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Shortcuts to frugal desserts

By on September 3, 2008

cake batter
photo by Avoir Chaud
Frugal people are known for baking from scratch. However, some homemade recipes are too time-consuming or costly compared to packaged mixes. Many busy frugal cooks buy brownie and cake mixes when they are on sale instead of mixing them up from scratch. Who can blame them when you can often find these mixes so inexpensively and you don’t have to do a lot of work to get good results?

I always have boxed mixes in my pantry, and I stock up when the price falls to $1 per box or lower. I often use them to make cupcakes or brownies with the kids because it takes fewer steps than doing it from scratch, but they are also wonderful to have on hand to make other quick desserts, such as bars and cookies. Think about what’s in a boxed cake mix. They contain flour, leavenings, sugar, etc., so it makes perfect sense to use them as a no-fuss shortcut while still creating something “homemade.” Friends, family and co-workers won’t know that you used a frugal dessert shortcut until they request the recipe, and they’ll be pleasantly surprised how effortless the recipes are to pull together.

The following are some quick-and-easy recipes made with boxed mixes.

Pumpkin Cake

1 (29-ounce) can pumpkin-pie filling
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 (18-1/4 ounce) box yellow- or butter-pecan-cake mix
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
1 cup butter or margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat together the canned pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar and eggs. Pour into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Distribute the cake mix evenly over your mixture.
Sprinkle the chopped pecans on top of the cake mix, and pour the melted butter on top. Bake for 1 hour.
Serves 15.

Mix-n-Match Cake-Mix Cookies

1 (18-1/4 ounce) box chocolate-cake mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine cake mix, oil and eggs in a bowl and mix well. Stir in chips. Drop by rounded teaspoon 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
Optional: Try different combinations, such as strawberry cake and white-chocolate chips, devil’s-food cake and peanut-butter chips, butter cake mix and chocolate chips, adding rice-crisp cereal, etc.
Makes 24 cookies.

Chocolate-Pudding Whip

1 (19-ounce) package brownie mix
2 (4-ounce) packages instant chocolate-pudding mix
1 (16-ounce) package frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 jar of caramel or hot-fudge topping
3 (1-1/5-ounce) bars chocolate-covered toffee, crushed

Prepare brownies according to package directions. Let cool. Mix pudding according to package directions. In a trifle bowl, layer in the following order: half the brownie, crumbled; drizzled caramel or hot-fudge topping; half the pudding; 1 toffee bar, crushed; and half the whipped topping. Repeat layers. Save the last toffee bar to crumble and sprinkle on top. Refrigerate.
Serves 16.

One Comment

  1. Judy Duncan

    9/6/2008 at 8:52 pm has a variety of recipes for box mix and brownies. They are inexpensive and easy to make. Plus they are delicious.

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