Lifestyle

Mix takes the cake

By Eileen Mintz

What's Cooking

I feel like an artist when I decorate a cake, whip up a meringue or design the perfect apple filling. It is total culinary art in my book and gives me such satisfaction to hear the oohs and ahs from my family. I pride myself on a great lemon meringue pie, lightly golden strudels and fancy little cookies. But when it comes to cakes, what does my family really enjoy? To my surprise, a cake made from a cake mix.

Recently I was overjoyed to discover the collection of books titled ``Cake Mix Doctor Cookbook,'' ``Chocolate From The Cake Mix Doctor'' and ``Cupcakes From The Cake Mix Doctor'' by Anne Byrn. All her books are New York Times best sellers. We met over coffee at Tully's last month as her publisher, Workman, arranged for a book tour in our area. Bryn brought along the most amazing ``doctored up'' cupcakes that were really ice-cream cones minus the ice cream. Everyone at Tully's stopped and looked. All wanted to eat them.

``Cupcakes From The Cake Mix Doctor'' is filled with 135 irresistible recipes. It includes a chapter on luscious frostings and glazes and a section devoted to kids parties. It also includes recipes for stacked cupcakes that are now the rage as wedding cakes. There is a cupcake recipe for every occasion with breakfast being no exception. Here you will find cupcake muffin recipes too.

Byrn developed an idea about writing a cookbook after researching for her hometown newspaper, The Tennessean, an article about cake mixes. She asked her readers to share their best cake mix recipes and 500 recipes poured in. Her story garnered such attention, she said. ``I just knew that this was the start of something big.''

ICE-CREAM CONE CAKES FROM A MIX

Anne Byrn took these to KONG--TV in Seattle and we ate the props!

28 flat-bottomed wafer ice-cream cones

1 recipe cupcake batter of your choice, chocolate is good here. Choose a batter mix that contains 3 eggs and no pudding mix

2 servings of buttercream frosting (see next recipe)

Sugar sprinkles for decorating

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Wrap a small square of aluminum foil around the base of each cone and stand the cones in the ungreased cupcake pans.

Prepare the cupcake batter and spoon about 1/4 cup batter into each cone, filling no more than halfway. (Here less is better as you don't want the batter to rise out of the cone.) Place the pans in the oven. You should use two ovens or be careful not to burn the pan that is placed on the upper rack. Bake the cones 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack.

Remove the foil from the base of each cone. Fill a pastry bag or a Ziplock bag with one end cut to pipe frosting on top in a spiral pattern. Decorate with candy sprinkles.

BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

1 stick of butter at room temperature

3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted

3 to 4 tbsp. milk

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy, 30 seconds. Stop and add the sugar, 3 tbs. of milk and vanilla. Blend on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more. Add up to 1 tbsp. more milk if too stiff. Double recipe for full amount of cupcakes.

UNREAL KEY LIME PIE CUPCAKES WITH COCONUT MERINGUE

These cupcakes are topped with a quick coconut-flavored meringue and placed in a hot oven to brown. They are in the section of Anne Byrn's Cupcake Book called ``Cupcakes With Class.'' Makes 24.

CUPCAKES

1 tsp. zest and 2 tbsp. juice from 1 large lime

4 large eggs

1 package (18.25 oz.) plain yellow cake mix

1 package (3.4 oz.) vanilla instant pudding mix

1 1/4 cups water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp. coconut flavoring

FILLING

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

1/3 cup key lime juice

COCONUT MERINGUE

1/4 tsp. cream of tarter

reserved 3 large egg whites

1/2 tsp. coconut flavoring

1/3 cup granulated sugar

Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees. Line 24 cupcake cups. Set aside. Prepare the cupcake batter first by zesting the lime and juicing it. Separate the 3 eggs and place the whites in one bowl and yolks in another. Add the fourth egg, cake mix, pudding mix, water, oil coconut flavoring and lime zest and juice to the yolks. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for about 30 seconds. Stop and scrape down the sides. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes or until well blended. Scoop 1/4 cup batter into each lined cupcake, filling 2/3's of the way full. Bake until golden brown, or until cupcakes spring back when touched, 18 to 22 minutes. Remove cupcake tin from oven and take out of pans. Cool for 5 minutes. Increase oven temperature now to 450 degrees.

Take cupcakes out of liners by running a knife around the edges. Let them cool for 15 minutes before filling. Place sweetened condensed milk and key lime juice in a small bowl and stir to combine. Spoon into a pastry bag fitted with a medium tip. Press the tip 1/4 inch into the top center of each cooked cupcake and squeeze the bag to release about 1 tbsp. filling into the cupcake. Line them up.

Prepare the meringue by adding cream of tartar to the reserved egg whites and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until frothy, about 45 seconds. Add the coconut flavoring and 1 tbsp. of the sugar. Continue beating on high, adding one tbsp. at a time until the whites form stiff peaks.

Spoon 2 tbsp. meringue onto the top of each cupcake, swirl and spread to the edges. Bake in the oven for 5 to 6 minutes until the tops are a nutty brown. Run a dinner knife around the edges of the liners and lift the cupcakes up from the bottoms of the cups using the end of knife, and pick them up with your fingers. Serve at once or cool for 10 minutes, then serve. Store up to 3 days at room temperature.

