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New to baking- need to bring a cake/brownies

Would like to begin making my own desserts. If you know of a nearly foolproof recipe with few ingredients; which may only require a hand mixer, please send it on!

Not happy with most cake mixes but will keep an open mind if you suggest adaptations.

Thanks, in advance, for your suggestions!

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  1. you could do almost anything with a boxed brownie mix. if i have to use one, i'll throw in nuts, choc chips a little vanilla and about a tsp or so of instant ground coffe(mix with a drop or two of water). the coffee really brings out the choc flavor

    2 Replies
    1. re: winebarb

      Exactly what I do! They are great and peole beg for the recipe! Sometimes in addition to 1/2 a bag of choc chips, I also add about 1/2 a bag of hersheys kisses with almonds. Also add a half a capful of almond extract.

      1. re: winebarb

        Another good addition to a good brownie mix (the truffle ones from trader joe's are great) is a spice mix of ginger, ground chipotle and cinnamon to make Mexican brownies. Or top with Nutella and chopped hazelnuts.

        1. re: Emme

          These are the best I have ever tasted.

          1. re: Emme

            You can cut the recipe in half to fit a 9 by 13 inch pan, a size much more common to home cooks. I would strongly recommend that you make brownies rather than a cake. They're a little more forgiving than many cake recipes, although you definitely don't want to overbake brownies. Cakes require a little more technique, generally gained by experience, unless you have an incredibly detailed cookbook, like Rose Levy Beranbaum's, for instance. They're also easier and always popular. Good luck!

          2. Because of recommendations here, I bought a box of Trader Joes Brownie Truffle Mix, don't think I'll ever make from scratch again. Gotta get back there and buy a dozen or two. I did add a spoonful of Kahlua because I had it around, but still....wow!

            1. I really like the "man-catcher" brownies, discussed here:

              But my favoritest brownies of all are Dorie Greenspan's (Baking From My Home to Yours) are the Chipster Topped Brownies.

              1. Ina Garten's outrageous brownies are very easy to make and make a lot. I pour half of the brownie mix in the pan without nuts, then add nuts to the remaining batter and pour into the other half of the pan. They are great, everyone loves them. But cut them small as they are very rich. Also start them the day before, because they have to be refridgerated.
                The Tj's truffle brownie mix are really good too, but if you want from scratch the above doesn't take long and is easy.

                1. I don't know if you've tried Ghiradelli brownie mix. I think they're some of the best brownies I've tried...great consistency AND deep chocolate taste.

                  I'm sure they would also be great jazzed up with some espresso or liqueur, if desired. I've never made brownies from scratch, but after making these, I have no desire to.

                  1. You might try quick breads (think banana bread) as they are easy to throw together and are really tasty. I've made variations: chocolate chip applesauce bread (unbelievable), zucchini bread, carrot cake batter in bread form.

                    Personally, I think baking is much easier than cooking because it is a science - throw exactly the right amount of ingredients together in exactly the right way, and it should turn out every time. Good luck!

                    1. If you are interested in going the cupcake route -- I highly highly recommend the Magnolia cafe Cupcake recipe -- they have in on the foodnetwork website.
                      It's very very simple and easy to follow. The frosting is great, and it's truly the best cupcake recipe I've tried.

                      1. You could try the Baker's One Bowl Brownies. It doesn't get much easier than that and you don't even need a mixer!

                        Also I have a recipe for sour cream coffee cake that is great and also very easy...if you want it, let me know and I'll post it.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: valerie

                          Would love to make an easy sour cream coffee cake if I can't locate one of the brownie boxes recommended here. Could you post? Thanks, Valerie!

                          Are those prepackaged brownie mixes available in supermarkets? I think I've only seen Duncan Hines!

                          1. re: hopegoode

                            Sure...like I said, it's very easy. My mother, sister and I have all been making this for years and it's always a huge hit.

                            Sour Cream Coffee Cake


                            ¼ Cup Butter (unsalted)
                            1 Cup Sugar
                            ½ pint Sour Cream (1 cup) – you can use low-fat if desired
                            2 Eggs
                            1 Tsp. Vanilla
                            ¼ Tsp. Salt
                            2 Cups Flour
                            1 Tsp. Baking Powder
                            1 Tsp. Baking Soda


                            ¾ Cup Chopped Walnuts
                            2 Tsp. Cinnamon
                            ¼ Cup Sugar
                            ¾ Cup Chocolate Chips (semi-sweet)

                            Preheat over to 350.

