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Cake Poll: Mixing it Up with the Cake Mix Doctor, and a Giveaway!

Win it: The Cake Mix Doctor Returns
Growing up, there were a few things that were forbidden in our house, for various moral or health reasons: Doritos, the show Full House, and cake mix.

As a result, I grew up harboring a secret and dark love for all of these things. The crackle of a Doritos bag opening thrills me; I can't hear the theme song from Full House without feeling just a little shiver of excitement; and while I've come to appreciate homemade baked goods far more, I still don't have a huge problem with cake mix.

So it would stand that I've always been intrigued by the "Cake Mix Doctor" series, and as a result, when Laura at Workman Publishing contacted me to see if I'd like to check out the new and improved The Cake Mix Doctor Returns (a revamped re-release of the original book, with even more recipes), I jumped at the chance.

If you're not familiar with the concept, basically what author Anne Byrne does is take a cake mix and "doctor" it up, offering creative alterations and ingredients that will make all sorts of desserts (not just cakes) with the mix which taste far better than simply mixing-and-baked per the box instructions. And by starting with a cake mix, you have the added ease of not having to make sure you have all of your dry ingredients on hand, which can be helpful for infrequent bakers.

So I tried out several of the recipes in the book, and I have to say, I have been very pleasantly surprised with the results. One in particular though, the "Houdini Bars"--a dense bar cookie with a yellow cake crust filled with a custardy cream cheese, nut, and coconut filling, was so delectable that true to their name, they disappeared in hours (I'll share the recipe in a few days!). Of course, Byrne isn't offering a quick fix to everything--while cake mixes are the core of the book, she insists that you make your own frostings, citing wise words indeed: "frosting is the first and last taste you experience when forking into a slice of cake. It should never be an afterthought", adding that "you can get away with a cake from a mix, but you must make your frosting from scratch."

So, overall, I have to say I was pretty impressed with the book. And I'm not just saying this because Workman donated three copies to give away (although they did)--which leads to the next subject...

Sweet Giveaway!

So, I have three copies of The Cake Mix Doctor Returns to give away! To put your name in the running, simply answer this important ethical question in the comments:

If you make a cake with a mix, is it wrong to hide the fact that it's not completely "homemade"?


Let the games begin! The Cake Poll will close at 12 p.m. PST on Friday, October 2; the winners will be contacted shortly thereafter. If you are leaving an anonymous comment, please be sure to leave an email address so you can be contacted if you win!


The poll is now closed: here are the three winners who were chosen at random!
Felice from Hawaii, who writes the site All That's Left are the Crumbs
Melleah from South Carolina, who writes the site Goode Taste
and finally, Krystel T.!
Thanks everyone for entering!


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Reader Comments (295)

Say it's semi-homemade! There should be no shame to start with a pre-made cake mix. Some of us just do not have the time or maybe we just don't harbor awesome cake making skills! "Some of us" meaning "me"!

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterJackie

I am honest with folks, if they ask if it is a mix, I'll tell them. Otherwise, it is my little secret!

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

I don't tell unless I am asked! Then I can say that I started with a mix and added my secret ingredients!

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterBevy

I always add a little something (chocolate chips, vanilla extract, etc.) so it's not ENTIRELY just from a box, haha.

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterK

You change it up, it's yours! (tinareid@gmail.com)

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterTina

As long as you make it at home, it's homemade. Now, if they ask if you made it from scratch or with a box mix then you might be facing an ethics & morals question in how you answer that! :D

Meri Anne

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterMeri Anne

I always say it was a joint effort. It was made at my house the cake didn't fall out of the box so I say it was homemade with a bit of help. :)

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterFootin

I have no shame in making a cake from a mix but who is going to ask anyway? If they want my secret I'll point to Ms. Crocker, but otherwise just enjoy the cake!

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterTeri

If they don't ask don't tell! :)

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterWhitvia

Yes! I'm a total homemade cake snob. It breaks my heart every time I bite into, what I'm told is, a 'homemade' cake only to realize it's a mix. Sigh. Did I mention I'm a cake snob?

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I think hiding the origin/method of the cake is wrong, especially when the recipient is expecting and paying for a “from scratch” creation. When I’m serving my friends and family and decide we need a fast cake for dessert, I don’t mind throwing together a box with some touch ups. It does the job in a tight spot and no one minds it’s from a box.

For example, I worked for a summer in a “from scratch” bakery/cafe, and it was an enlightening experience. Making cakes in a commercial setting when you lack formal training is both joyful and disheartening. Near the end of the summer, the cafe got a rush order for a small wedding cake and my manager took on the task of actual creation (there was no way in heck I was touching that one even if there was the option to do so). The cake was nice, light and fluffy, but not spectacular. One day, when the managers’ son was taking out the recycling we noticed boxes and boxes of cake mix. The staff put two and two together, and through careful taste tests of scrap bits, the managers nervous attitude about the taste and whether or not she’d added enough almond extract (it’ll hide the flavor of most fake vanilla) we deduced the wedding cake was mix, doctored up.

And that my cake-loving friends, was wrong.

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterKira

There should be no shame in using a cake mix! It'd be wrong to lie and say you didn't use a mix if you used one, but I believe it's homemade if it came out of your oven and a few dishes got dirty in the process.


September 29 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Yunks

I think everyone can tell when I use a mix...I just serve it right out of the pan. When I make something from scratch, I put a LOT more effort into it :)

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterJanelle Rene

Not one bit wrong! Of all the cakes I make, I always get rave reviews about one.....which starts with a Devils Food base...simplest cake to make, and apparently best tasting! And I'm not telling anyone my secret (except for the thousands that read cakespy..whoops).

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterV

Not at all. I think it's just fine to lie your butt off about it, because when it comes down to it, you made something delicious and that should be good enough for anyone!

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterApril-Zilla

I am always sharing my Neiman Marcus Bar recipe and am not one bit ashamed that it has a cake mix in it! So I say, tell the truth!

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterSasha

Only if they ask! If they don't ask how you made your cake or for the recipe, there is nothing wrong with keeping quiet about the cake mix. If they do ask, however, fess up!

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

The cake mix becomes an ingredient. I've used her recipes before and you do so much "doctoring" it is just like using a spice blend.

Kathleen in St. Louis

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I agree with many people - I don't think it's wrong at all. The difference is that 'homemade' to me and everyone I know means made in my own kitchen and baked with love. 'From Scratch' means we didn't use a mix.

kstorkko at hotmail dot come

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterKrystel T

I don't care if the recipe starts with cake mix as long as the end result is delicious! Why bother to hide that you used it?

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterElisabeth

I prefer to bake from scratch, but I don't think it's necessary to hide it if you started with a cake mix. I think it is tacky to lie about it, though. If someone asks you straight out if you used a mix, why lie?

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterCaitlin

Some people like the fact that some really great desserts are so simple to make, so no.

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

That's a super tricky question. If you would have asked me before I started baking I would say no. But now that I bake aon a regular basis and know how EASY it is, I'm sorry cake mix isn't homemade. BUT if you doctor it up and make it your own, then I guess it's ok.

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterEliana

When using a mix, it is definitely "made" at "home", it just doesn't fit the definition of "made from scratch." Hiding it isn't really all that great though, but I don't think you need to shout it out to the world. Personally, I love to surprise people with the "truth" after receiving raves for a doctored cake mix recipe.

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

I rarely use a mix, but a couple of times over the years when I did and people asked I absolutely told them I used a mix in the recipe and then explained what other ingredients were in it. But I wouldn't volunteer that it's a mix if they didn't ask. :) If it's good, most people won't care anyway!

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterValerie
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