I am not a baker. To me, cooking is art … it can be adapted to your tastes, it can be changed and improved upon on a whim … but baking is chemistry. You skip a tablespoon of baking soda or salt, and the cake is as hard as a rock or never rises. I can usually do a decent cake or set of cupcakes, brownies, etc. from a box, but sometimes those mixes aren’t very good or result in dry and bland cakes.
My mother came up with two fantastic recipes for using a boxed cake mix to help you make a perfectly moist yet easy cake. She makes two variations, pineapple upside-down cake (with yellow cake mix and canned pineapple) and black bear cake (with chocolate cake mix and berries), and we plan to try new variations with peaches/ spice cake and blueberries with lemon cake.
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
(Try this same technique with other variations.)
- 1 box of yellow cake mix
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 stick of butter
- 1 large can of sliced pineapple
- 1 large can of crushed pineapple
- a handful of maraschino cherries
Make the yellow cake mix according to package instructions, except substitute the water for the pineapple juice strained from the cans of sliced pineapple and crushed pineapple. Set aside.
In a baking dish (or several small ones), melt 1/2 a stick of butter and sprinkle the brown sugar over the bottom of the pan. Then lay pineapple slices evenly, and place cherries in the center of each pineapple slice. Use handfuls of crushed pineapple (strain it a little with your fingers) in the gaps between the slices. Pour the cake mix evenly over the pineapple and bake according to package instructions. Note: You may need to cook it longer than the box indicates due to the extra fruit and juice. Check the doneness by inserting a knife or toothpick in the center of the cake, and when it comes out clean, the cake is done. Flip it upside down on a large plate.
You can also make this with chocolate and berries, which we called Black Bear Cake. It’s the same procedure as above, only you make a chocolate or devil’s food cake mix, add a handful of chocolate chips to the cake mix, and after melting butter and sprinkling brown sugar on the pan, you substitute all of the pineapple and cherry for a bag of frozen mixed berries.
Melt the butter, add the berries ….
Then add the cake mix …
… and enjoy!