I’m a strong believer that a warm, gooey brownie or a rich, fluffy cupcake can turn even the worst day around. However, when you’re the one that has to make, bake, and clean up the mess in order to enjoy said brownie or cupcake, it loses some of its appeal. Am I right?
I’m also a strong believer in shortcuts, because in the crazy-hectic world of motherhood, it just makes sense to work smarter instead of working harder. And to be totally honest, I’m a little lazy. Thanks to Pinterest I’ve been introduced to 372 recipes for sweet treats, of which approximately 370 require more time than I’m willing to dedicate on a weeknight. So I’ve learned a few tricks that I often utilize when my co-worker’s birthday sneaks up on me, the church asks for donations for the bake sale, we get unexpected guests, or PMS kicks in and demands something warm and chocolatey.
These tricks take boxed cake mix or brownie mix to the next level, and the results are almost unbelievable. You’ll get rich, moist, and flavorful baked goods that nobody would guess came from a box! In fact, I personally like these variations better than many recipes made from scratch, and so does my family. Of course, if boxed mixes aren’t your thing, you can always hit up Pinterest for instructions to whip up your own base mix to keep on hand for baking emergencies and utilize these tips to amp it up.
Killer Cake or Cupcakes:
For everyday cake or cupcakes, look at the back of the box and use the tips below enhance the flavor and texture of the cake. Bake as instructed on the box; these additions will not change bake times.
- Add an additional egg
- Use melted butter instead of oil and double the amount (butter, not margarine)
- Substitute milk for the water
For brownies, use these tips and get creative with your mix-ins! I usually mix in mini chocolate chips because I like that they completely melt into the batter when baking. You can basically mix in anything from chopped nuts to chopped cookies or any kind of baking chip (white chocolate, cinnamon, peanut butter, mint). Kids love new combinations!
- Substitute milk for the water
- Add a drop or two of vanilla extract
- Mix in ½ to 1 cup of baking chips or chopped nuts or Nutella or chopped cookies…the options are endless!
- After baking, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar
Stuffed Cupcakes (AKA the BEST cupcakes ever):
Now, this last one is my very favorite but requires a couple ingredients that I don’t always have on hand. However, it’s worth a trip to the store because this makes cupcakes that can compete with the professionals. They are perfect for special occasions! Using these tricks will result in a really thick batter that is perfect for making cupcakes with candy baked inside. This time, you’ll completely disregard the instructions on the back of the box and follow this recipe instead.
1 (15.25 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup vegetable oil (or canola oil)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup warm coffee (this deepens the chocolate flavor)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
- Beat together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, eggs, vanilla and coffee. Beat for about two minutes on medium speed until well combined.
- Use an ice cream scoop to distribute the batter into 24 muffin tins; about 3 tablespoons of batter per cupcake. If you really want to impress the kids, press one frozen bite-size candy bar into the center of each cupcake. I highly recommend Reese’s miniatures, Snickers bite-size, or caramel kisses. OR you can fold in baking chips or toffee bits at this point.
- Bake in preheated oven for 18-22 minutes or until the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly touched. Allow cupcakes to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.
- Remove cupcakes from muffin tins and allow to fully cool. Top with your favorite frosting once cool!
Now off you go to your pantry to whip up a boxed mix of cupcakes or brownies! It’s ok to tell your family they are completely homemade. It will be our little secret!
Do you have tips for fast and simple treats?? I’m always looking for new recipe hacks so please do share!