                            Cream butter. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg. Add vanilla.

                            Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add alternately with the sour cream blending well.

                            Pour half the batter into a well-greased baking pan (9 inch square, round or even a bundt pan).

                            Combine filling ingredients. Sprinkle half of mixture over batter in pan. Top with remaining batter and then sprinkle with remaining filling mixture. Slightly press chocolate chips and nuts down so that they stay on the cake when it is baked.

                            Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Test with a toothpick – it might need a little more time in the oven (like 10 or 15 minutes).


                        2. I vote brownies. Very easy to make, easy to love. Find a recipe with lots of chocolate in it. Be very careful not to overbake. Sometimes I will split the batter into two pans, and make variations. For example, swirl some cream cheese into the tops of one pan, ice the other pan with a simple confectioners sugar frosting flavored with coffee or mint or whatever. Here is my fave, the basic recipe I always start with:

                          Satin Brownies

                          6 oz bittersweet chocolate
                          2 oz unsweet chocolate
                          1 1/2 sticks butter
                          1 ½ cups sugar
                          2 teaspoons vanilla
                          4 eggs
                          1 teaspoon salt
                          1 cup flour
                          1 cup chocolate chips or chopped semisweet chocolate (optional)

                          Melt the chocolate with the butter, then cool to lukewarm. Stir in the sugar and vanilla, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the salt and flour, finally the chocolate chips.

                          Pour in a well buttered and floured 13X9 pan. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. A tester in the middle should come out w/ some wet crumbs still attached, but it should be reasonably set up.

                          1. Google Texas Sheet Cake. It is an easy, delicious cake that you cook on a cookie sheet. You bake the cake, make the frosting separately on the stovetop, and then pour the frosting over the cake. It really melts into the cake. It's kind of a cross between brownies and cake. We have it at every family function here in Houston, Tx.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: danhole

                              That is a really simple thing to make and people seem to enjoy it. Makes a lot and since you serve it in the sheet, don't have to worry about transporting.


                            2. I found this recipe in an old Woman's Day magazine the other day. It ends up looking like a rectangular layer cake with many narrow layers, topped with nuts and frosted with whipped cream. Quite pretty.

                              I haven't tried it yet -- the calories and fat make it a definite special occasion treat for me -- but the picture looks surprisingly scrumptious and the ingredients are all ones I like! The article says they used Duncan Hines mixes, too.

                              Paraphrased from the Sept. 13th, 2005 issue of Woman's Day:

                              German Brownie Torte
                              1 1/2 c. (5oz) sweetened flaked coconut
                              1 1/2 c. (6oz) chopped pecans
                              1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
                              1/2 stick (4 tbls) butter, melted
                              1 box (21 oz) Family-Style Chewy Fudge Brownies mix
                              2 c. heavy (whipping) cream
                              1/3 c. confectioners' sugar

                              Preheat oven to 350'. Line a 15 x 10 baking sheet with foil (let edges hang over the short sides of the pan for handles) and spray with non-stick spray. Stir together pecans, coconut, brown sugar, and butter until well blended and set aside.

                              Prepare mix as directed for cake-like brownies, then spread evenly in pan, top with pecan mixture, and bake 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

                              Use foil handles to transfer to a wooden cutting board. Slice into three pieces, crosswise (I think this means along the length, so you end up with a fairly narrow but long rectangular cake).

                              Whip cream with sugar in a bowl on medium-high speed until moist, stiff peaks form when beaters are lifted.

                              To assemble, place one brownie layer on a serving plate, spread with 1 c. whipped cream, repeat using the second layer and another 1 c. whipped cream. Set the last layer on top and frost sides with remaining whipped cream. Refrigerate at least two hours.

                              I don't know why, barring dislike, you couldn't sub in 2 or 3 cups Cool Whip for the whipped cream, if you're pressed for time or don't want to dirty up another bowl!

                              (And the recipe says it serves 20, but that's a 1 inch slice cut in half, so I'd expect it to be more like serves 10.)

                              1. How about a pound cake? They're very easy to make from scratch and can easily be done with a hand mixer. You can serve with some fresh berries and whipped cream for an easy, pretty and tasty dessert.

                                Here's a recipe for plain

                                Here's a recipe for Barefoot Contessa's Lemon Poundcake