Purely Simple Reboot: Making a “Simple” Mix More Fun!

Holy moly! I can barely believe that my product review post about Pillsbury’s Purely Simple line of cake/cookie/brownie mixes and frosting mixes has been so successful! It’s gotten over 1,500 views since it was posted seven months ago – that’s just crazy!

Since you readers out there are literally gobbling up my original post, I thought it would be fun to do a little reboot!

If you haven’t yet seen the original post, I definitely encourage you to head on over and check it out, since I explain why I, as a wellness-minded blogger, choose to advocate for this product line as a better choice.

I won’t bore everyone by going into the nitty-gritty again here, but the gist of my argument is that, if you’re going to be reaching for a boxed cake mix, Purely Simple is a way, way better choice compared to the other boxed options! (Unless you’re grabbing an organic one, that is.)

Anyway, as a quick little refresher, in my original post I showed you the Purely Simple White Cake Mix, and here’s what the back of the box looks like:

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As you can see, Pillsbury’s recipe calls for adding the following, in addition to the cake mix:

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 eggs

However, in my original post, I showed you how I wasn’t quite happy with that, and decided to make some (very successful) substitutions on my own. Here’s what I used instead, which became my “Basic” recipe when using this product:

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup almond milk (Silk brand)
  • 1 whole egg + 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp pure almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Now, I admit I was feeling encouraged by my successful tinkering, and decided to get a little bit adventurous and start experimenting further. I know very little about baking, so the fact that this has gone well so far is rather astounding to me personally!

I’ve come up with two fun ways to customize this cake mix even more, which was inspired by the serendipity of having leftover items that I wanted to use instead of waste.

I know, I know, if you’re reaching for a box of cake mix in the first place, that likely means you don’t want to spend a ton of time making a cake, but I promise, these little tweaks seriously only add a couple minutes onto the prep time!

The first one I rolled out was my  “Tropical Cake” version:

  • Purely Simple White Cake Mix
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup Silk almond milk
  • 1 pureed (browned) banana*
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 tsp pure almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut shreds

*Puree the banana separately, using 1 Tbsp of water to get the proper puree consistency. Over-ripe, browned bananas work best.

 

Same as the usual version, I baked at 350° for 38 minutes, in a rectangle glass baking dish that I’d greased with a little dabby-do of coconut oil.

This came out very well, though I think I made a baker’s boo-boo by getting too happy with the hand-mixer. The taste was phenomenal, but it came out with closer to a bread texture than a cake texture, thanks to me practically beating the crap out of it.

Regrettably, I don’t have any delicious pics to share from my Tropical Cake (blogger fail!), so you’ll have to use your imagination. Picture happy little coconut shreds swimming in tropical paradise!

Another thing I woulda-coulda-shoulda done for the tropical version was whip up some coconut milk frosting. I’ve been wanting to follow this super-easy recipe, but every time I want to, I never have a can of coconut milk on-hand. (Each Sunday, I plan our dinners for the week so very carefully, but baking is always a spur-of-the-moment thing for me!)

Now, today I just so happened to have two things I wanted to use up: one excessively ripe banana and some leftover canned pumpkin. And so, I put my tinkering hat back on, and whipped up something new.

‘Nana Pumpkin Cake version:

  • Purely Simple White Cake Mix
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup Silk almond milk
  • 1 pureed (browned) banana
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup finely ground pecans

 

Now when I say browned, this is what I mean! Here’s your gold standard for using bananas in bakery! Over-ripe is truly the best for baking, plus (fun fact) they’re healthier too – brown bananas have higher levels of antioxidants and are more easily digestible.

New Image

Remembering my folly with my bread-like end result when I whipped up the Tropical Cake, this time I went into it reminding myself to be very, very careful not to over-mix.

Here’s what I did:

1) Put the banana + 1 Tbsp water into my smallest food processor and ran it for about 5 seconds, till it was a mostly smooth puree (some little chunks are fine).

2) Added all ingredients except the egg white and the pecans to a mixing bowl, and used the hand-mixer (on the lowest setting) for just 1 minute.

3) Took my obligatory little sample taste, found it delectable, and had to talk myself out of nixing the cake and just eating the batter! I continued on, resisting my urges…

4) Added the egg white, and used the hand-mixer (again on lowest setting) for 1 minute.

