Homemade Podcast Episode 57: Cake Mix Doctor Anne Byrn on Rethinking Dessert

From scratch or from a box? For this week's guest, it's both.

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Anne Byrn sitting on a bench beside a flower pot, picnic basket, and watering can
Photo: Bob Delevante

Baking at night while her three children slept, newspaper food editor and pastry school graduate Anne Byrn found a new non-negotiable ingredient in boxed cake mix. Anne wrote an article about her hack of doctoring up boxed cake mix with good ingredients from the fridge, and before she knew it, newspapers from across the United States picked it up. She followed up with a cookbook The Cake Mix Doctor, published in 1999.

The New York Times best-selling author joins Homemade host Sabrina Medora this week to share the scoop on her upcoming book, A New Take On Cake, and more. Their conversation covers Anne's genius cookie advice, high-altitude cakes, and baking with ingredients you're not familiar with. Plus, get Anne's holiday tips and tricks, including her off-the-cuff advice for turning Sabrina's signature bacon-walnut pie into a Thanksgiving cake.

Listen to this episode of Homemade on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, PlayerFM, Amazon Music, and everywhere podcasts are available beginning Oct. 13.

A New Take on Cake: 175 Beautiful, Doable Cake Mix Recipes for Bundts, Layers, Slabs, Loaves, Cookies, and More!

book cover featuring chocolate cake on a white stand

About Anne Byrn

After graduating from the University of Georgia, Anne Byrn worked as the food editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 15 years. She went on to study pastry at La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Paris. She moved to Nashville, Tenn., where she wrote both the article that launched her career as the Cake Doctor. In 1999, she published her first book, The Cake Mix Doctor. She went on to author several more cookbooks, including A New Take on Cake, American Cake, Skillet Love, American Cookie, The Cake Mix Doctor Returns!, and What Can I Bring? Cookbook. Find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and check out her website.

Episode Transcript

SABRINA MEDORA: Hey food fans! I'm food writer and culinary entrepreneur Sabrina Medora and you're listening to Homemade by Allrecipes. Each week we bring you talented home cooks, authors, chefs, and celebrities to discuss the memories and traditions behind their favorite foods, along with discussions on what's happening in food culture today.

It's the age-old question of what's better: from scratch or from a box? Well, this week's guest on Homemade tells us that you can do a little bit of both. Not everything has to be from scratch in order to feel original and to really mean something. And, you know what? I trust her implicitly. Not only is she a New York Times bestselling author, she went viral before going viral was a thing — oh yeah, she's known to her devotees as the Cake Mix Doctor. And, of course, she's an expert in all things baking, which is why I have her on speed dial anytime I have a question about baking in my own kitchen. The best part about her is that not only is she an expert with baking, but she knows the history behind cakes and desserts and everything sweet in America.

That's right, we have got the Cake Mix Doctor herself, Anne Byrn. Her upcoming book comes out November 9, and it's called A New Take on Cake: 175 Beautiful, Doable Cake Mix Recipes for Bundts, Layers, Slabs, Loaves, Cookies, and More! — and if you pre-order your copy now, you get several bonus recipes to download and try immediately. And, of course, that's the only thing that I've been baking over the last several days. I'm so anxious to hear some of her great tips and tricks today, so please join me in welcoming the Cake Mix Doctor herself Anne Byrn to Homemade.

So, Anne, I have to say I'm actually a big admirer of your journey. I know that you sort of kind of grew up knowing that you wanted to be a food writer, which is so great. And then for a while there you were a food reviewer, a restaurant reviewer at The Atlanta Journal. And then you became a mom, had three kids, and then you started The Cake Doctor book. Tell us a little bit about that journey, that initial start.

