goods, but a few hours in the refrigerator takes this recipe to a higher level. It’s your call. No, I take it back: It’s a test of your patience and restraint.

Fruit and Soda Cobbler
Adapted from livingachangedlife.blogspot.com.

24 ounces of fruit (mixed berries are my favorite, but peaches also work)
1 box of vanilla or yellow cake mix
1–2 cans of lemon-lime soda

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spread the fruit on the bottom of a greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Pour the cake mix evenly on top, but don’t mix it in. Then, pour a can of soda over the the cake mix; don’t mix that in either. You may need more than one can in order to avoid dry spots. Bake for 45-50 minutes, and then dig in with a spoon. To avoid the inevitable burning of your tongue, you can always top the cobbler with ice cream.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

1 box of yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
2 cups of canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons of water
1 can of vanilla icing
1 teaspoon of cinnamon, plus additional for topping
1 teaspoon of ginger, plus additional for topping

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Mix the cake mix, eggs, oil, spices, and pumpkin. Add the water until the mix is smooth but not watery. Pour the mix into greased cupcake tins, filling them about three-fourths of the way. Bake for 18–20 minutes or until golden brown. Once they’re cooled, spread the vanilla icing on top. If you’re feeling particularly artsy or Julia Child-esque, sprinkle cinnamon and ginger on top.