Day before Thanksgiving, who’s excited?! Most likely you’re either:
a. Stuck in traffic
b. Waiting in a ridiculously long line at the grocery store
c. In a daze in the kitchen realizing you have SO much cooking to do
d. Barely functioning because you have been starving yourself all week for maximum Thanksgiving stuffing-yo’-face action.
e. Both a and d
f. Both d and b or c
I just took a multiple choice test, forgive me for feeling the urge to write my own multiple choice question. Thankfully there is no wrong answer.
Back to business. With the holidays in mind, you are going to be needing lots of gifts and tasty hostess treats handy. Sure pulling up a totally homemade recipe is tons of fun. But it’s also tons of work. Then there are tons of boxed, pre-made goodies, but it feels like a bit of a cop-out. Solution? A doctored cake mix, with a twist.
Cake mixes are really easy to doctor. You only need to know some basic properties of cake mixes to know what will work and what won’t when you go about your alterations. Cakes are generally made with flour, eggs, sugar, and either butter or shortening. The gluten in flour works to bind all the molecules together and causes the cake to rise. See my post on Gluten Free Baking for all the details. Eggs are 75% water and tend to provide all the moisture to a recipe however, other ingredients such as milk, buttermilk, and sour cream may also be included. Sugar is used to incorporate air into the mixture. This is done by beating the sugar and fat first, then adding the eggs. I actually had no idea why every cake recipes calls for you to do this until I did research for this post. Air is carried into the mixture by the sugar molecules and the beaters, and the fat (which retain air in a solid + semisolid state) immobilizes the air as it gets beaten into a crystalline liquid fat mixture. Vegetable shortening actually does a better job of incorporating air bubbles into a cake batter as manufacturers fill vegetable shortenings with nitrogen bubbles and bubble stabilizing emulsifiers. The moisturizing and tenderizing effects of fat, not the air trapping ones, can be mimicked with the use of purees and concentrated fruits such as apple, pear, and apricot. Fruit (or in this case pumpkin) purees can be used to replace some of the fat in a recipe. The resulting cake will be more moist and dense than a full-fat cake however.
1. You can add moisture to a cake by subbing some of the necessary eggs with dairy products.
2. You can replace butter with vegetable shortening.
3. You can add fruit/vegetable purees to cake mixes in place of some of the fat. The resulting cake will be moister and denser. But be wary about subbing all the fat as the fat + sugar aerates the cake.
With a box of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin bread handy, I decided to experiment. I wanted to boost the flavor by adding pumpkin puree and extra spices. So it went from just an awesome cake…
To chocolate covered biscotti. Oh yeah.
Doctored and Chocolate Covered Pumpkin Cake Mix Biscotti
You can leave this cake as is, or turn it into biscotti, chocolate covered or not. Feel free to experiment.
1 Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Cake Mix
1 t each – cinnamon, allspice, ground ginger, nutmeg
1 cup chocolate chips – melted in microwave for about 30 seconds – 1 min
Follow instructions on box to prepare cake mix. Sub oil for canned pumpkin. Add spices. Bake cake mix according to instructions. If planning to make biscotti bake in a square pan. After cake has baked and cooled, slice cake lengthwise. Lay slices on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake in oven for 20-30 min at 450*, turning over once. When cake feels just toasted on each side, take out of oven and let cool. Cake will continue to harden to a biscotti texture as cools. Once biscotti has cooled, you can dip in melted chocolate. Let chocolate harden on biscotti in fridge or countertop, just make sure your biscotti are on wax/parchment paper or they will stick to the plate!
Enjoy with your favorite hot beverage.
I’m off to prep some Thanksgiving dishes! Gobble gobble.