ANNE BYRN: Yeah. So I've always liked to cook. I love to bake. And I started writing about food, you know, when I was in high school and college. I was actually the editor of my high school newspaper — big newspaper geek in college. I loved it. Every summer I had a job here in Nashville with the paper. And, I could hang out with people older than me, and they were reporters and they were covering Capitol Hill but I had really not put food officially together until I got hired by the Atlanta newspaper, the Journal-Constitution. They had full faith in me as a writer to make deadlines, and to be able to write about tomatoes and fried chicken in the South, even though I was 23 years old and I didn't have that much experience. So what was great was that I learned on the job and I took a leave of absence while I was there and went to Paris and studied cooking twice at Le Varenne in Paris. And then, yes, I did review restaurants in Atlanta. I came back from Paris and my perspective had really changed about the South and Atlanta was booming then. It was a really exciting time to be writing about food, and then I did, married an old sweetheart and we had three children. And then we moved back to Nashville, and I just took a part-time job here, and I wrote that story that was how you can take a box of cake mix and turn it into something better if you doctor it up with good ingredients from your fridge. And that was the story that went viral, even though there wasn't 'viral' back then. But it was viral because it went cross-country, all wire services. And I said, 'oh, my gosh, I think there's a cookbook here.' So I would have to say that my life has been one dot going to the next, to the next. It just sort of unfolded.

SABRINA: That makes me really happy, actually. It's so nice when life just kind of hands you that idea and you run with it. You take a chance.

ANNE: You take a chance, I would say to myself, 'this is a really good idea. You know, this is a really good idea. I mean, nobody's done this.' And that's what I think in the writing about food, in the food world, if you can think of something that nobody else has done? You're probably good to go and it's hard today because so much has been done.

SABRINA: And there's so much good food writing today. I know you have a substack newsletter and I was just devouring your pieces over the weekend. I loved your story about the war-time cake.

ANNE: Oh, thank you. Well, you know, I felt last week when I wrote that, I said, 'how can I write about some topic that is not pertinent right now?' I just felt like the way the world is and where our country is, it's almost like we have to just stop a minute and put a few things in perspective. Because people have lived through a lot harder time than what we've got right now, and they certainly have consoled themselves with food.

SABRINA: Well I know that I've been consoling myself with food for the last few months. Although there's never been a point in my life where I haven't been consoling myself with food.

ANNE: Food is good for that.

SABRINA: Well, this conversation, you should know, there's a lot of pressure on you right now because I think you might change my life here and I'll tell you why. There's two reasons why I don't bake a lot at home. I'm a food writer, I know the concept of baking but there's two reasons why I don't do it. One, I'm actually allergic to caffeine and so chocolate is always out. And when I say allergic, it's probably just an extremely high intolerance to the point where I do get sick if I ingest more than a couple of bites. With my job, I always feel kind of guilty because when I'm eating out so much, I don't want to get too indulgent at home. So who's gonna sit there and make all those desserts. Right?

ANNE: Right.

SABRINA: But two, baking is time-consuming.

ANNE: Yeah.

SABRINA: And I have to say, before I heard about you, I had always been averse to using a cake mix because I kind of felt like it was a way out. You know, I take a lot of pride when I cook because I'm doing it usually for someone else and I want to be able to take full credit. Like, 'yes, I made that Alfredo sauce. And yes, I did do this from scratch.'

ANNE: Yeah.

SABRINA: And so to put out this gorgeous dessert and then say, 'well, it came from a box,' I never really wanted to do that. But now with Cake Mix Doctor, I mean, that just completely changes the game.

ANNE: Yeah, it does, it changes the game. It gives you license to do it. You know, I was a scratch baker first. You know, I grew up baking cakes in Nashville with my mother and studied génoise and real buttercream in Paris, but I came back to a Nashville with three children, where people baked a lot and they gave people food a lot, and there were cakes coming in the door and funerals and birthdays, and there were these reasons and the fact that they started with a cake mix, you know, did not stop them from baking a cake. In fact, they knew that that recipe with three eggs and the oil and the sour cream and whatever else was always going to work. And people loved it. And they could do it quickly. And the other thing good about a cake mix cake is that it stays really moist. And you're going to add all these ingredients to it. It stays really moist. And I have baked my fair share of French cakes and I wrote American cake and I baked cakes across America. I know a lot of cakes don't stay moist.

SABRINA: Right.

