Do y'all ever clip coupons? I know it sounds SUPER outdated, but I've always been a sucker for the sweet, sweet sense of satisfaction when my grocery bill goes from three figures to the mid twos because of a little strategizing. Anyway, by virtue of cutting coupons, I'm sometimes tempted to buy things that I normally wouldn't. You might accuse me of making poor financial decisions by buying something outside of my norm just to "save money." While I normally wouldn't argue with you, turns out a box of cake mix can be a serious time and money saver. I had a coupon to buy a box of cake mix for $0.50, and with a few extra ingredients I was able to hack that box into a stunning Apricot and Banana Upside Down Cake.
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If you're currently thinking that I'm a lazy and gross person for even CONSIDERING using boxed cake mix, I'm here to change your mind. I literally worked in the pastry department of one of Nashville's most popular restaurants for two years. I can make a damn fine cake from scratch, and it's fun to do when I have time.
All that said, there's something beautiful about not having to pull out every ingredient from your pantry and instead just tearing open a packet where all the goodness resides. That's not to say, however, that those little boxes don't need some doctoring to get them to Bakery-Level status.
So what are these boxed cake mix hacks, pray tell?
For one, don't use plain ol' water when you can add extra fat and flavor with milk, booze, or other liquids.
Secondly, don't use oil. Level up and add some butter! I promise, it makes the cake taste legit. Not at all like something from a box.
Third, if you're feeling really luxurious, add an extra egg or two. I didn't this time because I was adding extra flavor and fat through a caramelized topping of fruit, butter and brown sugar, but trust me. It works like a charm.
Should you really buy boxed cake mix next time you're shopping? Yes.
When I discovered the beauty of box cake mix several years ago, I started hoarding them whenever they went on sale and/or I could find a coupon for them. Ok, hoarding might be a stretch. But at any given point in time, you can expect to find between 2 and 6 boxes of assorted cake mixes in my pantry. They can be lifesaving!
Forgot about your friend's birthday until Facebook reminded you today? Have an unexpected guest coming over for dinner in an hour? Are you in the midst of a hormonal rampage that can't be quelled without freshly baked goodies? Need an activity to teach your tiny human about fractions but don't want to make a big mess? Boxed cake mix can help you out of ALL of these pickles in a jiffy.
So what kind should I buy?
My general favorite boxed cake mix to keep on hand is plain yellow cake mix because I find that it's the most versatile. That said, devil's food cake, white cake, pound cake and angel cake mixes are also pretty great.
I'm the wrong person to ask about red velvet mixes, because aside from the cream cheese frosting, red velvet cake holds no appeal for me.
Funfetti is often a favorite with the tiny humans, but I always have a plethora of sprinkles to choose from at home. (I can't have just one type! And every time I see new ones that are beautiful, I can't help myself! So I make my own Funfetti using white cake mix and whatever jimmies I'm trying to use up.)
I also avoid purchasing any of the flavored mixes (e.g. strawberry or lemon), because I'd rather add that flavor in using the real deal fruit rather than an artificial additive.
If you're worried about buying a particular brand, don't be. I have tried Pillsbury, Trader Joe's, Jiffy, Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker and the generic versions they sell at Aldi's and Dollar Store. They're all pretty much the same to me.
My newest creation with a box of cake mix...
My most recent adventure with a box of cake mix came about because I had a bowl full of beautiful apricots that were on the verge of expiring. I knew I wanted to make some kind of dessert. I had bought a box of cake mix just the previous week because I was thinking about making a pineapple upside down cake with it for a cookout, but when I got home I didn't have pineapple rings like I thought. Then I thought to myself, why do pineapples get all the fun? So I set about making an upside down cake using the apricots.
I didn't have quite enough apricots to fully stud the top of the cake, so I filled in the gaps with bananas. Because who could ever be mad at the addition of caramelized bananas in a dessert?? And since I am a firm devotee to the almond flavored world, I decided that a big glug of amaretto would be an excellent addition to my experiment.
Y'all. The cake did not disappoint. It was moist and tender. It was lightly perfumed with almond. The caramel from the fruit soaked through the crumb to just the right depth. And it took me all of 10 minutes to assemble, even though I filmed the whole thing for you. That means that in reality, I could've had that baby in the oven in less than 10 minutes. That's a dang dessert miracle, if I ever heard of one.
So what are you waiting for? Grab that box of cake mix from your pantry and get cookin'! You'll be surprised at how hard it works for you.
Apricot Banana Upside Down Cake
- Make cake batter by mixing together boxed cake mix, 4 oz melted butter, milk, amaretto, and eggs. Set aside to thicken.
- Cut apricots in half and remove their pits. Slice bananas to approximately the same thickness as the apricot halves.
- In an ovenproof skillet, melt 4 oz butter. When bubbling, add brown sugar and stir to incorporate. Let cook undisturbed for three minutes to begin to caramelize.
- Nestle in the apricot halves (cut side down) and bananas to make a tight topping. Remove from heat, add cake batter and smooth.
- Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto a plate. Enjoy warm with ice cream or whipped cream!