Box mixes get a bad rap. It's so hip to say you made something from scratch, never mind that you misread the tsp label for a tbs label and now your brunch guests are dutifully chewing salty muffins, wishing you had just gone to Costco instead.
"You made these from scratch?" they choke out after swallowing, "Amazing!"
Sure, it's nice to pretend you are Julia Child in the kitchen and you've a similar way with butter, but you're not and you don’t. Whether you've lost your measuring cups; you can't tell the difference between baking soda and baking powder, or you're rushing to a dinner party, hair still in curlers, a box mix can do everything a scratch recipe can. And more.
Since the box mix makers have kindly measured, weighed and combined the dry ingredients, you have nothing to worry about but cracking an egg and pre-heating the oven. Take the extra time you would have spent premixing wet and dry ingredients and give yourself a fresh coat of nail polish or learn how to tie a bow tie. Better yet, perfect some fancy cake piping. Unless your kitchen explodes, there's no way you can mess up the taste of that Duncan Hines cake.
It's all about the presentation at this point, and some fun extras to spice up the mix (pun entirely intended).
Yesterday, for example, I decided I wanted coffee cake and 45 minutes after the craving struck, I was contentedly munching what I have dubbed “Cinnamon Lava Muffins of Wonder.”
Usually my kitchen experiments have a 50/50 chance of positive outcome. This time, because I used a coffee cake mix conveniently found at a number of local groceries stores, like Safeway or Giant, my odds were increased to a 100 percent chance of heaven bursting in my mouth. I even forgot that I didn't have any butter, and it didn’t matter!
Here's what happened:
I preheated the oven and mixed up the coffee cake mix as instructed on the box using vegetable oil. Butter was a non-option and there was no way I was walking the half-mile to the store.
I wanted a relatively mess free and easy-to-eat result, so I dished out the mix in a muffin pan, rather than creating a traditional cake. This also worked to cut the baking time in half.
After spooning the mix into the muffin papers till they were half full, I decided that it would probably be safer to put most of the included coffee cake crumble on the inside of the cake instead of the outside.
According to the instructions I needed butter for the crumble -- but then I remembered that since it's a mix I can't mess it up so I might as well experiment. I grabbed some sour cream out of my fridge and mixed about two tablespoons in with the crumbs. Before you get grossed out, please remember that sour cream is often used in sweet treats.
The sour cream worked to turn the crumble into more of a cinnamon paste, but I figured that looks didn’t really matter since I was sticking it into the cake muffins instead of on top.
I grabbed a few handfuls of almonds and coarsely chopped and dished them in to the cinnamon paste. Then I piled a whole bunch of the no-longer crumbly crumble into the muffin cups, and topped each one with the remainder of the cake mix.
I completely over filled the muffin cups, and the last layer of cake mix was pretty thin. Nevertheless, the results were gorgeous.
When I pulled the pan out of the oven it was bursting with coffee cake muffins that oozed cinnamon lava. I took a bite, my eyes widened and I fell on my knees before the lava coffee cake muffin gods, vowing my eternal devotion.
P.S. Everyone else was in love with Cinnamon Lava Muffins of Wonder, too. They were shocked – simply shocked! – that the muffins had come from a box.
P.P.S If I wanted to, I could have piped icing flowers all over the tops of the muffins and it still would have been faster and less frustrating than anything made from scratch.