cake mix hacks: chocolate orange pudding cake

March 19, 2010 at 6:11 pm Leave a comment

I have a confession to make.

I, Erin, am a cake snob.

Let me say that I am not a fan of cake mixes (or bland store-bought cakes, but that’s a tale for another day). They’re full of powdered partially hydrogenated chemical fats and other unknowns. If I’m making a cake, I want it to have flour. And sugar. And other various real-food ingredients. Mixes are all well and good, they’re just not for me. Usually.

Sometimes, however, there are circumstances that lead you to acquire a box of cake mix, and you obviously would like to do something with it other than add water and eggs and pray for something worth eating to come out of the oven (see? cake snob). That’s where cake mix hacks come into play. Let me tell you a story.

This all started when one of my coworkers came up to me carrying a plastic bag. She handed it to me and asked if I’d be willing to make a cake for our CEO’s birthday. I said, “of course!”, not only because I’m addicted to baking, but because she’s my daily walking buddy (and therefore, a major component of how I maintain my sanity) and I would fight tigers for her. If you removed their claws and teeth first.

I opened the bag and saw – to my dismay – that it contained chocolate cake mix, and a can of pre-fab chocolate frosting. I shot her a skeptical look and she assured me that I could make whatever I wanted, but that our CEO likes chocolate cake. So, I immediately set about trying to think of ways I could improve upon the ingredients I had been given. It was like being on Chopped, with the random baskets of crap they throw at the contestants (zucchini blossoms? really?), minus the ridiculous time limits.

First, I Googled “cake recipes using cake mix” and found a basic chocolate pudding cake recipe that looked like a good starting point. I thought about all my favorite chocolate flavor combinations, and settled on chocolate and oranges, because it seemed like something I could do that wouldn’t alter the chemistry of my building block recipe too much. That evolved into chocolate, oranges and chile, which in turn evolved into chocolate, oranges, chile and almonds, and behold!

I’m calling it my masterpiece. Irony is, shortly after this bad boy made his way into the oven, I got a call that there had been a miscommunication; somebody had bought a cake, and they were going to use that instead. So…long story short, my cake is in the freezer, preserving its freshness for unveiling next week.

But it is good. The cake is moist, as only a cake that’s full of pudding and sour cream can be. The frosting is creamy and rich, thanks to the addition of more chocolate and fresh whipped cream. Top all that with toasted almonds and white chocolate drizzle, and I dare a store-bought cake to be this good.

On the one hand, most people reach for cake mix for something easy and quick, and this is neither. Well, it’s not hard, it’s really just a lot of steps. But on the other hand, you could just skip the frosting and/or ganache and dust it with a little powdered sugar and hey, problem solved! I try to always bake a little mini version for sampling, if I’m going to be serving a new recipe to people, and I’m telling you. Make this. Make it now.

Chocolate Orange Pudding Cake

  • 1 box chocolate cake mix
  • 1 small box instant chocolate pudding
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder (or cayenne, which I probably would have used, if I’d had any, because it’s cheaper, shhhh)
  • zest from two oranges
  • Chocolate Orange Frosting (recipe follows)
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • White Chocolate Almond Ganache (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour a bundt pan (10 inch or thereabouts). In a large bowl, combine the cake mix and pudding mix, and gently stir with a whisk until combined. Add the sour cream, milk, vegetable oil, orange juice, and eggs. Beat for 2-4 minutes, until almost smooth*. Mix in chocolate chips, chile powder, and orange zest, until just combined. Pour into pan and bake 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean**. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool complete on a wire rack.

Once cool, frost with Chocolate Orange Frosting. Let sit in the refrigerator for an hour, to allow the frosting to firm up before topping with toasted almonds, and drizzling with White Chocolate Almost Ganache.

Chocolate Orange Frosting

  • 1 can prepared chocolate frosting
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 squares bittersweet baking chocolate
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • zest from 2 oranges
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice

In a large bowl, beat the whipping cream on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. In a small saucepan, melt the bittersweet chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly. Add the chocolate, canned frosting, confectioner’s sugar, orange zest and orange juice to the whipped cream. Beat on low speed just until combined, then increase the speed to medium, and beat until fluffy.

White Chocolate Almond Ganache

  • generous 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon Amaretto (or 1/4 teaspoon almond extract)

Put your white chocolate chips in a small mixing bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the whipping cream and butter until just boiling. Pour immediately over white chocolate, and allow to sit for one minute. Add the Amaretto (or almond extract) and stir with a whisk until smooth.

*I’m paranoid about overmixing batter and dough, so I aimed for almost smooth. I know that’s incredibly vague, but trust your gut. If it looks smooth, but it’s only been a minute and a half, stop mixing. If it’s crazy lumpy, and you’ve been mixing for four minutes, give it a little longer. It only took me about two minutes to reach almost smooth.

**Look at me, I’m doing it to you again. Almost clean? Well you know when you stick it in and it comes out coated in smooth batter? That’s obviously not done. But if you stick it in and it comes out with a few little clumps of gooey cake goodness on it, you can’t call that clean, but it’s done. It will firm up the rest of the way once it’s out of the oven, and you’ll have moist, delicious cake.

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Entry filed under: Guinea-pigged, Kept to myself. Tags: , , , , .

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