Perhaps you’ve noticed – there has been a great wave, or trend, towards easy recipes that start out with a pre-packaged cake mix, such as those you will find from Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines, or Pillsbury.
Actually, the concept of using a cake mix for something other than a cake isn’t really all that new.
The traditional pre-packaged layer cake mixes were developed just after World War II and were welcomed by consumers who were interested in finding ways to make cooking, especially baking, easier. (Women going to work in factories, during WW2, may have been a factor in this change of perspective—how much time should we spend in the kitchen after working outside the home all day?) Cake mixes developed by Betty Crocker labs were four years in the “creating stage” with the advent of Betty Crocker Party Cake mixes (yellow, white or spice) in 1949. In the past 50 years, hundreds (if not thousands) of varieties of recipes using a cake mix have been developed by all the major food companies Nowadays, you can make any number of different muffins, breads, desserts, and cookies—all starting out with one cake mix. As nearly as I can pin down a date (and could be mistaken), I believe the idea of using cake mixes to make cookies dates as far back as the 1950s. There is an illustration in a Betty Crocker cookbook for holiday cookies made from a cake mix, that was first published in the 1950s. However, the concept of cookies, brownies, bars, and other snack treats made from cake mixes really began to take off just a few years ago, prompted, perhaps, by the trend for 3,4,5,6, 7 or 8 ingredient cookbooks. I fell in love with this idea and keep a complete shelf of cake mixes on my pantry shelf, stocking up when cake mixes are on sale. (And let me tell you, I would take chocolate cookies studded with M&Ms, made from a Devil’s Food cake mix…or Lemon Crispy cookies made from lemon cake mix and Rice Krispies – to work to share with coworkers, and no one ever guessed that the secret ingredient was a cake mix. It was my little secret!)
As Oprah would say, think outside of the box! That’s exactly what Stephanie Ashcraft, author of “101 THINGS TO DO WITH A CAKE MIX”, has done. This cookbook is on the small size (about 5×7”) but is spiral bound with a plastic over-cover to protect your book in the kitchen. It opens and lays flat on a counter or work space (a difficulty with many large books…generally, I have to copy a recipe and tack it onto the refrigerator door with a magnet, in order to follow directions—and keep my cookbook from getting spattered).
Ms. Ashcraft provides a wide variety of recipes for brownies and bars, cookies, fruity cakes, fancy cakes, Bundt cakes, muffins and breads—and something she refers to as “Children’s Delights”, the latter a delightful collection of recipes for various holidays (Valentine Cookies, Pumpkin-Patch Halloween Cake, Black Cat Cookies, Snickers Surprise cookies, Christmas Rainbow Poke Cake and more).
The author was raised near Kirklin, Indiana, and received a bachelor’s degree in family science and a teaching certificate from Brigham Young University. In 2004, Stephanie was teaching a monthly cooking class entitled “101 things to do with a Cake mix” for Macey’s Little Cooking Theater in Provo and Orem, Utah. “101 THINGS TO DO WITH A CAKE MIX” actually started out as a college class project; later she began teaching the cooking class.
Stephanie Ashcraft is also the author of a another cookbook, published in 2004, titled (appropriately) “101 MORE Things to do with a cake mix”. And the beat goes on!
“101 THINGS TO DO WITH A CAKE MIX” by Stephanie Ashcraft is from Gibbs-Smith Publishers, and sells for a reasonable $9.95.
If you are unable to find “101 THINGS TO DO WITH A CAKE MIX” at your favorite bookstore, you can order it from numerous websites on the Internet, including Amazon.com. Amazon.com also offers some other “101 things you can do with….”in some other categories.
Review by Sandra Lee Smith
ISBN 1-58685-217-5 for 101 Things To Do With a Cake Mix.