ANNE: And being a Southerner, we like a good cake, you know? And we don't like dry cake. And that's kind of the benchmark.

SABRINA: Well, let me tell you, my husband's about to be a very happy man with all the baking I'm gonna start doing in this house. Especially with your new book. So you've got a fair share of books under your belt at this point. Tell me about this latest one. Why this book? Why now?

ANNE: Yeah, this is about number 15, I think 14, 15. If you count those two that I did before The Cake Mix Doctor that were really small. Why this book? Because people have been asking me to write this book for about ten years ever since I wrote The Cake Mix Doctor, you know, there'd been subtle changes in cake mixes or new ingredients on the shelf. And you kind of have to adapt. I got a lot of email and people say, 'when are you —' the cake mix sizes changed. Now they're about 15 ounces. 'When are you going to redo your recipes using smaller cake mixes?' And I said, 'oh, well, one of these days.' Well, that was one of these days. And, you know, pandemic did it. It was me being here, I said, this is a good year to redo The Cake Mix Doctor, and really pull out all those recipes that people love and make them work with smaller cake mixes. Saying that my tastes have changed in 20 years. You know, I really don't like cakes as sweet as I did. I don't like as much frosting on a cake. I like interesting cakes, unusual cakes. I like cakes that are baked in a loaf pan, kind of like the Starbucks cake, slices of cakes. The Bundt pan. I love the Bundt. And then all these new shapes have come out. And then at the grocery, there's coconut milk, there's plant butters. There's so many cool ingredients to use in baking that I did not have access to when I wrote the first book. So all of that combined, it was a perfect storm plus, the good thing about a cake mix recipe is that you're not spending a lot of time on the recipe, but you can make it beautiful and you don't have to go to a ton of trouble. It's just sort of natural.

SABRINA: And it is kind of changing the game, too, for people that can't have a lot of dairy, have a lot of chocolate. You're really teaching people that you can still have those beautiful delicacies in your own home using plant-based, butter alternatives, things like that. So there are a lot of recipes that are for the vegan, for the gluten-free?

ANNE: I would say the majority are not vegan and gluten-free, but there are a good handful of both. So in the front of the book, I say, who are we baking for today? Well, there's gluten-free, vegan — a lot of people want smaller cakes, you know? They don't have as many family members at home anymore, but they don't want to stop baking. So baking smaller cakes was important. And I baked some of the cakes in the layer chapter in a six-inch pan, which I love and call it, 'Baby Cakes.' They're just adorable. You know, and they're perfect for, like, a friend's birthday party, when people don't want a lot of cake. They're really lovely, and then I've had through the years so many requests for high altitude cakes and sugar-free. I talk about how you can reduce the sugar and the frosting, the glazes that you do make. So I would like to think there's something for everybody, and I think the folks who are vegan and gluten-free have gotten a lot better themselves. You know, they know what they can work with. Vegan was tricky, though. Vegan was tricky because you didn't have the eggs and so there wasn't any support there. That was tough.

SABRINA: Right, but you did it.

ANNE: Yeah, I did it. I did it because I treated it like a high-altitude cake. So Denver — a lot of the west.

SABRINA: Right.

ANNE: New Mexico, high altitude. So they had different variables. Cakes fall all over the pan. They sink when they come out of the oven. So, yeah, if you've ever baked at high altitude, you know what I'm talking about. They use a lot of frosting.

SABRINA: Not necessarily a terrible thing to do.

ANNE: That's true, that's true.

SABRINA: It struck me, you mentioned that your taste has changed. And that your palette now is looking for new flavors, and in the book, you mentioned ingredients like turmeric, cardamom, crystallized ginger. How do you start baking with these kinds of ingredients that you're not as familiar with, as say, cinnamon and vanilla? Things like that.

