The Cake Mix Doctor

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The Cake Mix Doctor is in! And the prescription is simple: By doctoring up packaged cake mix with just the right extras--a touch of sweet butter here, cocoa powder there, or poppy seeds, vanilla yogurt, sherry, eggs, and grated lemon zest for the Charleston Poppy Seed Cake--even the least experienced baker can turn out luscious signature desserts, time after time. The proof is in the taste, and the taste never stops--from Toasted Coconut Sour Cream Cake to Devilishly Good Chocolate Cake; from a to-die-for Caramel Cake and a Holiday Yule Log to cheesecakes, coffee cakes, sheet cakes, pound cakes, bars, brownies, and those all-important frostings, here are 175 fast, foolproof recipes that will transform the art of home baking in America.

Who could believe these cakes came out of a box? Moist, tender, rich, deep, and complexly flavored, without a hint of artificiality, each cake stand up and delivers. But without any of the fuss of baking from scratch. Anne Byrn, an award-wining food writer and self-described purist, creates recipes that employ a cake mix's strengths---convenience, ease-of-use, dependability, and almost imperviousness to overbeating, underbeating, overbaking, and underbaking.

In addition to the recipes are the Cake Mix Doctor's Q&A's, extensive "Doctor Says" tips, lists--15 Beautiful Birthday Cakes, 15 Cakes That Will Cash in at a Bake Sale--and more, all illustrated in a full-color photographic insert.


Cake mixes are undoubtedly convenient, but do they produce good cakes? They can, says Anne Byrn, author of The Cake Mix Doctor, if you know how to tweak them. Doing this involves the addition of ingredients to enrich the mixes and flavorings to enhance and, in some cases, conceal questionable tastes. To prove her point, Byrn offers more than 175 recipes for mix-based cakes and other desserts, including formulas for frostings that, Byrn maintains, must be made from scratch. The results are convincing; readers interested in satisfying, dependable desserts prepared quickly and with little fuss should welcome the book.

Beginning with a useful discussion of cake mixes, their history and composition, and an outline of the mix-transformation battle plan, the book then presents the recipes in chapters such as "Chocolate Cakes," "Cake-Mix Classics," "Special Occasion Cakes," and "Incredible Bars and Comforting Cookies." Among the most successful offerings are Deeply Chocolate Almond Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting, Banana Cake with Quick Caramel Frosting, and Lemon Buttermilk Poppy Seed Cake. A chapter devoted to crumbles, crisps, cobblers, trifles, and even a dessert pizza shows how to use the mixes in innovative ways, and "Lighter Cakes" presents "healthier" offerings, such as Pear and Toasted Pecan Buttermilk Cake. With sidebars such as The Legendary Pillsbury Bake-Off and tips for success throughout ("Cinnamon is one of the great tools to use when doctoring up cake mixes," begins one), the book explores every aspect of cake-mix fixing while revealing the unexpected richness that the process can yield. --Arthur Boehm

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