I have always been a foodie. Growing up in Nashville, TN, on my mom’s Southern cooking – fried chicken, squash casserole, homemade yeast rolls, and chocolate cake – I learned the joy of eating good, fresh, seasonal food in the company of friends and family. Before I wrote The Cake Mix Doctor line of cookbooks, I was food editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 15 years. Here I learned to write about food and learned to cook because I took classes from Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, and countless great cooks and writers who traveled to Atlanta. Later I would take a leave of absence and study cooking in Paris at La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine. I came back to Atlanta a real food snob, I like to say, which would change once I had my first child and I settled into reality. I now have three children, and we live in Nashville. When I am not cooking and writing about food, I enjoy traveling with my family, walking with my friends, playing tennis, and gardening.
Cake Mix Doctor’s Cake Mixes
Cake Mix Doctor Gluten Free
Q&A with Anne
Q. What have been the biggest changes in cake baking in the last 10 years?
A. I’ve seen a couple of interesting changes. People are looking for smaller cakes, ways to bake mini Bundts and cupcakes and half a cake recipe for smaller families so they have less cake “sitting around.” Cake are still celebratory, but they are not an every-night indulgence. Families with small children still do the most baking, but I’ve received more emails and questions from teenage cake bakers and 20-something bakers who baked cakes through college. And people are buying fewer cakes and baking more at home because it’s cheaper.
Q. Sharing stories that go with recipes are a hallmark of your cookbooks. Do you have a favorite cake story?
A. Recipes are so much more than a method for combining ingredients. They are a story in themselves because they involve people, human nature, and emotions. I’ll be honest and say I am not efficient in recipe filing. When it came time to write my Cake Mix Doctor Returns! book, my recipes were stashed online and in files and after finding them all the years of conversations and appearances and meetings came back as I looked at recipes written on paper napkins, sticky notes, and business cards. One such recipe was for Nancy’s Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake. My late mother had scribbled it on the back of a bridge score sheet. Her friend Nancy Bradshaw of Nashville had made this coffee cake for a bridge game they played together. Then the memories of that afternoon conversation came back to me. My mom and I were standing in my kitchen and she was telling me about this great coffee cake and how I should put it in my next book. I remember how enthusiastic she was about that cake. So I baked it for the first time, and my house filled with the aroma of cinnamon and the memories of my sweet mom. I wondered what had taken me so long.
Q. If children were voting for the easiest and most kid-friendly cakes, which of your recipes would earn a blue ribbon?
A. Without a doubt, they’d award a blue ribbon to the Ice Cream Cone Cakes, the Hot Lemon Poke Cake, and the Cookie Dough Cupcakes.
Q. What’s your advice for the mom who is pressed for time but wants to bake a special cake for the family dinner?
A. Bake a sheet cake because you only have to prep the 13- by -9-inch pan with vegetable oil spray or line it with parchment paper. Pour the batter in the pan and let the cake bake while you prepare dinner. No need to turn the cake out onto a rack to cool. Just let it cool in the pan and serve with a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. My family favorites would be Chunky Applesauce Cake, Hummingbird Cake, or Old-Fashioned Chocolate Sheet Cake.
Q. What are the top-ten Cake Mix Doctor recipe favorites of all time?
A. Wow, that is a tough question! So many of my cakes are discussed, reviewed, and tweaked to the liking of my readers. And I love this. But based on the feedback I have received, I’ll bet the cakes are (in no particular order):
- Darn Good Chocolate Cake
- Stacy’s Chocolate Chip Cake
- Honey Bun Cake
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
- Susan’s Lemon Cake
- Banana Cake with Quick Caramel Frosting
- Strawberry Cake
- Orange Dreamsicle Cake
- Marbled Cream Cheese and Kahlua Brownies
- Kathy’s Cinnamon Breakfast Cake
Q. What are the three most common mistakes cake bakers make?
A. They don’t read through the recipe first before beginning, they think all pans are alike, and they don’t know if their ovens are baking at the right temperature. Do a quick read-through of the recipe before you begin to make sure you have all the ingredients needed and that you know everything, from how long it bakes to how long it needs to cool. I prefer metal baking pans that are shiny and prepped with vegetable oil spray or shortening and flour. If you use darker pans, they will make the edges of your cake dark. And using a vegetable oil spray with propellants (alcohol) will make the sides even darker. As for your oven, if recipes are baking faster than the recipe suggests it may be running hot. Have it professional checked out recalibrated.
Q. Why has cake baking remained so popular?
A. Because cakes are celebratory foods that are meant to be shared. They are with us at those important times, the rites of passage in our lives – birthday parties, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, even deaths. They are on holiday tables and our families remember that special cakes are prepared for certain seasons, on Easter, at the Fourth of July potluck, for Thanksgiving, and Christmas, for example. Cake baking is popular because the home-baked cake is most highly revered. Bakery cakes may be fancy, but homemade cakes come from the heart.