Our bet is that most Nashvillian home cooks have at least one of the Cake Mix Doctor cookbooks. Our fabulous quick caramel frosting comes from the Cake Mix Doctor herself, fifth generation Nashvillian Anne Byrn, whose mother’s sage advice “you can get away with a cake mix, but you must make your own frosting” has had a lasting impact on her successful career. With her books, Anne has inspired millions of home bakers to think in, outside and around the cake-mix box.
Since her original Cake Mix Doctor was published in 1999, New York Times‘ best-selling author Anne has sold nearly 4 million cookbooks — more than 400,000 books on QVC alone. (Our copy is in complete tatters.) According to USA Today, the Cake Mix Doctorwas the best-selling U.S. cookbook in 2000. Beyond books, Anne has launched a line ofCake Mix Doctor all-natural cake mixes that are now sold in nearly 1,500 stores in 10 states. You can find them in local Kroger and Publix supermarkets.
You’ll want to keep her quick caramel frosting recipe handy. It solves a lot of problems. The doctor offers it up as a dependable, delectable, surefire remedy for every baker and occasion. Whether you spread it on a mix cake or a scratch cake — yellow, banana, spice, carrot, jam, hummingbird, chocolate, you name it — it works.
“I really can’t think of any cake that wouldn’t be good with caramel frosting,” Anne says. “This quick version is foolproof, weatherproof and easy to transport because the firm frosting doesn’t move. It’s so simple and useful that you’ll have it memorized.” Instead of caramelizing white sugar, the recipe relies on a combination of light and dark brown sugars and butter for a deep caramel flavor that can be mixed up in 10 minutes.
If you want Anne’s advice on the nuances of preparing classic caramel frosting the old-fashioned way in a cast iron skillet, you’re in luck. That’s just one of the recipes chronicled in Anne’s new book American Cake: From Colonial Gingerbread to Classic Layer, the Story Behind Our Best-Loved Cakes from Past to Present, which will be released in September. In it, she tells fascinating stories of the history, the culture, the ingredients and the regional roots behind America’s favorite cakes.
Anne will be telling cake stories and signing her new book at Parnassus in Green Hills on Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. (Sounds like the ideal gift for the food-history lover on your list, authored by our hometown gal.)
Photo by Mitch Mandel