We had a chance to visit Pinnacle Foods this week in Parsippany, New Jersey, to take a look at the test kitchen where Duncan Hines hones their boxed cake mixes and meet the senior research chef in charge there, Joe DiPaolo.
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Consumers “want to be inspired,” DiPaolo said. “I think they want to be able to get more ideas. It’s beyond the cake. It’s what else can you do with it.”
Much of his job is figuring that out. Here are some of the things he’s come up with using the brand’s latest line, Signature Velvet (the various iterations of mixes do matter, because they’re designed to give different kinds of crumb and moisture to a cake).
"You can take our cake mix, and you can add one egg and a stick of butter and a little bit of water and … make almost a dough out of our cake mix, and then add a cheesecake filling, and put some of our Duncan Hines Comstock [canned fruit] on top of it," he said. "I’ve actually made it where you take our Devil’s Food cake and our cherry Comstock and now you have a chocolate cherry bar. Or in the summertime do a little peach Comstock with our caramel cake or classic yellow [cake] with blueberry."
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Ice Cream Sandwiches
Add 1 egg, 1 teaspoon of water, and 2 tablespoons of melted butter to the mix. Combine and spoon rounded teaspoons of the dough about 2 inches apart onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes to make cookies for the sandwich cookies.
Bake cake according to instructions, then crush the cake into crumbs, reserving 1/4 cup of crumbs for garnish. Add 1/2 container of frosting to the crumbed cake, mix, and form into balls. Place on lollipop sticks. Melt the remaining frosting and dip balls into pops. Roll pops in remaining crumbs.
Pastry Cream “If you think of a pastry cream, a pastry cream is a liquid that is thickened by starch,” DiPaolo said. “We have starches in the cake mix. Well I’ve actually made custard from our cake mix. I make the batter [according to the box]. I’m still optimizing it, but you take the batter itself and then you add some milk to it and you cook it on the stove like a pastry cream.” It will make a lot of cream so he bakes one round and uses the rest of the batter for the cream.
Do you ever doctor up boxed cake mix? What’s your hack?