I try to limit sugar, I really do. But once the holidays roll around, I feel societally empowered to live out all my Suzie Homemaker fantasies and bake to my heart’s content. It’s also bonding time with my daughters, right? Sure. (Not the first time I’ve used them to justify my sugar consumption, sadly.)
Many years ago, my bestie (who lives in Tennessee) send me a quick note saying, “Hey! Look at this! I found a cool cookie recipe!” We had serious boyfriends (both later husbands!) and we were in the blissful-lots-of-eating stage in our relationships.
The recipe was this:
Easy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Take 1 box of white cake mix
Add 2 eggs
Add 1/3 cup vegetable oil
Mix in 1 ¼ cup chocolate chips
Bake for 10 minutes.
Bestie added a note: “This works with M&Ms too! Enjoy!”
Oh the Variety!
I made the cookies. Then for Valentine’s Day, I made them with pink and red M&Ms, but it got me thinking…what else could I do with this basic recipe?
Answer: EVERYTHING. Oh, it was ON. I made cookie varieties with cake mix until my now-hubs asked me to stop. (We love eating, but fitting in our pants is nice, too.)
For the baking purist, using a shortcut like cake mix might sound like blasphemy. Frankly, Martha dear, I don’t give a dram. I COULD measure out flour, sift it, measure out sugar, spoon in baking pow . . . .zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….. BORING! I want cookies and I want them NOW. Also, the good people at Duncan Hines and/or Betty Crocker already did the work for me; who am I to deny that honest labor? (Does this make me a job creator?! Sweet!)
I’ve taken this basic recipe and done all kind of things with it. My personal masterpiece (that is now a family tradition) is Butter Pecan cake mix, chopped pecans and the smashed up Heath Bar brickle available in the baking aisle. Oh my. Those bad boys are always popular when I bring them in to work or basically anywhere. I almost had a mental breakdown in Publix one year when I thought Betty Crocker was discontinuing the Butter Pecan flavor; luckily that did not happen and my sanity remained intact.
So please, take my basic recipe and make it your own. Red velvet mix and white chocolate chips? DO IT. Chocolate mix, butterscotch chips and walnuts? OMG! THAT SOUNDS DELICIOUS! Pink strawberry cake and marshmallows? That would be perfect for a princess party! Vanilla cake mix and smashed Oreo cookies mixed in? WHAT? IS THIS COOKIE “INCEPTION”? It might be, and I am OK with that.
One note of caution: Use only the basic cake mix that calls for water, oil, and eggs. The kind that only requires butter or water doesn’t work. Also, I have found that I get a little more than 2 dozen cookies per box of cake mix. I roll them into balls and let them sink and I bake them for a minimal amount of time; this tends to keep the middles soft and chewy, which is my personal preference. I also use silpat mats (because cleaning up is easier that way) and a cooling rack, as I think both of those things also help my cookies stay soft and chewy in the middle.
So go forth, combine and experiment. Let your creativity run wild and delight your family, friends and co-workers with your creations. And remember: some bakers measure the mix-ins, but POPULAR bakers know that lots of chocolate chips is how you show LOVE.