ANNE: Right. Well, in all of the recipes, I give people suggestions on sort of where to jump off from here. Turmeric, that's a really interesting spice that we commonly use, you know, in savory dishes. But there is an old cake mix recipe, I'm sure a lot of people have heard of, called the five-flavor pound cake. It probably was invented in the Depression because it's like a bottle of lemon extract, a bottle of this extract, a bottle of that extract — it's these five flavors that sort of converge in this cake. And I have never liked that cake. I don't want to alienate anybody. I just never have liked that cake. But I know it's so popular. And I said, 'wouldn't it be fun if, like, I came up with a new five-flavor?' So I did put turmeric in that cake and cinnamon and some aromatic spices. And it's so funny, we baked that cake and shared them with friends. And this guy thought by looking at this pound cake that it was a pumpkin cake because the turmeric had given it this beautiful color — maybe more the color of acorn squash. It was just gorgeous.

SABRINA: Yeah. It's fun to see people discovering ingredients that they may not have been as familiar with, you know, over here in the west. These ingredients have been used so many times in so many different sweet and savory applications, you know, over in the east and it's nice to kind of see that transition happening.

ANNE: Very much so, and it's fun and we all need to shake up our cooking and be influenced by other cultures. Definitely. It just makes food more interesting. And even the spices like cinnamon that you think are just so ordinary. But now you have so many different types of cinnamon that are available. And if it's a special cake and I'm making a cinnamon coffee cake, I'll use the nicer cinnamon. So that's just easy ways you can upgrade the recipes that you do.

SABRINA: I'd love to hear your holiday tips and tricks. Let's do it all. Let's start with Thanksgiving. What do you love to put out on the table from a dessert perspective?

ANNE: Well, I think people get so stuck on pies at Thanksgiving that we've started adding a cake, I highly recommend it. Whether it's a pumpkin cake or there's one in the book called an Italian Cream Cake that you make with a cream cheese frosting and then it has coconut and pecans in it. So it sort of has pie-like ingredients. And yet it's so gorgeous on a stand, that it's just so beautiful. You've got all these kind of brown and dowdy pies, you know? They're just not really interesting looking. And then you've got this just knockout cake. So I love that at Thanksgiving. I do think around Christmas or any time during the holidays, anything chocolate. I do have several cakes in there that combine chocolate and mint, which is nice, or chocolate and citrus — very different. Red velvet is a perennial favorite, you know, during the holidays as well. I've got three red velvets in the book. One is a standard cake, one's a baby cake, and one is a cupcake. And I've sort of tweaked and I've had some fun with the frostings. I've got a peppermint frosting on one of them. I make a frosting with mascarpone cheese on another. And I think that it's a nice change from cream cheese.

SABRINA: I love anything with mascarpone cheese.

ANNE: Yes, I do. I do, too. It's so fun. There's so many more possibilities now. And then I think any kind of cake that you can bake in a springform pan and just put on a stand is so easy during the holidays because there's not all these layers to stack or frost. The cover of the book is a chocolate cake that has puréed berries in it. So I really love using the springform pan to bake the entire recipe and then you can frost it. If it's a refrigerator cake, it could go right back into the ring and into the fridge. Or cookies. And you can make cookies from cake mix too. So I do have a lot of cookie recipes in this book.

SABRINA: Really?

ANNE: Yeah.

SABRINA: I did not know you could do that. How do you do that?

ANNE: A lot of people are really into it. It's just the right formula. I mean, it's obviously not a lot of eggs and not a lot of liquid, and a good bit of fat. Because cookies, if you think about it, are crispy and crumbly. But no, there's some wonderful, wonderful cookies in here. Chocolate wafers, chocolate chips, but also some oatmeal cookies, a butternut pecan cookie. One of my favorites is where you take an angel food cake mix and you make little macaroons and then you sandwich them together with buttercream, with chocolate buttercream. There's a lot of things that you can do with just, you know, a box of cake mix.

SABRINA: That is a very cool hack. And I mean, we're always talking about there's crispy cookies and then there's the cakey cookie. I love my cookies to be cakey. I like them to be, you know, that beautiful gooey in the middle almost. A little warm still. It's my favorite.