MINTZ FAMILY GRASSHOPPER CAKE

I remember my sister-in-law, Roz, finding a grasshopper cake recipe in a magazine. It called for a scratch recipe but I was such a novice at making a cake then that I simply exchanged the fuss for a cake mix. It worked and many a family celebration included this fabulous chocolate cake with the ``green cake filling.''

CHOCOLATE CAKE

1 box of chocolate cake mix (without pudding)

Use 3 eggs and water or Seven-Up for liquid, plus oil listed on the package as directed.

Mix according to package and pour into 2 pans, either 8-inch rounds or 9-inch rounds if using Seven--Up and then bake. Take out and cool for 15 minutes before removing from pans and place on 2 racks to cool.

GRASSHOPPER FILLING

1 envelope (Knox) unflavored gelatin and a 1/2 teaspoon from another envelope

1/4 cup cold water

1/3 scant cup white créme de cacao

1/2 scant cup of créme de

menthe

2 cups whipping cream

1 cup sifted powdered sugar

Soften gelatin in the cold water. Heat together créme de cocoa and créme de menthe and then add in softened gelatin. Stir until gelatin is dissolved on medium heat. Pull off burner and cool slightly in refrigerator. Don't let it get hard.

Whip cream until thick and gradually add in powdered sugar. Fold cooled green mixture of gelatin and liqueurs into the whipping cream and mix thoroughly. Chill for 15 minutes.

Divide each 8- or 9-inch cake into half, now you have 4 layers. Place one cake layer on a cake plate. Take 1/4 of the filling and spread to just the edge of the layer. Repeat again until you have 3 layers done and then do the top layer. Grate chocolate on the top filling and chill until set. Serve cold from the refrigerator.

STEPHANIE ASHCRAFT'S RAINBOW POKE PARTY CAKE

This is an interesting way to perk up a white cake mix. It amazes me that adding the gelatin not only gives the cake color but additional flavor.

1 white cake mix

1 small box strawberry gelatin (Jell-O)

1 small box lime gelatin

2 cups boiling water, divided

1/2 cup cold water, divided

12 ounces whipped topping, thawed

Prepare cake mix as directed on the package. Pour batter into two 8- or 9-inch round pans, and bake as directed: cool for 10 minutes before removing. Then continue to cool completely.

Place cake layers top sides up. Bake in the two clean pans. With a fork, poke holes at 1-inch intervals through both cakes.

Dissolve strawberry gelatin into 1 cup boiling water. Mix 1/4 cup cold water into gelatin. Spoon over one layer. Repeat same directions with lime gelatin. Refrigerate 3-4 hours or overnight.

Dip one pan into warm water for 10 seconds: invert onto serving plate. Cover the layer with part of the whipped topping. Invert second layer onto the first layer and frost with remaining topping. Refrigerate.

UNBELIEVABLE CHOCOLATE KAHLUA CAKE

I was surprised to find out that this ``Cake Mix'' recipe was from a magazine for diabetics. It's definitely worth making.

1 (18.25 oz) Devil's Food cake mix

1 small (1 oz.) box sugar free instant chocolate pudding mix

1 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt

1/4 cup canola oil

1/3 cup skim milk

1 large egg

3 large egg whites

1/3 cup Kahlua liqueur

1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Cocoa

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9x13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and dust with cocoa. Place all ingredients except chocolate chips in a large bowl. Beat with mixer for 2 minutes or until well blended. Stir in chips. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes or until done. Cool before cutting. Dust with powdered sugar

HEAVENLY BROWNIE CAKE

Pull out your 9- x 13-inch pan and expect to have loads of brownies from this recipe. They are really tender and easy to eat with a tall glass of milk. Author Stephanie Ashcraft wrote the book, ``101 Things To Do With A Cake Mix.'' Gibbs Smith is the publisher. Here is one of the easy recipes.

BOTTOM LAYER

1 chocolate cake mix

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

TOP LAYER

1 box (1 pound) powdered sugar

8 oz. cream cheese

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry cake mix, butter, and 1 egg. Add pecans if desired. Spread into a prepared 9- x 13-inch pan. Beat powdered sugar, cream cheese, and remaining eggs together and then spread over bottom layer. Bake 40 to 50 minutes into golden brown.

DARK CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI CAKE

1 (18.25 oz.) box of dark chocolate cake mix

1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 medium size zucchini (2 cups grated)

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I like to use 3 /4's cup semisweet and 1/4 cup milk chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped nuts

1/2 cup sultanas (light raisins)

In a large mixing bowl add cake mix, eggs, oil and vanilla extract. Beat until well blended. Stir in the chopped nuts, grated zucchini, chocolate chips and raisins.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9- x 13-inch cake pan. Pour batter in and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Cool the cake and frost with the cream cheese frosting of your choice.

Eileen Mintz can be reached by email at eileenmintz@comcast.net or by phone at 232.1984.

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