Tag Archives: box cake mix adjustments

Semi-Home-Made Cake Batter

When you need just some cake to decorate, it is easy to buy a box of cake mix at the store and make it up. It contains all the dry ingredients, and all you need to add are water, eggs and oil. Mix 30 seconds at a low speed, and 2 minutes at a medium speed and you should get a perfectly lovely cake.

But if you want, you can use the dry mix in the cake box as a base, and modify the wet ingredients to add taste and richness to the batter. That is what I mean when I say semi-home-made. You save time by not having to measure out the dry ingredients, but you add flavor by your choice of wet ingredients.

The reason for using semi-home-made cake batter is to give your cakes a richer taste. About a year ago, the Decorette shop gave out tips on making additions and changes to the normal way store-bought cake mix are made in order to make them semi-home-made.

I have been using those tips, but have had one problem; most of my cupcakes collapse while they are cooling and no longer have a mushroom shaped top. I decided to take the tips apart, and use only a single one in each batch of cupcakes until I discovered what was going wrong.
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What was going wrong seems to be when more moisture is added to the batter. I felt I would have to cook the cupcakes longer in order to dry them out, and I did, even though a toothpick came out clean. But still, the cupcakes crashed.
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And then I received a hint indirectly from my Seattle Muse that I should cut back on the “water” equivalent if I were to add the sour cream or yogurt. For ½ cup of sour cream or yogurt, I reduced the “water” equivalent by ¼ cup. I still increased the cooking time by 10%- 21 minutes instead of 19 minutes, and I was happy to have nice mushroom tops on the resulting cupcakes.
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While I am using cupcakes as a test vehicle, you can also make these same changes to a standard cake as specified by the back of the cake mix box.

The tips from the Decorette Shop without change were:

  • Add 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Instead of 3 eggs use 2 egg whites and 2 eggs
  • Replace water with buttermilk or milk
  • Replace oil with melted butter (but double the amount of melted butter
  • Add vanilla bean paste for even more flavor

My taste buds didn’t really detect many of the changes; maybe more sensitive tastes would detect the difference. I ended up with just a couple of the changes, and I even modified those. My changes are:

  • Replace most water with a mix of milk and cream
  • Add 1/2 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

If the back of the box calls for 1 cup water, I reduce the total milk and cream to 3/4 cup. And I make the mix of milk and cream 3/4 milk and 1/4 cream. This means that if you have Half-and-Half, you would use 1/2 milk and 1/2 Half-and-Half since it is half milk and half cream. If you use heavy/whipping cream, then you might have to calculate the appropriate amount of milk and cream. It would be nice if the cake box calls for 1 1/4 cups water, because then you would have 3/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup cream. When the box calls for 1 cup water, I used 1/2 cup milk and 1/4 cup heavy cream and got good results; that is slightly less milk and more cream than should be according to my 3/4 to 1/4 rule, and that is why I specifically mention that case.

You are invited to try the other tips given by the Decorette Shop; I am only saying that my taste was not sensitive enough to see the difference.

November 2016: I had reason to make a “pull-apart” cake using the mini-cupcake cups this month, and felt that I should update this post to reflect that experience.

I started with a box of cake mix that gave the directions as follows:

  1. 1 1/4 cups water
  2. 1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
  3. 3 whole eggs

The directions were to preheat the oven to 325 degrees for dark pans and 350 degrees for light pans. Mix the ingredients including the box of cake mix for 2 minutes, put into the pans and bake for 14-19 minutes for cupcakes.

Now I was making mini cupcakes, so the time had to be adjusted accordingly. And I discovered that the bottoms of the cupcakes were starting to burn, so I baked them (they were in dark pans) with the pans in a sheet pan to protect the bottoms. Because of that insulation of the bottoms, the cooking time came out to be about the suggested time even though the cake size were small and the heat should penetrate to the middle of the cake faster than for a full size cupcake.

