Kids Can Cook: Cake Box Brownies and an Upscale Variation

Here is a recipe that kids can make: “Cake Box Brownies.”  Mix the recipe up in 5 minutes and bake them for 15 minutes. Quick and easy. It is a good recipe to try with Mother’s Day coming soon. You need a large bowl and wooden spoon, a measuring cup and an 8″x 12″ baking pan. And of course, the ingredients. Why a box of cake mix? Because that is typically what is in my pantry — not brownie mix. Recently I needed to make a batch of brownies in a hurry with no time go to the grocery store for the proper ingredients. So, I quickly checked the internet and found that other folks were making brownies from cake mix, too. Well, my batch turned out pretty good. I’ve made it several times since then, tweaking and adapting the recipe each time. Included is one of my more upscale versions.

Here is how I made the “Cake Box Brownies”:

  1. Assemble the ingredients which are a box of chocolate cake mix (any brand), 2 large eggs, oil, milk (optional) and some sort of chocolate chips of chocolate bars (more on this later). You can also include nuts — but I didn’t like nuts as a kid, so these are optional.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Locate one baking pan which is either 8″ x 12″ or 9″ x 12″ (A 9″ x 13″ baking pan is too large.and a 8″x 8″ is too small.)

For comparison: 8’X 8″ = 64 square inches: 9″x 9″ = 81 square inches, 8″ x 12″ + 96 sq inches  9″ x 12″ =  108 square inches  and 9″ x 13″ = 117 sq inches

Here are two examples that you can use, either a foil disposable pan or a  Pyrex baking casserole dish. (Use what you have in your pantry, but you only need one of these.)  Generously use cooking oil to coat the bottom and sides of the pan.

3. Pour all the ingredients into a large bowl. Include about 3/4 cup of the chocolate chips in the batter (about half of the chocolate chips–save the rest for the topping). Mix with a wooden spoon until the ingredients are all combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom. The batter will be really, really thick and you will just be able to mix in the liquid ingredients. However, no need to mix and mix (in other words, don’t over mix.)

4. Spread the batter into the prepared pan (it is too thick to pour). Use your hand placed inside a small sandwich-sized zip lock bag to smooth the batter out evenly to the edges. Don’t delay this step — the batter becomes sticky with sitting and it has a tendency to disappear. The batter will be thick and perhaps sticky. If you have opted not to use milk, the batter will be really thick. Using milk makes it thinner but slightly more sticky. These are shallow brownies — (they are brownies and not a cake). Trust me, you can spread them to all the edges of the pan (I’ve made this recipe six times now).

Or, if you are out of ziplock bags, use a rubber spatula to evenly smooth the batter out to the edges.

5. Sprinkle on the rest of the chocolate chips, sort of evenly all over the top. (Don’t forget the pieces of brownie which will be at the edges.)  If you are using nuts, add them, too.

6. Bake the brownies for exactly 15 minutes at 350 degrees in the oven which you have pre-heated. Didn’t pre-heat the oven? Do it now before you bake the brownies. Don’t peek or try to figure out if the brownies are done. Just remove them after 15 minutes. You don’t want to over-cook them. They should be pulling away from the edges and puffy on top.

7. Let them cool to room temperature. Be careful, the hot melted chocolate chips can burn you. When cool, cut with a regular silverware knife and serve. Cut 4 slices lengthwise and 6 cuts crosswise for 24 brownies (do the math). These will keep several days, so you could make them on Saturday and serve the brownies to mom on Mother’s Day as “breakfast in bed.” She won’t mind. Make her a “breakfast brownie sundae” with brownies, yogurt, bananas (and perhaps some strawberries and blueberries.) If you have chocolate syrup, swirl some on. And make a brownie sundae for yourself, too!

An Upscale Variation to Brownies

I’ve made these brownies several times, now. I used ingredients in my pantry and these resulted in sort of an “upscale brownie version.” I included chopped pecans and two-3 oz Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Bars (rather than chocolate chips). It is easy to break up the bars of chocolate into chunks. Include one bar in the batter and sprinkle the other on top.

I didn’t have any milk on hand so (obviously) omitted the milk. These brownies are denser and slightly more chewy. In later versions, I included a small of amount of milk just to make the brownies a little less dense and easier to spread. They are more cake-like and puff up. I’d encourage adding the milk, but it really is optional.

Here is the batter ready for baking.

They turned out really well and didn’t last long.

Creative Chocolate Chips and Bars

Spreading chocolate chips or chocolate chunks on top of the batter and including some in the batter turns these brownies from an ordinary batch into a special one. Don’t omit them. The chips or chunks really enhance the flavor as these brownies are sort of bland by themselves.  And you can use many types of chocolate. Be creative. I used two 3-oz chocolate bars or about a 6 oz bag of chocolate chips. I prefer dark chocolate, but milk chocolate chips can be used, too. For one fun variation, I used chocolate bars with blood orange flavoring. This is my favorite. Well, they are all my favorites!

So, I hope you like my easy brownie recipe, and I hope you try it. Have some fun and try different types of chocolate chips, bars and nuts. And, of course, you can try different types of cake box mixes too. Wonder how strawberry cake mix bars would taste? Or Duncan Hines Confetti Cake Mix brownies? Can’t want to see!

Happy Mother’s Day, and keep safe.

Cake Box Brownies from Maylee's Kitchen

  • Servings: 24 brownies
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15.24 oz) box chocolate cake mix
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (not olive oil), plus a little to oil pan
  • 1/3 cup milk, (optional)
  • 1-1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (divided) or 2 (3 oz) dark chocolate bars with assorted fillings/flavors broken into small chunks
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Method and Steps:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously oil a 8″x12″ disposable foil baking pan or a 9″x12″ Pyrex casserole dish. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, add chocolate cake mix, eggs, vegetable oil, milk (optional), 1/2 of the chocolate chips (about 3/4 cup) or one of the chocolate bars which is broken into small chunks.
  3. Use a large wooden spoon to stir and combine all the ingredients well, mixing in the cake mix in the bottom and sides of the bowl. Stir until just well combined, don’t mix and mix. The batter will be very, very thick.
  4. Pour the batter into the oiled baking pan. Place your hand inside a small zip lock bag and press the batter to all the corners of the baking pan. Make sure all the batter is evenly spread in the pan. Alternately, use the back of a rubber spatula to spread out the batter.
  5. Evenly sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips (or the second broken up chocolate bar) on top of the batter.
  6. If using chopped pecans, sprinkle these on top, too.
  7. Bake in the heated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. The brownies should be puffy on top and starting to pull away from the edges. The batter may still seem very soft, this is okay. Don’t over bake the brownies.
  8. Remove the brownies, and place on a baking rack or hot pad on the kitchen counter to cool to room temperature. Careful, Hot chocolate chips can burn.
  9. When cool enough to easily handle, use a regular silverware knife and cut into squares. Make four lengthwise cuts and six crosswise cuts.
  10. Store remaining brownies tightly wrapped in foil pan or  transfer to a large zip lock bag. Can be made a day ahead.

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