I have baked myself into a corner. I work at a performing arts venue, and this year I began a tradition which, while fun, can be somewhat time-consuming and challenging (not to mention expensive). I’ve started baking for our ushers. They have a little place where they sign in before each performance, stash their purses and coats, etc. Nearby, I set up a coffee service and a cake or tray of cookies/brownies for them as a token of our appreciation. Now they look forward to and expect this treat! I enjoy doing it, and they ARE suitably appreciative. But, sometimes, when there are lots of performances in a short period of time, it can get stressful. I needed to come up with something affordable, easy and flavorful that I could whip up in a variety of guises. Enter the Cheater’s Bundt Cake. I enjoy baking from scratch, but lately, cake mixes have become my reality. The following method allows me to create something homemade that offers special texture and taste…without dictating that I bake into the wee hours during those busy weeks. The ushers are really loving their bundt cakes.
Cheater’s Bundt Cake
1 Cake mix – flavor can vary according to outcome desired
1 Small box Jello or Instant Pudding Mix, according to outcome desired
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
3/4 Cup Water or Juice or mixture of both
OR 1 Cup fruit puree
Place the cake mix and Jello or pudding mix in mixing bowl. Break eggs into a bowl, add other wet ingredients. Stir briefly to break up eggs. Pour wet ingredients into dry. Stir until blended. Scrape bottom of bowl. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes – a little less if using a Kitchenaid. Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Cool on rack. Frost. Devour!
For frosting -
Place 1 pound of sifted powdered sugar in a large bowl. Add 2 TBS melted butter. Add 1/4 tsp salt. Add extracts and liquer as desired. Gradually add fruit puree or other liquid until quite thick but still a little “droopy.” I like to add 3 TBS cream cheese powder and 1 TBS vanilla powder to most icing combinations for extra flavor. Spoon over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Sometimes it needs to be coaxed into the most artistic drips.
I have seen similar recipes using four eggs (most common) and more oil. I find that this combination works best for me. The cake doesn’t take on an oily texture, and the extra egg adds a little bit more poundcake-like texture.
Favorite flavor combinations are:
Pureed fresh strawberries and strawberry Jello. LorAnn strawberry flavor in the icing along with the cream cheese powder and vanilla powder.
Puree 1 can of LIGHT apricot halves (do not drain away the liquid). Also stir into the batter about a cup of minced dried apricots which have been soaked overnight in a little peach schnapps. I used apricot Jello, but not all supermarkets carry apricot Jello. Peach or orange would work well. The apricot puree is also used in the icing, along with the cream cheese and vanilla powders. I don’t have apricot flavoring, but a little touch of it would take the icing over the top. LorAnn makes apricot flavor, and all of their flavors are terrific. This cake got RAVE reviews!
For a pina colada cake, use pureed pineapple for the liquid – and pineapple jello. I only know of one local supermarket that stocks pineapple Jello, so you might have to substitute lemon or orange, which won’t be quite as authentic….but it’ll still be good! This is a good place to use a vanilla pudding instead of Jello, if you can’t find the pineapple Jello. For the icing I use coconut milk rather than the pureed pineapple. I don’t use Coco Lopez, which you see in lots of coconut cake recipes. It’s too sweet for this recipe, IMHO. Instead, I use coconut milk from the Thai foods aisle. Then, I top the frosted cake with lots of shaved coconut.. A little splash of rum in the icing is fun. Plus the cream cheese and vanilla powders. Cream cheese isn’t part of a pina colada, but I love cream cheese icing on other pineapple cakes…so I add it here, too.
Key lime cake is almost a cliche. I start with a lemon cake mix for a little extra zing plus lime Jello . I add water and lime juice mixed about half and half for the liquid. I feel that 100% lime juice is just too much. But, you can never have too much grated lime zest. I put lots in both the cake and frosting. For the frosting I use only lime juice for the liquid. I don’t put the cream cheese or vanilla powders in this frosting, as those aren’t classic key lime pie flavors. But, I do add a healthy shot of dry coffee creamer to give it that extra creamy flavor instead. Try adding some tequila and orange extract to the frosting to turn this into a margarita cake! Maybe a few sprinkles of sea salt on top???
Try a lemon/ginger cake. You can use either a lemon cake mix – or a yellow one, if that’s what you have on hand (as I did). Plus lemon Jello. Add a little lemon juice to the water – and some lemon extract, too! Then, add a generous spoon of ginger – however much you like. I used dried, cracked ginger which I ground myself. Grated fresh ginger would be marvelous. If all else fails, just use the stuff you’ve got leftover from the holidays. Oh, yeah…don’t forget to add grated lemon zest. More lemon juice, lemon zest, lemon extract and ginger in the frosting tops it off. Of course, you can skip the ginger all together and get a yummy lemon cake.
There are lots more flavors that can be played with. Raspberry, orange, blueberry, blackberry, peach. And, then there are nonfruit flavors such as chocolate, coffee, matcha (all good instances to use the pudding mix instead of Jello) .
Have fun with this and come up with your own flavor combinations!