My friend, Pam, gave me A LOT of vanilla bean cake mixes from Fresh & Easy—I’m talking 15 cans. Apparently, her friend bought the cans thinking they were frosting but didn’t read the label (there’s a picture of a cupcake with icing on it). So naturally, she thought of me when her friend wanted to get rid of them.
And so goes the cupcake making spree…
When Pam gave me the mixes, she mentioned a dinner that our Catholic Daughters group usually prepares for the visiting priests who help out at the Lenten penance services. I thought it was a great opportunity to use up some vanilla cake mix.
To test out the mix I made 24 regular and 24 mini vanilla cupcakes with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream this past Sunday (two cans of mix worked perfectly for this). I took some to a party hoping that they’d get eaten, but I think only 10 got eaten since some guests left before dessert. So I pawned some off on a friend and got rid of 6 more. The rest… I admit, I ate most of it. So did the kids. Hey, I’m carb-loading this week… it’s okay, right?
I have a problem with most cake mixes in that it tastes, well, like cake mix. I was quite impressed with the quality of the Vanilla Cupcake & Cake Mix. It actually contains ground vanilla beans. Plus, there are no weird chemical preservatives. One of the ingredients was rosemary “to preserve freshness.” Interesting…
You know you’re in for something good when you need butter, eggs, and milk to add to the mix, instead of the standard, eggs, oil and water. The mixing process is different, too – more like baking from scratch. It calles for COLD cubes of butter which you combine with the dry mix until it’s “mealy.” You beat the eggs and milk together and slowly add it to the dry ingredients until it’s just combined—very similar to making a quick bread.
The taste – like a baked-from-scratch cupcake. It’s slightly dense but moist because of the bits of butter that have melted into the cake. It holds up real well and doesn’t fall apart in your hand like standard box mixes. There are no weird, “non-food” flavors. I can see the mix lending itself to a lot of flavor combinations and it would be a good base for other flavors. Which leads me to the Boston Cream Cupcake.
I didn’t want to make a standard vanilla cupcake for the priests. (Hey, I want to be on their good side.) It was a toss up between a lemon curd-filled cupcake or a Boston Cream. Since we used all but one lemon off of our neighbor’s tree that’s hanging on our side, I had to stick to Boston Cream.
This was pretty easy – vanilla cupcake, chocolate ganache and pastry cream. I opted to make a piped ganache versus a poured one, for looks’ sake. Plus a little more chocolate doesn’t hurt. 🙂 It’s all the same process when you make it, you just need to allow it to cool long enough to pipe.
Semi-Sweet Chocolate Ganache
Frosts 18 cupcakes (piped)
- 12 oz semi-sweet chocolate (chopped or chips)
- 1-1/4 cup of heavy cream
Put chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Heat the heavy cream until just boiling. Remove from heat and add to the chocolate. Stir until evenly melted. Allow to cool to about a peanut butter consistency before piping (about an hour, depending on the weather. I had to put this in an ice bath since I was in a hurry.)
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
- 1-1/3cups heavy cream
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/3 cup sugar
- Pinch salt
- 4 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
- 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl, then whisk in the cornstarch until pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.
Slowly whisk the hot cream into the egg mixture to temper, then return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thick and glossy. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl, press plastic wrap directly on the surface, and refrigerate until chilled and set, about 2 hours.
I sped up the process by putting the bowl in an ice-water bath and whisking it until it cooled.
To assemble, cut out the top of the cupcake and scoop out a little bit of the cake to make a small well. Add the pastry cream in the well and replace the top of the cupcake. Frost with cooled ganache. I used a large star tip.
My little taste-testers love it. The big kid said the cream tastes better than the donut shop. I guess that’s a compliment? Regardless, I’m glad it did… and that I have leftovers. Crepes anyone? 🙂
Do you doctor up cake mixes? What have been your successes (or disasters)? Share them in the comments below!