ANNE: Yeah. That is why a lot of people bake cookies with a cake mix. And it's crazy, but that is why they do it because they like a gooey, chewy cookie. And the other thing, a lot of people will add, like, a little bit of an instant pudding mix to their cookie recipes, regardless of what it is to keep them moist and kind of chewy and gooey.

SABRINA: This is all like life-changing stuff here. I'm already thinking ahead to my holiday menus wondering how I'm going to tweak everything now.

ANNE: That's right. Well, it's fun because you can just go through the pictures, I think, in the book, and then look at the page number. And that was an aspect of the first Cake Mix Doctor that everybody loved was to be able to look at the grid of pictures at the front. I know a lot of children would do that. They go in and pick the cake they want to try to bake, and it's fun. I mean, my books have always, you know, it's not rocket science, but I definitely have been geared toward families and toward beginner cooks, bakers. Yeah.

SABRINA: And kids can chime in so easily with this because they can be the one's pouring the cake mix ingredients into the bowl, they can do the stirring, they can help. It just seems so much more accessible than baking from scratch.

ANNE: It is. It's easy. You're in and out and some of these recipes, you don't even have to turn on the mixer. Just a bowl and a spoon. It's such great experience, I think, in math and science for kids. Especially if they start baking, like, at 10 or 11. It's ratios, you know, it's multiplication. It's such good hands-on basic knowledge. And it's a skill that they'll have for the rest of their lives if they get, you know, into it.

SABRINA: That's it. I am blaming my lack of math and science skills on the fact that I never baked when I was 10.

ANNE: There you go.

SABRINA: There you go, parents. This is why I didn't do that great in those subjects. But here I am now learning about cake mixes.

ANNE: Well, I'm happy I've brought you to it. That's right.

SABRINA: You're listening to Homemade. Stay tuned as Anne helps me create a sweet and salty cake on the fly. Plus, we've got tips on how to keep baking as stress-free as possible during the holidays. We'll be right back, after the break!

Welcome back to Homemade, everyone. I'm Sabrina Medora, and my guest this week is the Cake Mix Doctor herself, New York Times bestselling author Anne Byrn.

So like I said, I don't do a lot of baking, but I will trot it out for the holidays. And my favorite thing to make, which I made a couple of years ago and have been doing ever since, I make a bacon walnut pie. And the filling is nothing but chopped bacon, chopped walnuts, maple syrup, and sugar.

ANNE: Wow.

SABRINA: And then a lovely just pie crust and that's it. That's the pie.

ANNE: Wow. Uh-huh.

SABRINA: It's very indulgent.

ANNE: Yeah.

SABRINA: How would one maybe play around with that and turn it into a cake so I can surprise the fam this year?

ANNE: Bacon, walnuts — and what else did you say? Maple syrup?

SABRINA: Maple syrup, a little brown sugar — and I sautée the bacon. And then I cook the walnuts — I chop them and I cook them with the bacon so they get all nice and fatty and savory.And I just drench the whole mixture in maple syrup, a little brown sugar, and then I just pile it into a baking tin. And I have the crust in there. And then a crust on top. And I make a little decoration and that's it.

ANNE: It's got a little of the — it hits all of the notes, doesn't it? It's got the salty...

SABRINA: It does. It's so indulgent. And I love stuff that is, like, chewy and texture-y for sure.

ANNE: So the difference then in, like, in a cake, all those flavors, they're so interesting. And the crunch and the texture and the salt. You know, I don't want to lose that. So I would probably really work at making that a garnish. You could do it in a Bundt pan, but such an easy garnish on those is just to prep it with oil and flour? Prep it like you're going to pour in batter. But then you take your walnuts and finely chop them and you scatter them on the bottom of the pan. OK? And then you could use a recipe in my book, like the almond cream cheese pound cake, for example. And you could add a little bit of maple extract. Pure maple extract, that tiny bit. It's very strong, like eighth of a teaspoon or something. Tiny bit to get some maple going into that cake. Or you could use real maple syrup. But the problem is baking a cake with maple syrup. It doesn't come through in a mapley kind of way. You know? It kind of gets lost. So then I would bake the cake and then when you flip it, you're going to have this crown of walnuts because they've been baked on the bottom, and they're going to be super crunchy and delicious because you've just flipped it. And I think I would just use the bacon. That's the garnish. That's the nuts on the cake. You've got a little maple undertone in the cake. And then I probably would do a maple glaze. Just maple syrup, a little powdered sugar in that. Maybe a little bit of coconut milk or cream, just something to thin it out. And then you could add a tiny bit of maple extract to make it more mapley. And then I would drizzle that on the cake, but really use the bacon as the garnish. And I think that could be good because when you sliced into it, you'd have the crunchy bacon, you'd have a mapley kind of glaze, you'd have the walnuts that have been baked into the crust on the cake. It could be kind of good.

