Cake mixes have been around a long time, not only for cakes but also as the base for delicious desserts. Enhancing a cake mix can be as simple as adding lemon zest or using citrus...

Share story

Cake mixes have been around a long time, not only for cakes but also as the base for delicious desserts.

Enhancing a cake mix can be as simple as adding lemon zest or using citrus juice instead of water. Other more elaborate desserts require a specific recipe and ingredients.

Whether you use cake mixes as is or like to doctor them up, here’s some useful information.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

Mixes without pudding added

Some recipes call for adding instant pudding mix to a cake mix and will probably call for a cake mix without pudding. Your choices are Duncan Hines and store-brand mixes.

If you use one with the pudding in the mix, such as Pillsbury and Betty Crocker, the cake may work but most likely it will be too heavy and moist.

Shelf life

Store cake mixes in a cool, dry place. The “best if used by” date is on the three major brands. The date is either at the top of the box or the bottom. Companies recommend using them by this date for best flavor and quality.

The leavening ingredient is affected by age, and the product may not rise properly if held too long. The flavor also could change with long-term storage.

Cake problems

Although cakes mixes are generally reliable, they are not foolproof.

The following is information from www.bettycrocker.com.

Q: What causes heaviness, low volume or a rubbery layer?

A: These problems can be the result of under- or overbeating the batter, not enough liquid or an incorrect oven temperature.

Be sure to heat the oven for 10 to 15 minutes before baking to bring it up to the temperature.

It’s also important to use the pan size called for in the package instructions.

Q: What causes a wrinkled top and extreme shrinkage?

A: Shrinkage can be caused by too much liquid, overbeating or overbaking.

Use the test for doneness given on the package instructions and be sure to use the specified oven temperature.

Adding extra pudding or other ingredients that aren’t suggested on the package or in the recipes also can cause shrinkage.

Q: What causes a cake to rise to a peak or to crack open in the center?

A: Overbeating, an overly hot oven or a too-small pan can cause cracking.

Also, the pans may have been too close to each other or to the sides of the oven. The pans should be about an inch apart from each other and the oven sides.

Also, adjust the oven rack so it is in the middle of the oven.

Q: What causes holes and tunnels in a cake?

A: It’s OK if your cake has some holes; they’re caused by leavening bubbles that didn’t escape before the top crust of the cake formed.

To minimize holes and tunnels, measure carefully, add enough liquid and don’t overbeat the batter.

Q: What causes a cake to fall?

A: You can cross “slamming the oven door” off the list of reasons a cake falls.

The real reasons are: adding too much liquid; adding extra pudding or other ingredients that aren’t suggested in the package instructions or in the recipes; using a pan that’s too small; and setting the oven temperature too low.