I am not a pastry chef, but I can make a more than passable cake or pie from scratch. I can’t bring myself to make a cake from a boxed mix. I can, however, use a good quality mix as an ingredient and often produce a better-than-from-scratch dessert. I’ll give you more than one option for preparing today’s recipes and you can make them your own.

I have used “The Cake Mix Doctor” by Anne Byrn for years. It is a useful guide to good desserts. The book is like the white lines in a parking lot, not rules, just suggestions.

Marie Nichols gave us the Butter Pecan Pound Cake recipe. Delicious on its own, but I couldn’t resist adding hazelnut liqueur. Almond Cream Cheese Pound Cake is in Byrn’s book. I woogied it some, then added amaretto.

I took some of the work out of Cream-Filled Chocolate Cake. Now it’s way more likely to get prepared more often in my kitchen.

I’m sure you can make delicious changes to my changes.

Almond Cream Cheese Pound Cake

1 (15.25-ounce) French vanilla cake mix plus three ounces of the same or plain white cake mix

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature

Scant half cup sugar

4 large eggs

1/2 cup half and half

1/2 cup oil

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract

Or 1/2 cup amaretto liqueur

Don’t omit the vanilla.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray a Bundt pan with cooking spray for baking.

Place all ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat at low speed until combined. Scrape bowl, increase speed to medium and beat two more minutes. Scrape bowl as needed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Butter Pecan Pound Cake

Compliments of Marie Nichols n’ me

1 (15.25-ounce) butter pecan cake mix plus three ounces of the same or plain white cake mix

4 large eggs

1/2 cup oil

1/2 cup half and half

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup hazelnut liqueur

1 (15-ounce) container of coconut pecan frosting. That’s right.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a Bundt pan generously with pan spray for baking.

Place cake mix, eggs, oil, half and half, liqueur and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat at low speed one minute. Scrape down the bowl. Increase speed to medium. Beat two minutes. Remove beater and stir in coconut pecan frosting until well blended. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake one hour or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

You may omit liqueur and use one cup milk and 1 teaspoon rum flavoring

Cream-Filled Chocolate Cake

1 (15.25-ounce) German chocolate cake mix plus three ounces of same, chocolate or white cake mix

1/2 cup half and half

1/2 cup oil

3/4 cup sour cream

4 large eggs

1 (3.4-ounce) box chocolate instant pudding mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with Pam. Line the pan with wax paper. Spray the wax paper. Add all ingredients to the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on low speed one minute. Scrape down the bowl. Increase speed to medium and beat two minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Cut the cake into 16 approximately equal pieces. To serve, slice each serving horizontally. Place two generous tablespoons of filling in the bottom piece. Replace top. Drizzle with warm chocolate sauce. Top with whipped cream if desired.

Cream Filling

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese at room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 (8-ounce) container Extra Creamy Cool Whip, thawed

Beat cream cheese with powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Fold in Cool Whip. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Miss Olivia Sipe is the owner of Miss Olivia’s Table in Maryville.

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