So I have a degree in culinary arts. I also use cake mix occasionally.
I once saw an episode of Alton Brown (all hail Alton Brown) where he said the secret to the best cake ever is to use cake mix, but ONLY if you make your own frosting.
So that is what I (usually) do. There are some cakes that I will make from scratch, but I almost always use a cake mix, and I’ve gotten pretty crafty with it, too.
Pillsbury is my brand of preference. When I use their White Cake mix, I whip the egg whites like a meringue with very soft peaks and fold it into the batter.
I always make my own frosting – sorry, not really a fan of store bought frosting. I just can’t get into it. Making your own frosting is really one of the easiest things to do. Especially if you have a stand mixer like mine.
Start with room-temp butter, or just a little colder, and whip it until it’s white and fluffy. (Remember, room temperature is different in July than it is in January.) Then, add a pinch of salt (I prefer sea salt, not table salt) and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
Next you will add the powdered sugar, about a half a cup at a time… unless you want a big ol’ mess to clean up. After all of the powdered sugar is mixed in, whip it for another minute or so until it’s fluffy.
A secret tip for cake frosting: to get all of the bubble out, use a hand mixer and be sure the whisk part of the paddles are completely submerged in the frosting. (This will also work in your stand mixer if you are making a TON of frosting.) Mix the frosting for a minute or two, and the top with start to look really smooth and soft. This method gets all of the air bubbles out, and the frosting will be so smooth, especially if you’re putting it on a cake.
My Recipe for Buttercream:
2 sticks of Butter (unsalted, softened)
1 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Salt
4 cups of Powdered Sugar (a little more or a little less)
- Whip butter with stand mixer on medium speed. Throw in a pinch of salt and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides well with a rubber spatula often.
- Add in the powdered sugar SLOWLY, like a half a cup at a time. And don’t add more in until it’s mixed in. Keep your rubber spatula scrape downs going on!
You can store the frosting sealed well if you’re not using it right away, although it’s best to use right away.
Toddler decorating action optional.