Cheat Sheet: Basic Box Cakes Jazzed Up 4 Ways

For some reason, many of the people I hold near and dear are all born within a two-week window of October. Unfortunately, it's usually the same two-week period as midterms and a host of other pressing responsibilities. Since I have always had that 1950s housewife mentality of needing to bake people a cake on their birthday, I have had to come up with some intrepid methods of quickly creating delicious cakes. Below are four ways to make easy boxed cakes more tasty and special.

Rainbow Cake: Begin with a basic white cake mix. Prepare the batter as directed on the package. Divide evenly among 6 bowls. Add a different food color to each bowl (red, blue, green, yellow, purple, orange) and stir to combine. Pour the batter into six 8" round cake pans. Once the layers are complete, frost with a thick layer of vanilla buttercream frosting. My Little Pony decoration is optional, though highly encouraged.

Chocolate Chip Crunch Cake: Begin with a basic yellow cake mix. After preparing the batter according to the package directions, stir in one cup mini chocolate chips. Be sure to use mini chips, as the bigger ones have a tendency to sink to the bottom. Frost the cake with a dark chocolate icing and sprinkle more chocolate chips on top. This is my personal favorite.

Banana Nut Cake: Add one package vanilla instant pudding, ½ cup vegetable oil, ¾ cup water, and four eggs to a white cake mix. After blending this, fold in one cup mashed bananas and ½ cup toasted walnuts. Pour into two 8" prepared pans and bake at 325 degrees for about 40-45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Cover the cake with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle with more toasted pecans. You can pretend this one is healthy, seeing as it has fruit and nuts.

Cherry Cordial Cake: Combine one box of devil's food cake mix with 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon almond extract, and one can (16 ounces) cherry pie filling. Mix well and bake in two 8" greased and floured pans at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon Kirsch brandy and one teaspoon of Amaretto into chocolate frosting before icing the cake. Decorate with cherries and sliced almonds.

And remember, when your friends and family ooh and ahh over your cake creation, don't go ruining it by telling them Betty Crocker helped. You'll get more points if they think you slaved over them in the kitchen all night.

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