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For my mom’s birthday, I wanted to make an upscale cake that she wouldn’t make herself. After planning something beautiful, I found out I only had boxed cake mix and store-bought frosting to work with.

No problem! I am going to show you how to take a simple boxed cake mix to the next level!

You will need:

Vanilla boxed cake mix

-# of eggs called for plus 1

-salted butter

-water

Strawberries

Chocolate (I used leftover chocolate reindeer candies from Christmas!)

Lemon extract

Store-bought vanilla frosting

Whipping cream

Step 1: The Cake

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Mix the cake mix with the number of eggs called for on the box, plus one. For example, most boxed cake mixes call for 3, so add 4. An extra egg makes the cake more moist.

Instead of using oil as the directions dictate, substitute butter. Measure out salted butter and then melt it. This makes the cake richer and gives it more flavor.

Add the amount of water called for. Another option is to substitute milk for water. Milk has fat in it, which is another way to give the cake a richer flavor.

Add 2 tsp of lemon extract. This gives the cake a fresh lemon flavor. Mix cake as directed.

Grease two 8” round tins. Put half of the cake mix in each tin. Bake as directed. The cakes will be done when a toothpick stuck into the cake comes out clean or with a few crumbs.

Remove from the pans once the cakes have cooled. If the cakes are not cool, they are more likely to crumble.

Step 2: The Frosting

Beat 1/2 c whipping cream in a medium bowl. It is ready when the whipping cream is fluffy. Although it can seem like the cream will never thicken, keep at it. In a few minutes, the whipping cream will hold the air you are putting into it.

Add the frosting to the whipping cream, folding it in. Mix until completely incorporated.

This step makes the frosting both lighter and creamier.

Step 3: The Strawberries

Melt the chocolate in the microwave. Cut it up so it melts more evenly and stir after every 10 seconds. Be careful. The fat in chocolate doesn't only make it a delicious treat, it makes it very hot and the chocolate will stick to you if you spill it.

Place 7 strawberries on waxed paper and with a spoon, drizzle with the melted chocolate. Allow to set in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. This makes the strawberries less messy to work with.

Step 4: Putting It All Together

Place one cake on a plate.

Put some of the frosting into an icing bag with a large open-star frosting tip. Cover the cake with dollops of frosting, being mindful that the outermost edge will remain visible. This layer of frosting is for taste and appearance, but it also glues on the strawberries and top layer of cake so be generous.

After removing the tops, thinly slice 6 strawberries, or use an egg slicer as I did. Cover the cake with the slices, working from the outside in. Make sure to put strawberries right on the edge of the cake so they will be seen when the second layer is put on.

Carefully place the second layer on the first. Do not push it down or the frosting will be crushed. Take the frosting bag and put dollops of frosting around the edges of the top cake. Keep even pressure on the frosting bag and work slowly to get uniform dollops.

In the center, put about ten smaller dollops. Place the refrigerated chocolate drizzled strawberries on the center frosting.

Step back and admire your cake.

Step 5: End Note

This cake was a hit! The extra details took it from good to great and my mom loved it. It looks like it is straight from a bakery, doesn't it?

The lemon and strawberry flavors really complement one another, and the extra details only took a few extra minutes to really improve the look and taste. I guess you could say these tips really take the cake.

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