SABRINA: Yeah. Do you use oil in that almond pound cake?

ANNE: Yeah, you use oil. Yeah, It's cake mix, cream cheese, oil, eggs. If it's not number one fan favorite, it's number two.

SABRINA: What if someone wanted to use a little bacon grease with the oil? Like take some of the oil out, add a little bacon fat instead? Does that work? Or does that mess up the ratios?

ANNE: Yeah, I don't know if I do that to the cake. You can do it in the pan? You could actually — all right, so here's something crazy. You could actually fry the bacon in a cast iron skillet, take the bacon out, crumble it. It's over here crispy. You've got bacon grease in your cast iron skillet. Pour it out, but leave some in there. OK? Put your walnuts on the bottom of the pan like you're making a pineapple upside-down cake.

SABRINA: I see what you're saying.

ANNE: See where I'm going? Make your almond cream cheese batter. Boom with the maple added. Boom. Then you could make the maple glaze. Or you — Ohh. It's kind of — you're kind of crossing meals here. It's kind of like the bacon and the pancakes thing. So then serve it as an upside-down skillet cake. Turn it upside down and you've got the crunchy walnuts. You've got the flavor of the bacon grease from the pan. You got the cake. You got more bacon on top. And you could or could not do the maple glaze or just drizzle maple syrup over it.

SABRINA: That is going to be a fan favorite in my house.

ANNE: Put that on Instagram and I'll — tag me.

SABRINA: Yes. Yes. OK. And then for your next book, we'll call it the Sabrina — it'll be on the cover.

ANNE: Right. The Sabrina Skillet Cake.

SABRINA: I love it. Sabrina Skillet cake. I've always wanted a dessert that's just, like, mine to, like, hand down to my kids and grandkids someday. I think this might be it.

ANNE: I think that that is unique enough to be yours. They'll think it's like cornbread, you know?

SABRINA: Yes.

ANNE: And that'll be part of the surprise because it's a cake. Yeah. And you could put a little bit of yellow cornmeal in there if you wanted to, but you don't have to. Because the skillet really makes really beautiful cakes. They get nice and crispy on the edges. A 12-inch cast iron skillet is what you need. Yeah.

SABRINA: I'm going to do that cause the one big piece of feedback I got from everyone besides myself and my husband was that, 'wow this just a lot of walnuts and bacon.' I'm like, 'and what's your point?' That's the point of the pie. Walnuts and bacon. What's your point? They're like, well it's a lot of it. I'm like, really? So maybe if I add cake to it.

ANNE: I think it could improve it, actually. I do. Almond cream cheese pound cake. Yeah. You got the recipe there.

SABRINA: Do you have any fun tips for just making baking easier around the holidays? You know? Because it's so stressful, especially for the person that is in charge of the kitchen that day or that week.

ANNE: Yeah, well, I'd say if possible, if these are gifts for other people if you can plan ahead, and so many cakes freeze really well. In fact, we baked all these cakes for photography for this book. And I don't know what I would have done without my chest freezer to stash these cakes while I could bake some more and stash some more. So bake ahead, wrap them well in foil, Ziploc bag, whatever, get them in the freezer. And a lot of cakes really improve in texture. Especially the pound cakes really improve in texture if they have been frozen.

