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Mix It Up Series No. 1: Let Them Eat Cake!

Cake.

Everyone loves it, yet it rarely appears outside the confines of baby showers, kids’ birthdays and weddings.

And let’s be honest, we don’t always have time to bake from scratch, and yet, don’t necessarily want to admit we used a mix.

Well, Beaverton, Oregon-based Julie’s Original has a white cake mix to end all cake mixes. It’s ready in a jiffy. It bakes up tender and light. It’s gluten-free and vegan. Perfect for days when unexpected guests (or expected ones with unexpected dietary restrictions) turn up.

And leave it to Julie – an extraordinarily accomplished woman with nine cookbooks as feathers in her baker’s cap – to create a mix so endlessly versatile that you basically get an entire bakery case of goodies in one box. For first-timers, here’s Julie’s basic recipe.

We’ve been diligently stirring our way through Julie’s treasure trove of recipes that use her mix as a base and here are our findings thus far. (Yes, this is a hard job.)

BLACKBERRY COBBLER: Bake a cobbler that makes use of late summer berries (plus the ones you had the foresight to freeze for dark days in January). Just follow the basic recipe, but scatter 5 rounded cups of fresh or frozen (not thawed) blackberries over the batter in the baking dish along with a sprinkling of granulated sugar.

APRICOT ALMOND CAKE: This is almost too pretty to eat. Just cut 4-5 medium apricots in half, remove the pit, then cut into slices. Arrange them in concentric circles around the top of the cake before baking, and then very lightly press into the batter so the cake will rise around them.

PEACH CINNAMON SUGAR MUFFINS: These we would call cake if we didn’t fully support that their shape and name makes them perfectly passable as breakfast. For this, just combine the mix, milk, oil and vanilla until smooth, then stir in slices from 1-2 medium-sized peaches (peel them if you like). Scoop batter into prepared muffin tins. In a small bowl, mix ¼ cup coarse or organic sugar and ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon. Sprinkle the mixture on top of the batter in each muffin cup and bake in a preheated oven for 25 to 35 minutes.

Carpe diem, carpe cakem.

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