I usually make cakes from scratch - but my mom always has boxes of mix tucked away in the pantry. Plus, we've been doing a lot of work and I'm tired.
In the spirit of using what we had available, I chose the Duncan Hines yellow cake mix. Then I checked the blogosphere and found this terrific post from One Good Thing by Jillee (http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/2012/12/how-to-make-boxed-cake-mixes-taste-homemade.html). She's listed tips and tricks for making a box cake even better.
I love that the tips aim to maintain the intended cake flavor - but at the same time enhance the overall deliciousness.
I added a 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon lemon juice to cut the sweetness. My mom caught me and I had to swear I wasn't making lemon cake (not that there's anything wrong with lemon cake, per se).
I splashed in about a tablespoon of real vanilla extract and then substituted part half-and-half for the liquid (because I had some to use up). I used 1/2 cup half-and-half and 1/2 cup water.
I added the oil and eggs as per the directions, mixed by hand until the batter was blended - and beat with a hand mixer set to medium for about two minutes. My mom has this great digital Kitchen Aid hand mixer I love using.
The cake baked up golden and smelled wonderful.
Next, I needed a strategy for the canister frosting. I used Duncan Hines Creamy Vanilla, which honestly tasted like sugar grit right from the can. (I am not a fan of canister frosting.)
Because canister frosting is hard to spread, I always whip it up. (Got to use the Kitchen Aid hand mixer again for this.) Today, I whipped up about half the can (for my size 9-by-13-inch cake) and that was more than enough for our taste. I added dashes of vanilla in two stages — I probably added about a tablespoon total of vanilla to the ready-made frosting.
Frosting problem solved.
I also want to mention that there are some great baker bloggers with some advice about working with canister frosting, or what my dear friend Maria and I call bucket frosting. This post from Donna at A Slice of Heaven Custom Cakes (http://www.asliceofheavencakesclassroom.com/2012/02/how-to-improve-store-bought-frosting.html?m=1) is a great resource for making the best of canister frosting.
Do you bake from the box? I'd love to hear your cake making tips - especially if you have a favorite brand, flavor or trip that adds deliciousness.