Look to easy glazes. You know, don't try to get into frosting. So look at that — I have a whole chapter on glazes. Just glaze the cake, go to, like, a Michael's kind of store and buy cake rounds. cardboard cake rounds and actually put the cake on that round. You know, and you can get clear cellophane and you can sweep it up over the round in the cake and put a ribbon on it and you're done. And those are, kind of, gifts that could be made ahead of time.

As far as, like, cookies and bars and things that you might be baking, you know, with children, whatever? You can make a lot of these doughs ahead of time and freeze the dough, which is super helpful, and then pull it out, put it in the fridge to thaw. We do that a lot. Especially when you're going to decorate cookies, too. And I do have a recipe for, like, rolled sugar cookies in here, believe it or not, with a cake mix. And it's really easy to work with it's staging, I guess. Staging what you're going to bake for the holidays, thinking ahead, plan it, stage it. Much like you know, a restaurant kitchen or a pastry chef might do. They could never make everything at the last minute and we probably shouldn't try to either.

SABRINA: I think that is the biggest downfall is we think to ourselves, 'oh, Thanksgiving's tomorrow. I should probably get started on that pie dough.' I don't know, I might be speaking from a little personal experience here.

ANNE: No, no, I think you're exactly right. I think some of your best ideas can come at the last minute, you know? If you plan too much about what you're going to eat and bake, you don't leave any room for serendipity. So, but you can make everybody else in your family crazy if you leave everything to the last minute and I've done that as well.

SABRINA: Don't be upset if something goes wrong cause it's just making way for something else to go more right.

ANNE: And maybe for the holidays, invest in a new pan. Something as simple as a new shape of a Bundt, like a heritage or a magnolia pan? They have different grooves and whatever. And maybe it's the same old cake you always make. It's the pound cake that everybody knows you for but this year, you put it in a different pan, which is nice. It's a nice change.

SABRINA: Right. And it's such an easy way to have people say, wow, when you bring to the table.

ANNE: Yes, definitely, or give it as a gift, I think to have a cake in the freezer is a wonderful thing. You know, bringing somebody a whole cake really says a lot, doesn't it? I mean, it's very celebratory. And that's what I've always loved about cakes. Even if they start with a cake mix. They're just so much more fun than a pie, you know? It makes you want to celebrate. And whoever you share them with, it's an occasion.

SABRINA: Right. And tell me, how long can these cakes stay in the freezer or stay in the fridge once they're made?

ANNE: Freezer — it depends on the type of freezer. If it's just the freezer for your refrigerator, you know, a week or so because it's opened and shut so many times. But if it's a chest freezer, and upright in another part, maybe in the basement of your house? Oh, boy. Three to six months. Really depends on how many times it's opened and how well you wrap them. But you can definitely — especially like a pound cake. Things that do not have a frosting on them, they keep really well.

SABRINA: And so you can always whip up the frosting later if you want to keep the cake in there for a while, bring it out...

ANNE: Definitely. If you want to pre-bake for the holidays, make the cakes, freeze them, take them out, open up the pack, open up the foil, and let them thaw at room temperature on the counter, sort of able to breathe. You know, you've opened up the packaging, let them breathe. And then once they're thawed, then you can glaze them, and wrap them for giving.

SABRINA: And how would you recommend that we wrap these for the freezer. Do you have any tips on that?

ANNE: I love using the boards. That's why I mentioned getting some cake rounds. But if you don't have that? Save cardboard from boxes that you get, we hope we get a lot of those. And actually, cut it into — this is where kids can kind of help you maybe — cut it into sort of 12- or 14-inch squares or rounds; squares are easier to cut. And you've made your own cake round or cake square for freezing. You could put a parchment or wax paper on that and your cake goes on that. And then I would place that on heavy-duty foil and wrap the foil up around the cake, you know, and crimp it. So it's sealed and yet it's not pressing onto the cake. If you don't want to use foil, you can wrap it in parchment paper, plastic wrap, and put it inside of a Ziploc bag, get some of the big ones, the big two-gallon bags. Those are great. You can recycle those. You can keep using those again and again. I do, rinse them out, and let them dry. But those are really great for freezing, an entire cake or freezing like a 9x13 pan of cake, as well. And then some cakes — if it's for a party — you can freeze it right in the pan. I've done that too.

