Cake mixes offer an easy way to bake dessert without the fuss of preparing batter from scratch. While a yellow butter cake mix may help when you're short on time, it may result in a cake short on flavor. But you can enhance its taste with one or two simple tweaks. When deciding which trick to try, simply keep in mind the base flavor of yellow cake and how it plays with other tastes.
Fat Equals Flavor
Replace the oil called for with melted butter. Fat provides a hefty dose of flavor, and using real butter instead of nearly tasteless vegetable or canola oil will make the cake taste closer to homemade. For an extra rich cake, double the amount of butter. But use unsalted butter or your cake will be too salty. You can also add 1 to 3 tablespoons of sour cream for an addition of fat plus a slightly tangy note.
Eggs and Extracts
Add an extra egg to the batter. Not only does the egg add moisture and richness to the cake, it also acts as a leavener to create a fluffier cake. When you add the eggs, consider adding a teaspoon or two of a flavored extract, such as almond, coconut, anise or orange. Adjust the amount of extract to taste.
Spice Is Nice
Raid your spice cabinet for potential additions. Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice work well to create a flavor boost. While cinnamon may be added in larger amounts, up to several teaspoons, other spices should be used more sparingly. Too much ginger, for example, will overpower the mix.
A Packet of Pudding
Add a package of instant pudding to your cake mix to boost both the flavor and moisture. While adding vanilla pudding may be the obvious choice to preserve the yellow butter cake taste, try experimenting with other flavors. Pistachio, strawberry and even chocolate pudding will add subtle notes of flavor.
Spike your yellow cake mix with alcohol. Replace up to half of the water with liquor or liqueur, such as rum, amaretto, raspberry liqueur or Irish cream. Alternatively, replace part or all of the water with milk or freshly brewed coffee.
Dress up your cake with a superb frosting. Whether or not you doctor the cake mix with other techniques, decorating the finished cake with homemade or high-quality store-bought frosting will work wonders for the overall flavor.
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- Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft; The Culinary Institute of America
- The Cake Mix Doctor; Anne Byrn
- On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen; Harold McGee
Kathryn Roberts has worked in the culinary industry for nearly a decade in various roles, including pastry chef and bakery manager. After studying at the Culinary Institute of America, she earned her BFA from Goddard College and is pursing an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.