[Insert obligatory statement excusing the length of time that has passed between my most recent blog entries, blah blah blah] I’ve been busy. BUT, I made a cake. From a boxed mix. I KNOW! So unlike me, and will probably never happen again unless some sort of cake emergency arises. (Like, say for instance you’ve been working long days, finished a show, and have your nephew’s fifth birthday party coming up. )

…However… you know me (kinda, maybe) and know that I can’t just leave well enough alone.

Tricks of the Trade

So I may have added a few extra ingredients into the mix.

As a general rule of thumb, chocolate has a few friends that really play nicely with it: coffee, and almond. (Although I personally would eat a shoe if it were covered in chocolate alone….)

The boxed mix calls for 1& 1/3 C water. To that I say, “Why would I ever add plain water to anything?! It has no flavor!”

So I threw 1 TBSP + 1 TSP instant espresso into the water and threw it in the microwave for about 1.25 minutes.

To the water, I also added 1 tsp vanilla, 1/4 tsp almond extract, and 2 TBSP Amaretto.


Here’s the deal with almond extract: I love it, but a little goes a long way. Also, in my experience, almond extract by itself tastes odd. (Almost like artificial cherry flavoring.. no clue why.) So, when you’re working with almond extract, do NOT pour over the mix (to prevent accidental spills) and only add it if you’re working with citrus or berries (acidic fruits), actual almonds, OR Amaretto (or a citrus based liquor).

Parchment FTW

I treat boxed mixes like actual cakes by combining all wet ingredients, and then gently incorporating the wet into the dry, only so that I can beat the ever loving life out of the cake as per the boxed instructions. It makes no sense to me, but that’s what it says and it must be there for a reason, right?…

So, take your mix and divide evenly into prepared pans. Prepared not only means greased and floured, but parchment papered and greased/floured again. It gives me peace of mind to know that in the event of sticky cake disaster, I can still dislodge the cake from the pan. And it’s all about me. Also, putting pans on baking sheet will help to bake more evenly. And be sure to rotate your pans (move from top to bottom/ bottom to top)halfway through baking.

My lovely cakey lumps...

In however long it says to bake them, and after resting the round pans on cooling racks for about 10 -15 minutes, you can invert them onto said racks and they might look something like this.

Like weird, pocks infested half cakes. If it were just a fun eating cake, who cares. But this is no ordinary cake. This is The Whirling Dervish’s 5th Birthday cake. And we just can’t have a lopsided wonky 5th birthday cake.

So… I had to tort the layers to get an even surface. With a bread knife. It was scary and I’m going to invest in a cake leveler of my very own, but just know that you can always come back and take more cake off. It’s very hard to put more cake ON though.


And save your scraps!!! CAKE POPS. Hello?! I keep mine in a plastic baggy in the freezer until I’m ready to use them. Aunt Gee’s is a waste not, want not kitchen.

Storming the Barricades!

Here’s an inconvenient truth I learned about the ironically titled “convenience foods”: Not so convenient if you need them for any other purpose than eating it out of the can.

The “whipped” icing was too goopy, so I stupidly mixed it with marshmallow fluff to create the ultimate goopy, gloppy disaster. It was also nearly inedible, so I added 1tsp coffee extract to it for SOME kind of flavor.

If you look closely here, I attempted to make a barrier for the filling (as you would traditionally when layering a cake). As you can see in the image, the pathetically mushy canned icing was no match to ULTIMATE GLOPAZOID CAKE FILLING.


Yeah, you know what ELSE it was no match for? STAYING ON THE CAKE IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM. I did the fastest crumb coat known to man, shoved it in the fridge and prayed. (This is even after I added at least 1/2 C powdered sugar to help the icing stiffen up.)

I knew I’d have to get creative with my decor. No way was this icing going to smooth, and no way was it going to hold any kind of shape. So, I dug through my pantry.

Thunder, thunder thunder CATS

As it might appear, Oreos were on sale, 2 for $5.00. And I still have an entire box that I’ve got to do God knows what with.

So, let’s talk fondant: I hate it and refuse to touch it. (I didn’t say it was gonna be a long conversation.)

I DID however find Wilton “sugar sheets” in the cake decorating section of Wal-Mart (by the crafts, not the baking). So this was an image I blew up on the computer, traced onto the sugar sheet, and slapped on the cake.

Boom. Thunder Cats HOOOOOOOOOOOO.

And somehow, because it was Thunder Cats themed, it was deemed the coolest birthday cake ever.

Let it be known, if you want something done RIGHT, you’ll have to do it yourself. So spare yourself the anxiety for your cake decorating adventures and just make your own damn icing already.



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