SABRINA: So basically, order your Christmas presents online. Take the boxes that your Christmas presents come in. Get your kids to cut those boxes up so you don't have to bother with breaking them down and recycling them. Make it a whole fun activity. They can draw on the boxes. They can cover them with foil.

ANNE: That's a great idea. They could decorate those.

SABRINA: I think we just solved every parent's problems for the holidays. How do I keep my kids occupied while I'm baking? Perfect.

ANNE: Yes. Perfect.

SABRINA: I love that. And I have a feeling that your book will be such a good pantry staple because you encourage people to use what's on hand and they don't have to make that extra trip to the store just to bake a cake.

ANNE: Yeah, I don't know whether it's I'm just lazy or I think that there is some challenge. I think it's actually a challenge, you know, to say, 'oh, I don't have this so what could I use instead?' It's problem-solving and I just love that. And I think as a result of it, I've spent my life doing it. And now I know that it doesn't matter what you don't have because you've got something else instead. And that's why you have a pantry. And I think a lot of us learned during the pandemic that you had to get better at that. You know, and coconut milk is an ingredient I think we should all keep because coconut milk is just beautiful in baking. And if you don't have any fresh milk and if you're baking on a vegan diet or vegetarian, it's a beautiful milk to use.

SABRINA: Yup. I love using oat milk in my baking.

ANNE: Oh, OK. Very nice.

SABRINA: I actually have — I've taken the brownie mix at the store. And instead of putting the water and the milk, I just substitute both for oat milk. And they come out so perfectly gooey. It's the best. It's like my secret recipe.

ANNE: Yeah, that's fantastic. Well, isn't it fun today that there are so many options, and we have so many more ways of finding out about these ideas because you may talk about that on social media. And it's just, you know, 20 years later after writing The Cake Mix Doctor, how we get this information, how we share ideas, how we come up with new recipes. It's just really changed.

SABRINA Well, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate your time and I feel like I've learned so much. I can't wait to get into my kitchen and start planning it out for the holidays, but also just maybe even whipping something up tonight.

ANNE: Well, sounds good. Thank you, Sabrina.

SABRINA: Don't forget, Anne Byrn's upcoming book A New Take On Cake: 175 Beautiful, Doable Cake Mix Recipes for Bundts, Layers, Slabs, Loaves, Cookies, and More! is being released November 9th, but you can pre-order it now from Amazon or at AnneByrn.com. Give her a follow as well on Instagram, @annebyrn — she just loves getting those questions about baking, at least from me. Sorry for all the questions Anne! But really, she's so friendly and I love following all of her posts.

And then next week, we have James Beard Award-winning Chef Daniel Boulud — also known as my former boss. And he's going to be here to answer all of your questions about being in the kitchen while hosting a party at home for the holidays, right here on Homemade!

DANIEL BOULUD: I usually don't try to impress people with the fussiness of things or the fanciness. It's more about the soul, the flavor. I don't cook at home the way sometimes I cook in a restaurant and I'm always trying to think methodically that how many pots and pans I'm going to use. I want to make sure that I can spend time with my friends, my family, or my guests at the table, as well. So I don't want to be stuck in the kitchen all the time.

SABRINA: You won't wanna miss it so be sure to follow Homemade on your favorite podcast app. We're always looking for feedback on the show so if you love us and have a second, please rate us on Apple Podcasts and leave a review.

Don't forget, you can find thousands of recipes, meal ideas, and cooking how-to's from the world's largest community of cooks at Allrecipes.com. And you can find me on Instagram, @sabrinamedora, or at sabrinamedora.com.

This podcast was produced by AllRecipes with Digital Content Director Jason Burnett. Thanks to our production team of Rachael King, Matt Sav, Danielle Roth, Jim Hanke, Maya Kroth, and Andy Bosnak at Pod People.

This is Homemade, I'm Sabrina Medora, and remember: Cook with love, eat with joy.

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