The Cake Mix Doctor
by Anne Byrn
Published by Riverhead Books
454 pages, 1999
Chocolate from the Cake Mix Doctor
by Anne Byrn
Published by Workman Publishing
496 pages, 2001
Cake Mix Magic
by Jill Snider
Published by Robert Rose
192 pages, 2001
Let Them Eat Cake Mix
Reviewed by Carem Bennett
In this age of busy working lives, cake mix cookbooks have become more and more popular. Who has time to make a chocolate cake from scratch? Who has time to make biscotti, when you can just buy them with your latte at Starbucks? Today's conveniences, however, have not replaced the caring and sense of uniqueness that goes into homemade treats. Cake mix modifications enable even the busiest of us to bring something special to our dessert course and family celebrations. Who needs to know it comes out of a box?
Cake mix variations enable inexperienced bakers to create challenging desserts without hassle. Who knew you could use a cake mix to make tiramisu? Cake mix cookbooks are a good alternative for those times when you really want to bake, but you just don't have the time to start from scratch.
Did you ever see Steel Magnolias? Do you remember the scene at the wedding when they're cutting into the armadillo groom's cake? It was a red velvet cake and it looked like the poor armadillo was bleeding. Did it make you wonder if you could make that cake? On page 152 of The Cake Mix Doctor author Anne Byrn tells us how. In addition to a movie classic, this easy-to-use cookbook includes recipes for cakes, biscotti, bars, cookie pops and even tiramisu.
The Cake Mix Doctor -- published in 1999 -- has been so successful for Byrn, it was fairly predictable she'd come up with a sequel. Focusing on chocolate was a natural way to go and with Chocolate from the Cake Mix Doctor Byrn has cooked up a sequel quite worthy of the original.
My personal favorite recipe from this book is "A Lighter Chocolate Pound Cake" on page 109. I used this recipe for a three-dimensional stand-up teddy bear cake with great success. No one even noticed that it was lower in fat. The cake has a thick texture that is perfect for specialty cake pans.
Jill Snider proves the versatility of cake mixes in her book Cake Mix Magic: 125 Easy Desserts
Good as Homemade. Snider uses basic cake mixes to create Pineapple Mandarin cakes, Lemon Glazed Cheesecake Squares and even a Chocolate Yule Log. In total, there are 156 recipes in the book.
The format of the book makes it easy to use. The pages utilize white space effectively and the sidebars containing tips and variations really add value. However, the recipes lack nutritional information. In today's health conscious society, nutrition information is essential, even if the recipes are far from health conscious. This is something I'd love to see added in future editions.
In a side-by-side (ahem) taste test, Anne Byrn's books come out ahead. The photographs alone tip the scales for me. With over 150 recipes in Cake Mix Magic, there are only 11 pictures of cakes, and no decorating ideas or tips. Both of Byrn's books feature pictures of all of the cakes and ideas to help you decorate and present them. | November 2002
Carem Bennett is a freelance writer and cake decorating enthusiast.