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15 and Counting!

This past weekend we celebrated our daughter’s 15th birthday.  Yes, 15!  It seems like only yesterday that she was turning 13 and now here we are two years later, just like that.  She is still an amazing girl and the light of my life.  I know the teen years can be tough, and I’ve witnessed first hand how hard it can truly be with some of my friends, but I couldn’t have asked for a better kid with which to navigate these treacherous waters.  Of course in true mama fashion, I asked her what kind of birthday cake she wanted this year.  She very tentatively asked for a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, which is her favorite.  I’ve had a bad run with white and yellow cakes recently.  I’ve always turned to my trusty Cake Mix Doctor book for birthday cakes because I think they turn-out nice and sturdy for the purpose.  However, since the cake mix manufacturers have started making cake mixes smaller, while telling us they bake-up just the same, which is a outright lie, my white and yellow cakes have been shrinking.  I’ve searched and searched for the cause because I never had the problem before but so far I’ve been unable to find a reason.  Last year K asked for a yellow cake and I ended-up having to re-make the whole thing the day of her party because the one I’d made shrank to a dense piece of rubber.  It was very frustrating to say the least.  This year I decided to forego the Cake Mix Doctor and make one from scratch.  I’ve made many, many cakes from scratch so it’s not a stretch for me (or anyone really because it’s not hard to bake a cake).  I think I kept using the Cake Mix Doctor recipe because I was determined to conquer the shrinkage problem but I’ve finally come to grips that the problem is not mine and I’m ready to move-on to another yellow cake.
I decided to try the Taste of Home test kitchen yellow cake recipe, which is a pretty straight-forward cake.  In fact it’s a little too straight-forward.  It came out slightly on the dry side and a little lacking in flavor. If I’d read the online reviews before I made it, I would have known these things but I went old-school and pulled it out of my big cookbook.  It was okay but not great.  At least it doesn’t shrink on you, which is a huge plus.  I’m sharing the recipe with you anyway because I think this cake has potential.  It just needs some more butter and maybe a dash of almond extract to give it greater depth of flavor, or something.


  • Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition.
  • Pour into two greased and floured 9-in. round baking pans. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  • Spread frosting between layers and over the top and sides of cake. Yield: 12 servings.

I used my favorite chocolate buttercream frosting recipe which comes out perfect and delicious every time.  In fact, the frosting is so good that the bland cake is a pretty good vehicle to deliver all that chocolate goodness.  I use a KitchenAid stand mixer but you can also use a hand mixer if you like.

Fluffy Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature – DO NOT use margarine or shortening if you want it to taste good.
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt

In a large bowl combine the softened butter and cocoa powder until smooth and well-blended.  Add the powdered sugar, milk, vanilla and salt.  Turn the mixer on low to combine (otherwise you’ll have clouds of powdered sugar everywhere).  Once the butter/sugar mixture is combined, turn-up the speed and let ‘er rip until you have something that looks like frosting.  It should be fluffy and smooth, not creamy and grainy.  If it’s still creamy and grainy, whip it some more until you have fluffy and smooth.  This makes enough to frost a two layer cake, the top and sides of a 9×13 sheet cake or 30 cupcakes provided you don’t eat half of it before you get to the cake.
Overall K was pleased with her cake or at least the effort of the cake.  One of these years Mama’s going to get it right, I promise!  Does anyone have a good yellow cake recipe they would like to share?  I’m still searching for ‘the one’.


About sugarshellandbutterknife

I am a work-at-home mother of two, daughter K who is 16 and son N who is 12. I live in a 1956 mid-mod ranch with my children and the love of my life, J. We're slowly renovating our house on a budget and love all things DIY. I hope to make this a place where frugal-minded folks like myself can exchange ideas, gain inspiration and find encouragement to tackle whatever life throws our way.

11 responses »

  1. Congratulations to you for raising an amazing daughter in this chaotic world. Secondly, happy birthday to your ‘little’ girl. 😉

    Your cake looks great and I am sure it tasted yummy. However, my mother-in-law makes the best cakes (attractive and yummy) and she swears by boxed caked mix (oh, the horror) and one packet of jello (just the powder, not the additional ingredients). In your case, for a yellow cake, yellow cake mix and vanilla jello mix (or get crazy and choose a different flavor (orange/citrus?)). I can attest that it works. The addition of the jello packet makes the cake very dense and moist – perfect for that yummy, chocolate frosting. Enjoy!

    • Awww, thanks Christine! It’s funny because when she’s sleeping, she still has enough of her kid face to look like my baby. 😉

      I’ve done the jello pudding/gelatin mix and cake mix cake before in lemon and it’s turned-out very well. My problem only started when they lowered the amount of cake mix from 18.25 ounces to 15 something ounces. I think they reformulated the cake mix and now when I try to bake yellow or white (I haven’t had the problem with chocolate for some reason) they shrink on me. I’ve tried baking them with just the directions on the box, I’ve used the Cake Mix doctor recipe with milk, extra eggs and butter, not mixing them as long, mixing them longer, etc. and they’ve shrunk every single time! Has your mother-in-law had trouble with shrinkage (ha ha, that sounds funny)? Does she have any suggestions? I will try the cake mix/jello thing again, thanks!

      • Shrinkage? You beat me to it. You know I would have inserted my own little dirty joke there. 😉 I don’t know how my dear mother-in-law combats shrinkage (of cake, or other things for that matter). I’ll ask her this Sunday when she delivers her masterpiece of a “Daniel Tiger” cake for my new two year-old. 😀

  2. Thank you! I’ve been doctoring cakes for years and have been noticing they just don’t yield as much as they use to—I thought I was doing something wrong! Which is really saying something cause we’re talking boxed cake mix here ; ] Your cake turned out lovely!

  3. I’ve got to say your cake turned out so beautiful, I love it! I don’t think we have that kind of problem here in Mexico, but it really sounds very logical. Less amount, less cake.

    Congratulations on your daughter! 15 is a big number! My daughter is 13, so when you said how yours was just 13 a little ago, I connected instantly. 🙂


    • Hi Rocio,

      I’m glad you liked how the cake turned-out 😉 You might not be having any problems because they are probably still making the mixes the same size and haven’t changed the formula I would guess. I might have to start having you ship me regular sized cake mixes, ha ha.

      Yes, 15 is a big number! I can’t believe she’s already that old. I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around such a notion. I can’t believe your daughter is 13 because I think she was 11 when I started reading your blog! It’s such a cliche’ but time really does fly by!

      Hugs back to you!


  4. Hi Jenny!!! I´m back from vacations! Congratulations to your daughter!! It´s a very nice cake, and it looks so so deliciousssss ah ah!! ;-D

    Have a lovely week sweetie!


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