Sometimes I need to bring a dessert to a gathering and there just isn't time in my schedule (especially during a work week) to make something elaborate or time-consuming. When faced with that I often turn to cake mixes. They can be easily enhanced to make an impressive dessert. Left untouched, cake mixes are rather mundane. Enhancing them with pudding, fresh citrus zest, liqueurs, nectar, fresh fruit, chocolate chips and whatever your creative mind can come up with, turns an ordinary dessert into a wonderful creation. Homemade frosting is a must, but they are easy to do, anyway. No one will ever know that your cake started with a mix!
One of my go-to cookbooks when I need a quick dessert is The Cake Mix Doctor. I've had this book over 15 years now and have used it quite often. The author has done some follow-up cookbooks but I've stuck with the original. She also has a website.
I needed to make a dessert to take to book club and was craving something with chocolate. I've made Chocolate Kahlua Cake many times so planned to make it. A quick perusal of my liquor stash showed I didn't have enough Kahlua for the recipe. I did have some Irish Cream Liqueur. Hmmm, why not?
To top the cake, I made a quick ganache and drizzled over the top. Then I topped it with a drizzle of warm caramel sauce and some chocolate shavings.
To enhance the chocolate in the cake you can substitute some brewed coffee for the water; I usually use a ratio of half water, half coffee. If you are using Kahlua and want to play up the Mexican flavors, add 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the batter.
I made the cake the evening before I needed it. Once cooled, I wrapped it in plastic wrap. The next evening I made the ganache and finished decorating the cake. Neither night was labor-intensive, easily done while making dinner!
Chocolate Irish Cream (or Kahlua) Cake
1 package plan devil's food cake mix
1 package (5.9 ounces) chocolate instant pudding mix
3/4 cup Irish Cream Liqueur (or Kahlua)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly mist a 12-cup Bundt pan with baking spray (or oil and dust with flour, shaking out the excess flour).
Place the cake mix, pudding mix, liqueur, water, oil, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for one minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for two to three minutes more, scraping the sides down again if needed. The batter should look thick and smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula. Place the pan in the oven.
Bake the cake until it springs back when lightly pressed with your finger and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 47 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Run a long, sharp knife around the edge of the cake and invert it on a serving platter.
Once the cake has cooled, bring the cream to a boil (in the microwave or on the stove.) Remove from heat and add the chocolate chips. Allow them to sit in the hot cream for 5 minutes, then stir to combine. Place waxed paper strips underneath cake. Drizzle cake with ganache, then with warm caramel (barely warm so it doesn't melt the chocolate). Top with shaved chocolate. Once the ganache is set, carefully remove the waxed paper strips.