Even from-scratch cooks know there are busy times in life when you need a great shortcut . . .

That’s where Anne Byrn, newspaper journalist and experienced cook, was with her busy young family when she reached for a box of cake mix to save time. Anne doctored the chocolate mix with sour cream, and she slathered the cake layers with her mom’s recipe for homemade chocolate frosting. The Cake Mix Doctor was born.

From Cake Mix to Cake Magnificent

Anne never intended to become the Cake Mix Doctor. She just needed last-minute solutions to the ever-ending requests for birthday cakes, bake sale creations, and dinner party desserts. And finding the cake mixes lacking in real flavor, she added fresh fruit, peanut butter, vanilla, coffee, Kahlua, whatever was on-hand to doctor them up and make a better cake. She wrote a book about it – the Cake Mix Doctor, the best-selling cookbook in 2000. The Cake Mix Doctor series have nearly 4 million copies in print.

From Ordinary Cake Mix to Extraordinary

But the fact that ordinary supermarket cake mixes contained artificial colors and flavors, trans-fat, and preservatives didn’t sit well with the Cake Mix Doctor. She longed for the from-scratch flavors of butter, sugar, flour, vanilla, and eggs. So when the children were in bed, the Cake Mix Doctor hatched a plan to place her from-scratch cake recipes into a box. It took several years of testing, another year of finding the right manufacturer to blend her mixes, but one day her mix was in the box.

Anne Byrn: From Busy Mom to Small Business Owner

Now, the Cake Mix Doctor mixes – yellow, chocolate, and brownies, can be found on supermarket shelves. They are made for busy people who don’t have to compromise ingredients, taste, and real flavor. With a Cake Mix Doctor mix you can bake, frost, and light the candles on a cake in just under an hour. It’s Homemade Easy. And it’s delicious, too!

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Anne Byrn, The Cake Mix Doctor®
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Original Cake Mix Doctor® Cookbook

Q&A WITH THE CAKE MIX DOCTOR®

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Why has cake baking remained so popular?

Because cakes are celebratory foods that are meant to be shared. They are with us at those important times, the rites of passage in our lives – birthday parties, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, even deaths.

They are on holiday tables and our families remember that special cakes are prepared for certain seasons, on Easter, at the Fourth of July potluck, for Thanksgiving, and Christmas, for example. Cake baking is popular because the home-baked cake is most highly revered. Bakery cakes may be fancy, but homemade cakes come from the heart.

What are the three most common mistakes cake bakers make?

They don’t read through the recipe first before beginning, they think all pans are alike, and they don’t know if their ovens are baking at the right temperature. Do a quick read-through of the recipe before you begin to make sure you have all the ingredients needed and that you know everything, from how long it bakes to how long it needs to cool.

I prefer metal baking pans that are shiny and prepped with vegetable oil spray or shortening and flour. If you use darker pans, they will make the edges of your cake dark. And using a vegetable oil spray with propellants (alcohol) will make the sides even darker.

As for your oven, if recipes are baking faster than the recipe suggests, your oven may be running hot. Have it checked by a professional.

What’s your advice for the mom who is pressed for time but wants to bake a special cake for the family dinner?

Bake a sheet cake because you only have to prep the 13- by -9-inch pan with vegetable oil spray or line it with parchment paper. Pour the batter in the pan and let the cake bake while you prepare dinner. No need to turn the cake out onto a rack to cool.

Sharing stories that go with recipes are a hallmark of your cookbooks. Do you have a favorite cake story?

Recipes are so much more than a method for combining ingredients. They are a story in themselves because they involve people, human nature, and emotions. I’ll be honest and say I am not efficient in recipe filing.

When it came time to write my Cake Mix Doctor Returns! book, my recipes were stashed online and in files and after finding them all the years of conversations and appearances and meetings came back as I looked at recipes written on paper napkins, sticky notes, and business cards.

One such recipe was for Nancy’s Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake. My late mother had scribbled it on the back of a bridge score sheet. Her friend Nancy Bradshaw of Nashville had made this coffee cake for a bridge game they played together. Then the memories of that afternoon conversation came back to me.

My mom and I were standing in my kitchen and she was telling me about this great coffee cake and how I should put it in my next book. I remember how enthusiastic she was about that cake. So I baked it for the first time, and my house filled with the aroma of cinnamon and the memories of my sweet mom. I wondered what had taken me so long.

What have been the biggest changes in cake baking in the last 10 years?

I’ve seen a couple of interesting changes. People are looking for smaller cakes, ways to bake mini Bundts and cupcakes and half a cake recipe for smaller families so they have less cake “sitting around.”

Cake are still celebratory, but they are not an every-night indulgence. Families with small children still do the most baking, but I’ve received more emails and questions from teenage cake bakers and 20-something bakers who baked cakes through college. And people are buying fewer cakes and baking more at home because it’s cheaper.

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