Truth be told, if I’m making homemade icing and finding time to decorate a cake, I like a little help with some ready-made measurements from Duncan Heinz. But just because I cheat sometimes and use a store-bought cake mix, doesn’t mean any one has to know :) . There are a few simple tricks that can make an out-of-the-box cake taste and seem perfectly homemade.

Step 1: Use Duncan Heinz cake mix.
I’m sorry to pick favorites but it’s just the way it is. I’ve used all brands of cake mix before and Duncan Heinz just makes the best!

Step 2: Add your own ingredient.
Since this was a strawberry cake I chopped about a cup of fresh strawberries and folded it into the mix. For chocolate cake mix, add a tablespoon or two of coffee and a handful of mini chocolate chips (they’ll melt down properly). For cupcakes, it’s as simple as substituting milk for water. But a dash of extract (vanilla, lemon, almond) can really step up the flavor of the cake too.

Step 3: Bake using the Wilton Method. 
The Wilton Method instructs to bake the cake for 15 minutes at 25 degree intervals. This means you preheat your oven to 275o and bake for 15 minutes. Then raise the temperature to 300o for 15 minutes, and so forth. Keep raising the temperature 25 degrees every 15 minutes until you reach 350o; then set the timer for 10 minutes, which is usually the right amount of baking time. Depending on the diameter of your cake it may be done sooner, or later, keep a watchful eye on it so you don’t overbake the cake.

You would think this goes without saying, but it has to be one of the easiest mistakes to make. To prevent this, look for the cake to pull away from the edges of the pan. Take a toothpick and insert it in the center, if it comes out clean it is done! If not, and the top of the cakes looks like its getting a little too dark, cover it with foil.

And the best part is that if you take the time to bake the cake right, make a homemade icing, and take a little care decorating the cake, no one will question if the cake was scratchmade. :) 


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