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Best boxed cake mix and canned frosting

OK ... let me make this perfectly clear ... I am NOT for various reasons making frosted cupcakes from scratch. So please no ... it is so easy, make your own.

The primary reason is it is an acttivity for for one six year old and one three year old and both seriously lack focus. Let's say neither can even follow Dr. Seuss books. So there is only a limited amount of what can be done.

This is mainly about the frosting ... but what the heck ... I'll ask about good boxed mixes as well.

I despise the gluck that is canned frosting with a science list of ingredients and that awful taste and texture. Is there anything out there somewhat natural that tastes closer to home made. I like dense butter cream, but decent anything will do.

Not so picky about cake mixes. The regulars work for me, though it has been years since I made a cake from mix. Anything that is along the orgnanic or natural lines, tastes good and is fool-proof?

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  1. The bakery in my local supermarket sells tubs of their basic "buttercream." It isn't great, but better than any of the national brand canned icings. It's probably worth asking the someone in the bakery/deli section where you shop.

    I've always found boxed cakes to be better than canned frosting. Still not as good as homemade, but good enough in a pinch. I prefer Duncan Hines butter golden or devils food flavors.

    1. I think either Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker Super Moist are good.

      1 Reply
      1. re: vafarmwife

        Whichever one does the Butter Deluxe (or to that effect) gets my vote. Love those cakes.

      2. I have "doctored" cake mix cakes w/ good results. One of my faves is the snickerdoodle-use white cake mix (I prefer Duncan Hines-to that add 1 cup milk, 1 stick melted butter, 3 eggs, 1tsp vanilla, 2tsp ground cinnamon(instead of, not in addition to the eggs/oil indicated on box.). Bake as directed on box. The Betty Crocker whipped frostings are my fave store bought. If you make this cake, I would stir a little cinnamon into the frosting. I made this cake many times when my mom was ill to bring to her caregivers in the nursing home. It always was well received. Good luck-sounds like you have your hands full.
        Another thought would be Duncan Hines strawberry cake w/ their dark chocalate fudge icing.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sherriberry

          Agreed. Use butter instead of oil, and also add (I know this sounds nuts) a pack of French Vanilla pudding (if a yellow cake) or chocolate if a chocolate cake....extra liquid fine, but I've never needed it. Makes a huge difference in texture. I still make my own icing, but from an easy Martha Stewart recipe.

          1. re: Brianne920

            When you sub the butter for oil what is the ratio?

        2. Those Dr. Oetker's mixes aren't horrible in a pinch. Just add extra vanilla. Do this with all boxed mixes. The Cherrybrook ones are okay, too, but you will need to use butter instead of oil (they're made for people with allergies) to make them taste good. Trader Joe's also has a store brand of cake mix with a non-scary ingredient list, but they are wicked salty, so you would need to add some citrus to balance that out a bit. I like salty cakes, but I'll bet your little ones won't.

          I've never used a canned frosting, but Trader Joe's and Whole Foods sell frosting mixes. If you mixed it up first, would that work? Then your kiddos could just dip their knives and frost.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Isolda

            Yeah, I thought I remembered frosting mixes, so that might work. Part of the problem is I'm staying with family for a while and this particuarl group doesn't do baking. My stuff is still in deep storage so I have to deal with spoons and aluminum foil cupcake pan as I have zero desire to go out and buy dulicate stuff. I haven't seen a hand-mixer anywhere.

          2. Perhaps you've never made frosting. A homemade buttercream is butter, confectioners sugar, vanilla and hot water or milk. If you look at the ingredients and directions for frosting mixes, they are essentially confectioners sugar with some stabilizers, then you have to beat in butter, vanilla, and hot water. Why pay extra for a mix with gunk in it to make it shelf stable when all you need is a pound box of confectioners sugar? The technique is the same, you still have to measure the ingredients and buy separately the things that aren't in the mix. Mix is not any easier.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              The OP was asking about canned frosting which requires nothing but pulling off the lid. It doesn't taste as good, but it will be just as much fun for the kids to spread around.

            2. why would you want to show kids how to make cake from a box? you should really make your own blah, blah, blah....ok, i'm totally kidding. i was just doing the ol' chowhound 'why would you want that when you could have this' response.

              what i've really enjoyed making is the chocolate cake mix and their boxed chocolate frosting from cherrybrook kitchen. the best part about the cake mix is that there's no eggs involved so plenty of batter licking by the wee one's is permitted. we use cherrybrook due to allergies (nuts, peanuts and eggs) but i find them suitable for the non-allergic kids as well and it's easy peasy. i had my 2 yr old help me mix. the one warning i have is that the yellow cake mix isn't as good as chocolate.

              i also used the trader joe's chocolate cake mix and it came out pretty decent. i never used their frosting and seems like you're specifically looking for canned frosting? or are you opened to the boxed type?