5) Put 1/2 cup of pecan pieces into the food processor and ran it until it was really tiny pieces, then folded the pecan pieces into the batter using a spatula, until thoroughly mixed.

Pecans

6) Greased a rectangular glass baking pan with a drop of coconut oil, then poured the batter in as evenly as possible. 

20160721_153509

7) Baked at 350° for 38 minutes, fully enjoying the warm, comforting scent filling my home!

8) As always, since this contains eggs, I did the standard knife test when I pulled it out of the oven. It’s done if a knife inserted into a couple different spots comes out cleanly.

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9) [Optional] If you do plan to ice the cake, be sure to let it cool completely before you do.

That’s it! Easy enough, right?!

Since I’d sneaked that little taste of the batter (prior to eggs) I knew I was barking up the right tree, and had super high expectations for how this cake would turn out. Just by looking at it and gently pressing the top, I could tell that it was definitely cake-like this time. Score!

All that was left was the best part – to finally have a taste! Can you believe I managed to wait all the way until after dinner, to have it as dessert?

cake

My verdict? Love it! Total comfort cake with spot-on deliciousness!

You get the best of both worlds with this cake. As you’re eating it, you can taste the banana and the pumpkin quite equally, so it makes a great pairing. At first bite, the taste resembles banana bread (because of the walnuts), but then the pumpkin flavor (and related spices) kick in as an extra surprise. The size for the pecan bits ended up being just perfect, because they’re not big enough to be a distraction, but still a good enough size to be properly noticed and play their role in the experience.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t bother to frost the cake, well, to be honest, I only have a package of Pillsbury Purely Simple Chocolate Frosting on-hand, which I thought might be weird. Once again, I somehow found myself without a dang can of coconut milk, so I wasn’t able to do that either.

Really, this cake is just fine sans icing, since we eat it with a little bit of organic ice cream (or So Delicious coconut “ice cream”) and Reddi Whip – you barely miss the frosting!

And there you have it! Two quick, pretty darn easy ways to transform just a plain old box of cake mix into something a little more scrumptious (and, dare I say it, sneak in some nutritional value to boot).

Wishing you healthier, happier days, my friends!

Comments section is open for questions, sharing ideas, whatever!

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4 thoughts on “Purely Simple Reboot: Making a “Simple” Mix More Fun!

  1. Goodness, you’ve really gotten inspired, haven’t you?!

    And have you ever tried Califa brand almond milk? It’s the best I’ve tasted so far and about the only one I’ve found that doesn’t have carrageenan. I use their unsweetened vanilla flavor. And have you tried Coconut Bliss ice cream? Delicious! AND organic and fair trade. Their Salted Caramel w/ chocolate flecks makes you feel like you’re eating Haagen Dazs or something.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha yes, let’s just say a little success puffed my baking ego a tad! 😉

      I haven’t tried Califa yet, but when I just Googled it, I immediately recognized the bottle. I know I’ve seen it before. I’ll have to give it a try one time! We use Silk Original Almond Milk, which doesn’t contain carrageenan (none of Silk’s milks do any more). I believe Almond Breeze also removed it from all of the Unsweetened versions of their milks (why not from all products, who knows).

      Ooooh nice! I’ve only tried one Coconut Bliss product thus far and LOVED it. It was one of their bars – the Dark Chocolate version. I’m not usually a dark chocolate fan, but dang this is good. Our organic market sells them individually so we’ll occasionally snag one as a post-shop treat haha. But yessss omg it sounds like I need that Salted Caramel in my life NOW. 🙂 Thx for the tip!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Great to know other brands are now removing carrageenan. Califa used to be the only one (at least progress is being made!). I was an Almond Breeze drinker before I found it. And I had to laugh…..the Coconut Bliss Dark Chocolate bars were my first introduction to the brand. Like fudgsicles (sp?) for adults, I used to say, and I’m not much on pure chocolate things myself. I got hooked on them when I was recovering from oral surgery and couldn’t really do much chewing. Would dip them in raspberry kefir and then suck on them. A nice mix of sweet, tart, cold and creamy. My latest try is their salted caramel ice cream bars covered in dark chocolate. Oh my! 🙂

        Keep up the good work!

        Liked by 1 person

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