Doctored Cake Mix

  Cakes and cupcakes made from scratch are a beautiful thing.  I encourage this.   There is pale comparison.   However, in the real world there is this other thing called spur of the moment baking where I  just want to make something in a hurry and not have to clean up flour from my counters.

Box mixes are easy to have on hand and follow but for any decent palate, the taste just doesn’t always measure up to the picture on the box.  This recipe  for “doctored cake mix” below  lets you take any box mix and amp up the flavor and texture.

I had been looking for someone to trust and found this recipe at the back of a knock out cupcake decorating book by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson called  “Hello, Cupcake.”  I love the simplicity of being able to take pretty much any cake box, make these switches and end up with a moist and fluffy cupcake.   The most important swap –Tack and Richardson recommend is using A CUP OF BUTTERMILK instead of any amount water called for on the box.  Great concept.  And using 4 LARGE EGGS no matter what it says on the box and whatever amount of oil the box recipe tells you to use.  I also added a teaspoon of fresh grated lemon zest.  Take a permanent marker and make these changes to the actual box mix recipe for easy follow along.

I had been craving coconut cupcakes with sprinkles and fortunately had a yellow cake mix box on hand and super fortunate that I had made buttermilk pancakes over the weekend and still had some buttermilk on hand.

**If you don’t have buttermilk, you can easily make it yourself.  Add a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup then add milk to the one cup line.  Let it stand five to ten minutes and you’ve got buttermilk.

As for the frosting, I used my handy Joy of Cooking for a classic and easy cream cheese with coconut and sprinkles.


Adapted from Hello, Cupcake! by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson

makes 24 cupcakes

1 box of yellow cake mix  (not ones with pudding in them)

1 cup of buttermilk

vegetable according the amount on the box (1/3 cup)

4 large eggs (no matter how many the box says)

1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest

large plastic zip lock bag

Method: preheat over to 350.  Place rack in center of oven.

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer add the dry cake mix, 1 of buttermilk, 1/3 cup oil and beat just to moisten – about half a minute.
  2. Add 4 eggs and beat at high speed for about 2-3 minutes.  It should look thick.
  3. Spoon half of the mixture into the large plastic bag and then snip a 1/4” corner to allow some control over pouring the batter into the cupcake liners.  Resist the urge to overfill. Two-thirds full is right.
  4. Add the rest of the batter to the plastic bag for the next 12 cupcakes.
  5. Bake in the center rack for about 15 minutes or until an inserted tooth pick comes out without batter sticking to it.
  6. Lift the cupcakes from the pans carefully and allow to cool fully on a wire rack.  Once cool, you can frost them.


adapted from The Joy of Cooking and Slashfood blog

8 ounces of Philadelphia Brand cream cheese (sorry, its the best)

5 tablespoons butter, room temperature or softened

2 teaspoons vanilla

1  1/2  cups of powdered sugar, sifted after measuring

Take the chill off the cream cheese for about 10 minutes or hit it with a rolling pin to soften.  Butter needs to be soft.

In a food processor or mixer, combine, the cream cheese, softened butter, vanilla until blended.  Add the sifted powdered sugar gradually until you’ve achieved the consistency and sweetness you like.

Use an off set spatula to spread the frosting over the cupcakes, then top with coconut and sprinkles.


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