Cake from a box
I know what you’re thinking. A cake from a box? Really? A CAKE. FROM A BOX? But hear me out.
Proper from-scratch baking is, uhh, complicated. Even if you’re following a recipe. It requires specialty ingredients that may go bad before you get a chance to use them again. Specialty tools that may only get used once a year. And it requires a lot of time (and planning, too). What about when you just want to whip up a quick, no-fuss cake for dessert? Or when you’ve been tasked to bring cupcakes to a party last minute? Or when you’ve got a million things on your to-do list and a cake is one of them? CAKE FROM A BOX. That’s the solution for normal people who don’t hoard pounds of potato starch and cocoa powder and cane sugar. And sometimes it’s even the solution for aforementioned hoarders (ahem, me, hi), who just don’t have the time to make something from scratch but really want to take cake into work because the people at work get so excited when you bring in cake and how can you deny them of that sliver of delicious in their workday?
So cake from a box. It’s easy. Like, so easy that it takes two minutes from the time you start putting stuff in a mixing bowl to the time you’re pouring that stuff in the mixing bowl into a baking pan. But the secret to a good boxed cake mix is TO NEVER FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE BOX. EVER. Cake mixes, while a brilliant concept, have a lot of room to improve when it comes to the instructions on the package. I always add 1) more liquid, 2) a flavoring of some sort (usually almond or coconut extract for vanilla cakes and maple or coffee flavorings for chocolate cakes), and 3) 1/4 teaspoon of fine sea salt. Always. And if there are vegan directions on the box, I never follow them because they almost always call for flax eggs and flax eggs are undoubtedly the worst egg alternative to use in cakes because they’re heavy and gummy and do nothing for a dessert that’s supposed to be light and fluffy. So instead we use silken tofu whipped into a creamy and slightly gelatinous sauce - and it can be substituted 1-to-1 for real eggs. It’s weird but also pretty great. And the best part? No one will ever know you used tofu. Swear it.
I’m a firm believer that there’s no shame in the boxed baking game. Make no mistake, from scratch baked goods will always reign supreme, but boxed cake > no cake and that’s a freakin’ fact. <3
Notes: Favorite boxed cake mix + frosting (but Whole Foods 365 brand is great, too) (and a lot more affordable). For a cake with a lighter crumb, use 1 cup almondmilk. For a cake with a slightly dense crumb (pictured), use 3/4 cup almondmilk. I prefer 1 cup almondmilk but that’s just me. ;) For vanilla cake mixes, flavorings like almond and coconut are great additions. For chocolate, I prefer to use maple or coffee flavorings. If you want to use real eggs in this recipe, have at it.
CAKE FROM A BOX
1 package (450g) boxed vanilla cake mix
1/4 teaspoon (1g) fine sea salt
1 /2 cup (95g) safflower oil
3/4-1 cup (165-220g) unsweetened almondmilk (see notes above)
1/2 teaspoon (2g) pure almond extract
9 tablespoons (110g) tofu egg replacer (recipe below)
1 container (283g) chocolate frosting
2 tablespoons (28g) unsweetened almondmilk
1/2 teaspoon (2g) pure vanilla extract
Pinch of fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line an 8” square baking pan with parchment paper; set aside. Sift the cake mix and salt into a large mixing bowl then create a well in the center and add the oil, almondmilk, almond extract, and tofu egg replacer; whisk until combined and batter is smooth. Pour batter into the prepared baking pan and bake at 350˚F for 34-36 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
While the cake is cooling, add the frosting to a small mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer, beat the frosting on medium speed until light and fluffy (you could also do this by hand, using a whisk). Add milk, vanilla extract, and salt; beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Give the frosting a good mix with a spatula then ice the cooled cake. Top with sprinkles and serve. Cake can be kept loosely covered for up to two days.
Yield: 9 slices
FOR A 9X13” CAKE PAN: Bake at 350˚F for 24-26 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
FOR THREE 6 OR TWO 8” ROUND CAKE PANS: Use two cake mixes. Bake at 350˚F for 32-36 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
FOR CUPCAKES: Bake for 22-24 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Notes: Silken tofu can be found in the same aisle as soy sauce, rice noodles, etc. It’s shelf stable and comes in an aseptic package. You can also order it online but it is way cheaper in the grocery store (~$1.50/package). Firm silken tofu is my last choice for an egg replacer but if that’s all you can find, use 6 tablespoons of almondmilk while blending. I’ve never tried freezing the blended tofu but have a sneaking suspicion it’ll be just fine once thawed.
TOFU EGG REPLACER
SOFT SILKEN TOFU
1 box soft silken tofu
1 tablespoon (14g) unsweetened almondmilk
FIRM SILKEN TOFU
1 box firm silken tofu
1/4 cup (55g) unsweetened almondmilk
Add both the tofu and almondmilk to the container of a high powered blender. Blend on high speed until smooth and creamy; scraping down the sides as needed. Blend on low speed to remove air bubbles then transfer to an air tight container. Will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Yield: Enough to replace ~9 eggs