A Magical DIY Cake Mix That Turns Into 100s of Different Recipes

August  5, 2016

As a person who loves to write recipes, Cake Magic! was a study in working with a master recipe and variations with some ratio work thrown in.

Mix once, bake forever! Photo by James Ransom

Here’s how it works: You make a big batch of mix comprised of flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt during a quiet moment and then scoop out what you need per recipe. (There is a separate, carefully balanced gluten-free mix that begins the same way, totally from scratch.)

The Cake Magic! cake mix:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt

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That very mix works as a foundation for every cake—over one hundred—in my book. But even though each one starts out the same and shares the same base ingredients, the recipes diverge in flavor and application in a way that’s left up to the person who’s baking.

I think of the finished cakes almost as cocktails, taking a few different components that can be remixed in many ways to produce very different results. The recipes that are attached to this post show a small sample of how to work in this cake universe.

  1. First, pick a cake battervanilla or chocolate, though in the book there are also Citrus, Brown Sugar, Fruit and Veggie, Nutty, Coconut and Mocha cakes, too.
  2. And then choose where you want it to go by picking a soaking syrup and a frosting. (In the book, these assembly instructions are at the bottom of the photos of each cake, telling you how to assemble it.)

A few sample recipes:

Mix and match them to create these 5 cakes:

For a base of Vanilla Cake...

  • Boozy Berry Cake = Vanilla Cake + Bourbon-Berry Syrup (make the Mixed Berry Syrup and stir in 1 tablespoon bourbon with the vanilla extract and cherry liqueur) + Malted Vanilla Frosting
  • Confetti Cake = Vanilla Cake (with 1/2 cup sprinkles stirred into batter) + Vanilla Syrup + Malted Vanilla Frosting
Boozy Berry Cake (left) and Confetti Cake (right). Photo by Ken Carlson
  • White Russian Cake = Vanilla Cake + Milky Vodka Syrup (follow Sweet Cream syrup, but add 2 tablespoons vodka along with the vanilla) + Malted Vanilla Frosting
White Russian Cake Photo by Ken Carlson

If you feel like a Chocolate Cake, then…

  • Hostess Cake: Darkest Chocolate Cake + Coconut Syrup (follow Sweet Cream syrup, but sub full-fat coconut milk for cream and add 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut to hot syrup and steep it together) + Malted Vanilla Frosting
Hostess Cake (left) and Soda Fountain Cake (right) Photo by Ken Carlson
  • Soda Fountain Cake = Darkest Chocolate Cake + Cola Syrup (same as Vanilla Syrup, except sub non-diet cola for water) + Malted Vanilla Frosting

What's the most creative cake flavor combination you've tasted (or thought up)? Tell us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Kay West
    Kay West
  • nancy essig
    nancy essig
  • Kirsten Svenson
    Kirsten Svenson
  • Cheryl Cook
    Cheryl Cook
  • Sarah Cherry Jumel
    Sarah Cherry Jumel
Before her diagnosis, Caroline wrote a book on cakes called Cake Magic!. She started developing a birthday cake using her gluten-free mix found in that book. Check out other recipes she’s developing for her new life—and the stories behind them—on her blog, The Wright Recipes. Her next book, Soup Club, is a collection of recipes she made for her underground soup club of vegan and grain-free soups she delivers every week to friends throughout Seattle's rainy winter.


Kay W. July 31, 2018
She’s just discovered what our grandmothers knew 50 years ago when they made butter and egg cake.
nancy E. March 1, 2018
Most white cake recipes are dense cakes. Is this one a fine crumb cake like from a bakery?
Kirsten S. March 7, 2017
This is one of my favorite cookbooks. The recipes are quite foolproof (and I am a fool when it comes to baking-- usually something goes wrong!). The syrup also ensures that the cakes can last for days on the counter without getting dry.

Highly recommend! Thanks, Caroline, for adding a little magic to my kitchen!

PS: I read this book while at the dentist's office, and even they couldn't deny how amazing the cakes looked! Haha
Cheryl C. March 3, 2017
Where's the gluten free version?
nutcakes March 7, 2017
In her book!
Sarah C. August 7, 2016
I am a diabetic; there are a LOT of us. Please make a low carbohydrate, high protein version for us. Perhaps made with Stevia .....
Vincent S. August 5, 2016
Can i keep this mix like in the fridge?
HalfPint August 5, 2016
I'm gonna have to make a cake this weekend with Stella Park's whipped cream "frosting" (see on Serious Eats).