Culinary Vacation, Day 5

Today's experiment is actually not an experiment, but I needed to make a cake I could rely on.

1 package white cake mix
1 c. milk
1 stick butter, melted
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla.

Preheat oven to 320 degrees. Grease pan. Melt butter. Add ingredients together and blend about one minute. Scrape down the sides and blend two more minutes. Pour batter and smooth into the pan. Bake 20 minutes, then turn and back 25-30 more.

Notes: This makes a deliciously moist sheet cake (9x13) or a two-layer 9-inch round cake. I double the recipe for a half-sheet pan that is my standard. You'll notice it starts with a cake mix, but the add-to ingredients are decidedly different than the oil-and-egg nastiness that they put on the box. That makes a weak, flavorless cake that will crumble when you approach it with your storebought icing *shudder*.

If I were not planning to decorate this cake, I'd have gone for the snickerdoodle version: add 4 tsp. cinnamon to the batter and make cinnamon frosting. It's awesome. As it is, this will make a rich, moist cake that is still strong enough to take a homemade buttercream frosting (recipe below).


2 sticks butter (real!)
2 lbs. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
half & half

Let butter come to room temperature. Beat butter until fluffy. Add salt, sugar and vanilla; stir. Add half & half by small amounts until satisfied with the consistency.

Notes: This is my mama's frosting recipe. You add a little half & half for stiff, decorative frosting; add more for a smoother frosting to cover the cake. For a smoother, richer flavor, replace one cube of butter with cream cheese - this is delicious, but I find it harder to frost. To color the frosting, be sure to use the Wilton gels, NOT watery food coloring. If you're sticking with white, get the Wilton confectioners' vanilla - it's colorless, unlike regular vanilla, and so it won't affect the color of the frosting.

This makes a metric ton of frosting, enough to frost and decorate a half-sheet cake. If you're making a smaller cake, you might halve the recipe. But it freezes beautifully, so you'd do better to make the big batch and freeze the extra for the next time you make a cake. Or, you know, smear it on graham crackers for an awesome snack. Mmm.

Verdict: I'll let you know; decorating is tonight!


  1. Anonymous1:20 PM

    Excellent post! Must try this cake mix variation-- have you tried it with other cake mix flavors? I would suspect it would have the same effect of adding moistness and flavor. The buttercream is basically my mom's recipe too: simple, but decadent.

    Dang, now I want to bake!

  2. I must admit, I completely cribbed this recipe from the Cake Mix Doctor. Her cookbooks are AWESOME. Strongly recommended, both the regular Cake Mix Doctor books and the all-chocolate one. There are a wide variety of recipes you can make using cake mix as a base, with or without adding pudding (I prefer pudding mixes because it makes for such a moist cake).


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