Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cake, Cake Mix, and Happiness

So who doesn't enjoy cake?
Especially if it is your birthday
And the cake was made just for you.
From first taste
Through all the birthdays you are given to celebrate, a cake makes a person feel special.
No one appreciates cake mix as much as a cook who has had to live without it. I believe it is the single greatest mix ever invented. Although it was experimented with in the 1920's, it was not commericially available to the cooks at home until after World War II.
The popular brands of Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker turned this wonder into a kitchen essential around 1950. I remember how my grandmothers loved cake mix. It seemed like a miracle to them. One grandmother fell in love with bundt cakes and bundt cake mixes. She tried every variety of mix that she saw in a grocery store. She scoured newspapers and magazines for tips and tricks on how to enhance the bundt cake slices. Combinations of sauces, fruit, ice cream, and custards were proudly served over generous slices of cake. They were delicious and, compared to former baking methods, easy.
The other grandmother liked to start with a cake mix, but add her special touches to improve it. Two thirds of the white cake into the pan. Cocoa powder stirred into the remaining batter, then swirled through for marble cake. Spice cake mix, add dates, top with sugar and chopped walnuts yielded yummy date cake. She also made apple cake with a yellow mix when she was in a hurry. The sweet cake was delicious with the tart apples and fresh whipped cream.
They could take a cake mix and make a yummy crust or a streusel topping. Cake mixes are versatile.
The first baking project that I ever recall doing on my own, was a chocolate cake mix, baked into cupcakes, frosted with white powdered sugar frosting, then dipped in flaked coconut. I think I was 8 or 9. The cake mix was the key to success. I could measure some water, crack eggs and use the kitchen equipment. I stood on an overturned kettle by the counter so that I could reach. I still like coconut on top of the frosting of a chocolate cake.
This morning I enjoyed the convenience of an angel food cake mix to make desserts for the birthday party of the month at our local nursing home.  Our homemakers club served a cake made with just two ingredients. An angel food cake mix and a can of lemon pie filling. Stir only those two things together (no water) in a bowl, spread into a jelly roll pan (do not grease the pan), and bake about 25-30 minutes @ 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Check doneness with a toothpick in the center of the pan. It bakes up brown, like an angel food and sticks a little to the pan, like an angel food, so cut carefully. I use a metal pancake turner to remove the pieces from the pan.
We served it with a scoop of sherbet and had to explain the simple recipe while listening to rave reviews. Cake mix seems necessary for survival in GriggsDakota. I can't imagine making so much dessert without it. It was the perfect light treat served with a cup of coffee on a July afternoon.
I tried to teach my sister the joy of baking cakes. First with her own Suzy Bake Oven.
Then in the kitchen. She never really found the joy of baking.
But there is nothing wrong with calling the bakery for a sheet cake.
Or calling the local cake lady
to order something memorable.
Maybe the secret to the success of cake mix is that in the midst of celebration, no one focuses on evaluating the cake. After all, a baker doesn't enter a box cake in the County Fair. It's served for dessert or maybe a party.
The joy of the moment 
And the candlelight
 And the company at the table
Overshadow the cake. Thank goodness.


  1. This post is jam-packed with fun family photos and excellent writing. Well done Mom!!

  2. What would we do without cake in our lives? I love how it represents a happy occasion.

  3. That lemon cake looks delish and so simple! I will have to try it!