A Harte Appetite: Cake Mixes Have Come a Long Way

Aug 3, 2020

I have a confession to make.  For years I have been making a chocolate cake that everybody raves over. Once I took it to a committee meeting and one of the committee members said it was absolutely the best chocolate cake he had ever tasted.  Another time I took it to a party and people actually fought over the last slice.

Without fail, whenever I serve it, somebody asks for the recipe.  Well, the cake does contain some flavorful ingredients—Kahlua, sour cream, and almost a pound of chocolate.  But, and here’s the confession, it begins with a mix.

I’m prompted to let this skeleton out of my oven by the success of a series of books by Anne Byrn, “The Cake Mix Doctor.”  Because of her, I’m now convinced that proper embellishment can make a cake mix taste as good as home made.

Partly this is because cake mixes have come a long way since their introduction a little over fifty years ago.

For example, in 1977, after noticing how many winners of its Bake-Off relied on pudding mix to enhance their entries, Pillsbury reformulated its product and put the pudding in the cake mix to begin with.  General Mills followed suit.

Because of such improvements cake mixes have some real advantages over home made.  For instance, they’re much more forgiving.  Over-beat the batter and they still bake up fine.  Under-beat it and the result is nonetheless perfectly acceptable.  Take a box cake out of the oven sooner than you should and all will be well.

Plus, cake mixes contain emulsifiers that prevent fat and liquid from separating, guaranteeing a moist cake.  

You can capitalize on these strengths while using judicious additions that give the cake a home made quality and even a former purist like myself may never guess your secret.  There’s hardly a limit to the things you can add to a cake mix to deliciously camouflage its ancestry.

But though these days you can make a credible cake from a box, you absolutely must make homemade frosting.”

++++Melted Ice Cream Cake+++++

This recipe adapted from Byrn’s book cleverly uses melted ice cream to both enrich and flavor cake mix, and the possibilities are endless.  Make sure you measure the ice cream after melting because it will contain some air.  You can gild the lily by serving this cake with a scoop of the ice cream that was added to it.


1 package white cake mix without pudding 
2 cups melted ice cream
3 eggs


Blend together the cake mix, melted ice cream, and eggs on low speed of electric mixer for 1 minute.  Scrape down sides of bowl and beat at medium speed for 2 minutes longer until batter is thick and well blended.  Pour batter into a greased Bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees until cake springs back lightly when pressed, about 40 minutes.  Cool cake 20 minutes before removing from pan.  Dust with powdered sugar or frost with the glaze of your choice.