              6 Replies
              1. re: trolley

                OK ... got me. Read the first sentence and got riled.

                Yeah, if the boxed mix were just add water and mix, I might be open to it. However, from one post it seems no different than making frosting from scratch.

                I should get points here ... I'm trying to interest the kids in cooking ... I just want the first experience to be enjoyable with successful results. Buy a kid a cupcake and they have a nice snack. Show a kid how to make a cupcake and ... who knows ... maybe someday they'll cook for me.

                1. re: rworange

                  HA! got you!

                  well, making frosting from a box is sort of like making from scratch but minus a few steps. i swear by the cherrybrook cake mix since it's add water and mix. you can make it fun by making cupcakes with fun cupcake paper. they can watch the cake bake and then frosting the cupcakes can be fun too. you can get a bunch of different toppings like candy, fruit, sprinkles and go to town. that's the part my 2 yr old likes the most and seems to connect to. but then again your kids are a bit older so the 'process' may be just as fascinating. good luck and most importantly, HAVE FUN!

                  1. re: rworange

                    the frosting mixes are a little easier than the ones in the can, just take a little elbow grease for mixing, but you can do it with a spatula or wooden spoon.

                    other than that stick to duncan hines or betty crocker and you should be ok. pillsbury doesn't seem as good to me, but it will do in a pinch. never tried the TJ products as we don't have TJ's here. I've heard (umm, yeah) that they are ok as far as a mix goes.

                    whoops, didn't mean to reply to RWO... oh well....

                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                      Nuke a packet of good quality choc chips with 2 tbs cream. Call it ganache and have the kids take turns twirling the tops in that deep dark choc.. Sprinkle with anything such as cocoanut, chopped nuts, jimmies. Mom of four. I know of what I speak.

                      1. re: crispy1

                        Ok, I;m going to give special dispensation from 'make your own' for this tip which sounds great, easy AND foolproof. I'll have to give this a test run prior to the event. If it doesn't work ... if life doesn't give you frosting (ganache) ... make hot chocolate out of it.

                        But seriously, I'm not opening up the floodgates. If it involves sugar, butter and needs beating ... ain't doing it. Been there, failed at that .. for decades.

                        The point here is a fun activity that hopefully tastes good. If I'm stressed out over frosting, with two hyper tots ... I see child services involved at worst ...or two kids who will hate cooking for life at best.

                        1. re: crispy1

                          what is your exact method for making ganache. I don't like frosting but the kids do. ganache sounds like it may be a good compromise.

                  2. Funfetti... A LOT of children LOVE funfetti cake made by Pillsbury because it is cake with sprinkles mixed in it.

                    The frosting in the can that has 'made with Hershey's' on it really does taste like Hersheys, but I prefer the ganache option (cream and chocolate) because that sounds stellar.

                    1. Sooooo I am just going to answer your question according to my expriences and opinions. Cake mix I am also less picky, but DH are pretty good, so are BC depening on what flavour you like, but they are pretty safe. And they are all pretty fool proof.

                      The canned frosting, on the other hand, is not quite so simple. I am picky with these, and will not eat any other brand than the CREAMY ones from BC. I dislike the whipped, and the DH ones just don't do it for me, though in a desperate situation I can make do. For the frosting, I say use either the BC creamy french vanilla or french chocolate, depending on what flavour cake you go for.

                      1. going slightly off topic. remember that one of the great things about cupcakes for kids is that there are repeated opportunities for decoration. cookies, crumbles, chips, berries, sprinkles, etc. With that kind of activity, they are gonna be much less discerning about the flavor and texture of the cake and frosting than you are, and their memories are going to be of the green gummy bears on the shocking orange frosting more than the subtle texture of the crumb and the creaminess of the frosting.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                          RIGHT you are! This reminds me of the 'Owl Cupcakes' where you take oreos and m&ms to make it look like an owl on top. So Rworange, if you need it to be absurd, have them make an owl. Otherwise, loads of sprinkles will definitely make it memorable!

                          (Just in case: this is what the owls look like....

                          1. re: GraceW

                            Did these same kids accompany you to Guate? If so, you are an amazingly adventurous lot. If not, I nonetheless admire your adventurous spirit, which carries over to baking with minimal equipment and wee people with short attention spans. Enjoy whatever mix you choose, let 'em lick those spoons and have fun!

                        2. Stir in a tsp. of vanilla extract into frosting tub and it improves the flavor. I prefer Betty Crocker brand of frosting. Trust me the extract helps.

                          1. I might be too late, but here are my opinions:
                            (1) Pillsbury (I think) has a "strawberry" flavored mix that is not delicious, but it does turn from white to pink when you add the wet ingredients. This is thrilling for little children.
                            (2) I find that the "cream cheese" canned frostings are better.
                            (3) instead of canned frosting, you could spread Nutella, peanut butter, strawberry jam, or lemon curd on a cupcake.