Shhhhhh. Don’t tell. Specifically because I scoffed at the idea, ridiculed the zillions of tiny boxes in the baking aisle. Did it all out loud for the world to hear:
“I don’t use cake mixes! I bake all my cakes from scratch!”
This was my boisterous rebuttal to my daughter’s suggestion for a chocolate chip cake. We were cutting through the baking aisle on our way to get more eggs.
“Well, yeah…sometimes you do,” she answered, more as strategy for a teenage daughter to embarrass her mother than as truth.
Of course, everyone has got a secret.
My hair prickled on the back of my neck.
Did she know?
That scrumptious poppy seed and cherry liquor cake, the one everyone loves at all the parties? That begins with a cake mix.
A cake mix I quietly use and throw the box into the trash, purposely pushing it to the bottom, maybe even putting something big and bulky on top: an empty carton of eggs, all the leftover pasta, a bowlful of day old soggy salad. Something goopy works best in hiding the evidence.
I grew up in Venezuela in the 70’s. Cake box mixes weren’t around, or if they were, I never saw them in my house. Mom baked glorious cake after glorious cake all from scratch.
Chocolate Cake with Fresh Strawberry Frosting! (Yes, bits of fresh strawberry dotted this memorable moist cake.)
Sour Cream Cinnamon Coffee Cake! (A layer of crispy cinnamon cobbler was cleverly sandwiched in the middle and crumbled on top.)
Mango Upside Down Cake! (Caramelized panela sugar, melted butter and tropical lusciousness oozed and dripped decadently over the sides.)
These were culinary miracles that were all made from scratch.
All to die for.
These are big shoes to fill, my mother’s baking shoes.
But I think I’ve done a pretty splendid job.
Old Fashioned Chocolate Fudge Cake, Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, Banana Pudding Pie.
Nothing claiming three Michelin stars, but certainly tasty, homemade goods demanding repeats from family and friends.
So when my daughter asked for a chocolate chip bundt cake as we passed the endless array of cake mixes I became someone else.
Someone who knew a regular vanilla batter would not work so great, the chips would sink to the bottom, they always do
Someone who figured all the ingredients listed on the side of the box heralded a mysterious buoyancy that would make the chips stay afloat inside the batter.
Someone who wanted a quick answer. A box to open. An ingredient or two to add. A forgivable shortcut.
In a quiet, premeditative manner I decided I’d use a cake mix for this one.
But I am stubborn and proud.
I couldn’t go back to the mixes and pick one up. Not after the scandal I just created! Not with a teenage daughter thirsting for I-told-you-so material.
That evening she asked for her cake. I told my daughter I couldn’t do it then, I was missing an ingredient.
But my daughter is smart as a whip, you see. And she’s an astute listener. Has spent her whole life listening to me herald the benefits of basic baking ingredients: flour, milk, eggs. I always have those around and she knows it.
“What ingredient?” she quizzed, suspiciously.
“Buttermilk,” I lied. I always have buttermilk. It’s the star ingredient to so many tasty dishes from pancakes to fried chicken. If I’m out, I always have plain yogurt, which when mixed with a little milk can replace buttermilk flawlessly.
My daughter knows this.
She’s been bred to know this.
But she trusts me (and this is where the guilt eats at me a bit.)
There is a pause but I hold my ground.
“Buttermilk?” She repeats, savoring the remote possibility of this being true. “Hmmm,” she mutters as she walks away.
I am awash in remorse. She knows. She knows something is not right. I want to run to her and cut clean, but I made such a scene at the supermarket earlier that day. How can I tell my daughter I am vying to buy something I so snobbishly chided?
I plan to cut clean with her, I do.
But first I return to the supermarket while she is at school the next day and buy the mix.
Two, really. The recipe calls for instant pudding as well.
I’ve dumped them in my bowl and added my own good stuff: eggs, sour cream, vanilla extract. It’s a simple deal crowned with 2 cups of chocolate chips that are steadily held in the mix. There’s no sinking going on.
The cake is out now.
The house smells glorious.
I want to tell my daughter after she’s tasted it.
I know she’ll laugh. It’s a light-hearted matter, if I stop and think about it. My mother would laugh as well, if she were alive. Don’t take yourself so seriously, my mother is saying right now, I could have used a cake mix now and then too. My daughter will feel the same way, after, of course, a joke or two is said on my behalf. Remember, she’s a teen, I’ve set myself up beautifully for this.
- Recipe adapted from food blog: http://www.mybakingaddiction.com
- 1 vanilla cake mix
- 1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
- For the Glaze
- 4 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 12-cup bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.
- 2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, eggs, vanilla and water. Beat for about two minutes on medium speed until well combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared bundt pan.
- 3. Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when lightly touched. 4. Once cake is cool, prepare the chocolate glaze.
- For the Glaze
- 1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the heavy cream until very hot, but not boiling.
- 2. Place chocolate pieces in a heat safe bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes. Whisk the cream and chocolate until smooth and thoroughly combined. Add vanilla.
- Pour over cooled cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.