Before lockdown, I was known for my brownies. Everyone loved them. Little did they know that my helpers were Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines, and Ghirardelli (whichever was on sale) with a couple of teaspoons of vanilla added. I also would underbake them slightly. I don’t especially enjoy baking, so everyone was happy.
Ghirardelli Is the secret to my bonfire s’more recipe. Shhh. I’ve made hundreds on the road…and for parties. Homemade don’t work the same.
Do you use the chocolate or one of their mixes?
Both. The mix holds up the best to a s’more foil wrap fire pit.
I specifically exempted specialty cakes from my list. I agree that certain things such as carrot cake cannot come out of a box.
My father would have never tolerated that . . . he had to have dessert every day. I still remember the first time I visited him at work: Hershey’s kisses in one desk drawer, chocolate bars in another, a package of cookies in the third. Silly me, I thought the drawers would be filled with office supplies At least I know I come by my sweet tooth honestly.
I’ve made cakes from scratch, but from a convenience\cleanup standpoint I generally stick to boxed. Though I agree home made frosting is best. Brownies, on the other hand, are simple enough and don’t require special flour, etc. In fact I just made a batch of my one-bowl brownies two days ago. It was snowing and the gooey chocolateness made me feel warm.
My sister bakes delicious homemade brownies too. She’s made all kinds of versions. Including beet, avocado, black bean…she would laugh at using a mix for anything. But she loves my s’mores! Shhh.
I rarely make anything from a box, but I would definitely choose a cake mix over a brownie mix. My favorite brownie recipe is just chocolate, butter, sugar, eggs, flour, vanilla and a pinch of salt, all of which I always have on hand, and is just as fast as a mix unless you count the extra 2 minutes to melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave.
I agree that box mixes for simple cakes, especially yellow and white, can be hard to beat with a scratch recipe. Part of the problem is that for every great cake recipe out there, there are 100 that are mediocre, and it is impossible to know exactly how one will turn out until you try it. I have a trusted recipe for white cake that I like more than box mixes, but I haven’t found the magic recipe for yellow (for my taste).
Your ingredients sound a lot like my recipe. Except I melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler and the just add the other ingredients into the chocolate, so only one pan to clean. It only takes a few minutes to melt because instead of using solid baking chocolate I use the cocoa powder (I prefer King Arthur’s double chocolate) + veg oil method for producing unsweetened chocolate.
Years ago a coworker introduced me to a brilliant brownie hack for a nice variation. When you remove the brownies from the oven, poke holes in them with a toothpick, layer Andes mints on top, and spread them across the top. The result is a brownie that has a mint chocolate frosting as well as pockets of chocolate mint inside the brownies. (Yes he was a stoner bachelor, but the trick has stood the test of time for decades.)
I have to admit that I reach for a box when the grandkids are over and want to. make cupcakes. We do, however, make the frosting. Usually lavender or blue, plus as many sprinkles as they can get away with.
Mine is one bowl as well - I melt the chocolate and butter together in a large glass bowl in the microwave, then sit that bowl on the scale and plop in the flour and sugar with a mixing spoon so I don’t have to dirty any measuring spoons! The recipe is Robert’s Absolute Best Brownies from David Lebovitz - they are so simple and SOOOOOOOOOOO fudgy!
I love the Andes mints idea too. Stoners know!
For homemade brownies, this recipe is our absolute favorite and they are stupid simple. I guess, we all have our tried and true!
@MissDior, what are your thoughts on doctoring up a mix? Sometimes a dry mix is just a launch pad.
I’m leery of it because these mixes are put together with rigid scientific accuracy - although I’m tempted to add lemon to a white cake mix. I am suspicious of lemon cake mixes because here, I think the chemical taste might be pronounced and I like to control the product.
But if you have additions that work for you, I’d be interested to hear about them.
There is a cookbook called The Cake Doctor. The entire book uses cake mixes as a launch pad to more involved cake recipes. My wife has a copy.
The only add ins my wife uses have been dried fruit, nuts, chocolate bits or extracts that I recall. But this cookbook takes mixes to another level.
I have my tried and false.
All this talk of cake reminded me of another Hungry Onion thread, about the cake mix ladies who bake from boxed mixes in rural Alaska. The short story is that cake mixes make sweet treats possible in these remote communities. Resourceful bakers adapt the box mixes to use ingredients and add-ins they have on hand.
I also remembered a pistachio pudding cake that was popular back in the 1970’s, I think? If memory serves, said dessert involved yellow cake mix combined with a box of pistachio pudding mix. My aunt wowed the family when she introduced us to that cake!
Thanks for linking that! I enjoyed it when first posted and enjoyed it again.
Thanks for posting that. The OP hit upon the essence of my issues w/people who look down on cake mixes: “really puts things in perspective; made me realize how much of a food snob i’ve become.”
Food snobbery. I detest it, probably because I indulged in it when I was younger & I feel guilty. As a Boomer I’m from the first mass generation of food snobs.
While some of our concepts are valid, most are ludicrous. Iceberg lettuce got put in the dungeon - now it’s back. Now it’s OK to cook your string beans to mush, just as long as you drown them in expensive olive oil and splash them with lemon juice… Crisco will kill you (a little of it won’t - it’s better than butter for greasing pans…)
The list goes on. I’m tired of it all.
The only bad diet is one that doesn’t provide proper caloric and nutritional needs. Beyond that, eat what you like.
I may start another unpopular opinion thread: browned butter.
Before I starting baking and for a good deal of trial and error after, I was completely sure I’d never bake anything worth eating.