If I had to choose only one dessert to enjoy for the rest of my days, it would be cake. Any kind of cake, really, in any kind of form – a regular slice of cake, cupcakes, cake pops… if “cake” is in the name, I’m sold.
I also love any occasion that calls for a cake, and if there isn’t a birthday, holiday, shower, or another kind of celebration to be had on a day that I’ve got a cake craving, well, chances are I’ll just go ahead and make one anyway!
Thankfully, my mom’s birthday a couple of weeks ago was the perfect reason to whip up something new. I have to admit that, between being pressed for time and struggling to find some of the special ingredients needed to make the from-scratch cake I was planning on, I was forced to cave and use a boxed cake mix and pre-made frosting (I know, I know…please forgive me!) All turned out okay, though, because I really wanted the focus of this cake to be its presentation, anyway.
And I’m here to tell you, like I did earlier this week, that sometimes it’s perfectly okay to cut corners and take the quicker route during the madness of the holiday season! If you put a little extra thought into the presentation of a dessert, you can totally get away with not making it from scratch. Here’s what I did for this one!
Festive Gingerbread Layer Cake
- 2 boxes of gingerbread cake mix (I used Betty Crocker brand)
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 container cream cheese frosting
For Sugared Cranberries
- 1 cup fresh cranberries (or berries of choice)
- 1 cup sugar
- Preheat the oven as instructed on the back of the box and lightly grease three six-inch round cake pans (or two 8-inch cake pans.)
- Prepare both boxes of cake mix according to the directions provided. I prepared each box of mix in a separate bowl, then combined them into one bowl.
- Stir the sour cream into the combined batter. Gingerbread cake has a tendency to turn out quite dry, and this makes for a more moist cake!
- Pour the batter into the greased pans, filling about 2/3 of the way full. Note that you will have leftover batter (consider making cupcakes with what’s left!)
- Bake as directed, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Plan to add about ten minutes to the recommended bake time.
- While the cakes are baking, prepare your sugared cranberries. See instructions below!
- Remove cakes from oven and let cool.
- Once cooled, carefully remove the cakes from their pans. I lightly went around the edges with a butter knife, flipped the pans upside down on top of a sheet of parchment paper, and tapped their centers until the cakes fell out.
- Time to frost! Carefully lie down the first layer of cake on the dish you plan to serve it on. Spread frosting on top, add second layer, frost, add the final layer, and frost. To get the imperfect “naked” cake look, I used a small spatula to drag and spread a bit of frosting from the top of the cake down to the bottom all the way around, then held the spatula against just one layer at a time and slowly turned the plate so the spatula evenly scraped off any excess frosting and repeated for the second and third layer.
- Decorate and enjoy!
For Sugared Cranberries
Simply mix 1/2 cup of water with 1/2 cup of sugar in a pot over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat to low and pour in cranberries. Lightly stir until well coated. Using a slotted spoon, place cranberries in one layer on a cooling rack or sheet of parchment paper and let sit for about an hour. (Watch out, they’re sticky!) Once cool, pour the remaining 1/2 cup sugar into a bowl and, working in small batches, roll the cranberries around until coated.
Feel free to get super creative with how you deck out this cake! I made a quick trip to the craft store and grabbed a pre-made garland of pinecones and greenery. I snipped off the pieces I wanted and gave them a good, long soak in hot, soapy water. If you’re using pinecones, test a small one first to make sure they’ll hold up! I rinsed them off and laid them on a drying rack while preparing the cake.
Before placing them on the cake, I wrapped the stems of the greenery in plastic wrap and cut little squares of plastic wrap to set the pinecones on. I simply stuck the stems of the greenery into the cake where I wanted them, then laid the plastic squares down, topped them with frosting, and secured the pinecones to the top. Touch up with frosting as needed, and finish with the sugared cranberries!
Just remember to remove the decorations (and plastic wrap, if you use it) before cutting and serving!
Think of all of the boxed cake mixes you can fancy up this season that people will think you spent ages on! I’m considering a layered chocolate cake with white frosting, topped with greenery and crushed peppermint, or maybe a layered red velvet cake with white frosting and berries. Oh, the possibilities!
Have fun sprucing up your boxed cake mixes this season, friends. I won’t tell!