I also decided to only make half the box of cake mix at a time so that I could focus better on the cooking. I got 36 cupcakes out of each half of the box of cake mix. Here is the ingredient list I used:

  1. 1/2 box white cake mix (just over 8 ounces)
  2. 3/8 cup milk
  3. 1/8 cup heavy cream
  4. 1/4 cup sour cream
  5. 1/3 cup melted butter
  6. 2 whole eggs

As a side note, I nearly forgot to get the butter ready. I cut the 1/3 stick into small chunks (2 x length and 6 x across) and put it in a small dish. I was going to use the microwave for 30 seconds to melt it, but didn’t want to be cleaning the microwave after melting the butter. So I slipped the small dish into a sandwich baggie, sealed it, and everything went better than I had expected.

The other experience I had was in filling the cupcake cups. First, I piped the dough into the cups for better control. Originally, I piped around the edges and let the center fill itself. It doesn’t fill as well as hoped. So I starte piping the bottom center and letting the dough push itself out to the edges of the cup. This seems to work better.

The second thing to note is about the reuse of the cupcake pans. I discovered that during the cooking there seems to be moisture pushed out and through the cupcake paper. If that moisture is on the bottom of the pan cup when the pan is reused, the cupcake paper wants to pull away from the cupcake paper; the paper seems to fall off the cupcake. So be certain to use a paper towel and wipe the cups of the pan dry before putting the papers in for making the second half of the box of cake mix.

Mini Cupcakes

Jenn wanted a Bacardi Rum Cake for her birthday, and since we would be celebrating it with the children, I felt I also needed some non-alcoholic cake for them. After thinking about it, I felt these mini-cupcakes would be just the thing. The trick is in determining the amount of ingredients to use so that you are not trying to make a bakery full.

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I did the math, starting with the information that a full box of cake mix is enough for 24 regular size cupcakes. Those use a 2.5 inch cupcake paper and are about 1 inch deep. The mini-cupcake papers are half that diameter, and half that high. If you do all the multiplies and divides, it comes out that a quarter of a box of cake mix is adequate for 36 mini cupcakes.

It just happened that I had 3 mini muffin pans, or 36 mini cupcake places. (I will now wonder why we had three pans). After I put the paper cup into each of the openings, I also dropped a chocolate chip onto the bottom of the paper as a small surprise.

Based on some tips that I got from Blake’s Decorette Shop, I didn’t just divide the recipe on the back of the cake mix box by 4; besides, I would have to tell you what to do about the 3 eggs that the box says to use for a full box of cake mix; there is no such thing as 3/4 of an egg!

So here is what I used.

  1. I measured out 1/4 of the cake mix from the box. That is very close to 4 ounces.
  2. I used a full egg.
  3. I used 1/4 cup of milk (instead of water).
  4. I used 2 Tablespoons and 2 teaspoons butter, melted (instead of oil).
  5. Finally, I used 1 teaspoon of Meringue Powder.

I used 1 Tablespoon of batter in each cup. I found putting the batter in a piping bag worked better than trying to spoon it. And I must confess that depending on how good I am at piping just exactly 1 Tablespoon per cup, I get a yield of 30-36 cupcakes.

Since the box said that 24 cupcakes needed to cook for 18-21 minutes, I decided to cook the smaller cupcakes for 10 minutes and then test for doneness. I must say that for my stove, the 10 minutes turned out to be perfect!

The real trick is in filling the mini cupcake cups. I strongly recommend putting the batter in a piping bag so you can control the flow and amount that goes into each cupcake cup. Because of the need for egg in the cake mix, I don’t think it is reasonable to try to make fewer than the 36 mini cupcakes at a time. And I don’t know what happens if you try to cook the 36 in batches rather than all at the same time; I suspect the dough that is waiting for the first batch to cook is starting to deflate and lose all the air that has been mixed into it.

November 2016: I had the occasion to make mini cupcakes this month, and have changed my mind about making 36 pieces from a quarter box of cake mix. As you can see in the picture the cupcakes are flat on the top; I want mushroom shaped cupcakes. So after experimenting, I decided it was better to make 24 nice fat mini cupcakes instead of the 36 flat topped mini cupcakes. Just fill the cupcake papers fuller!

One thought about having the mushroom shaped cupcakes is that it is harder to decorate a pull-apart cake; you have mountains and valleys and not a clean flat surface. But if you look at the photo of the rabbit pull-apart cake, you can see that they have a nice round top going into the decorating.

The one thing you might want to watch is the cooking time. Because there is more dough in each cupcake cup, it might need an extra 4-5 minutes versus the 10 I suggested earlier in this article.