“Along Came a Spider” Cake

               Country Living– October 2009 :                  Along Came a Spider Cake


S
trong opinions tend to surround the use of boxed cake mixes.  There are those who shun them completely, whipping up scratch cakes without batting an eyelash.  There are those who will once-in-a-while pull out a box and use it in a pinch.   And there are those who simply won’t attempt a cake from scratch at all, seeing box cake mixes as the perfect solution when the occasion for a cake arises.

The picture of the Along Came a Spider Cake lured me in, and  I thought it seemd like a cute idea for a Halloween cake.  Flipping to the cover recipe in this month’s Country Living magazine, I discovered that the recipe was a jazzed up cake mix + canned frosting with a Halloween-themed decoration added on top.  I don’t usually bake boxed cake mixes, mostly just cupcakes that I send in to school where the kids can’t tell the difference between box and homemade, but since this was the cover recipe I thought it must be something special.  The cake mix is altered by the addition of maple syrup and canned pumpkin.  The spider on top is done with a stencil printed out on paper and black sanding sugar.

See my notes below to see what I thought of this recipe…

SpiderCake

Print Print Recipe

Along Came a Spider Cake

Yield: One two-layer cake

Prep Time: 40 min

Cook Time: 30 min

Ingredients:

1 box of Betty Crocker Super Moist German Chocolate Cake Mix
1 1/3 cups grade-A dark maple syrup
3 large eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin pie filling
1 can Duncan Hines Classic Vanilla frosting
black sanding sugar
Print out the template for the spider HERE

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat two 8-inch pans with cooking spray.
2. With an electric mixer, beat cake mix with maple syrup, pumpkin pie filling and eggs until smooth. Divide batter between the two prepared pans.
3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until cakes test done when toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
4. Let cakes cool for 10 minutes before removing to racks to cool completely.
5. Transfer frosting to a bowl and fluff it up with a hand mixer for about 15 seconds (this will make the frosting more silky and easier to spread).
6. Ice top of one cake layer with with frosting; place second cake layer on top. Ice entire double-layered cake, smoothing out the top as much as possible. Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes (to set the frosting).
7. Print spider template (here), cut as directed, and center stencil on cake. Sprinkle black sugar to cover image, keeping rest of cake clean. Press sugar lightly with fingers to make sure it adheres. Brush off excess sugar and carefully remove stencil.

Tips:

*I followed the recipe exactly, with the exception of the pumpkin pie filling.  Since the pumpkin was a substitute for the oil in the original cake recipe, I didn't see a need to use sugar-filled pumpkin pie filling.  I used canned pure pumpkin puree instead.  I doubt whether it would taste much different to use the pie filling.
*To make sure I got nice, flat cake layers (that weren't domed), I used cake strips.
*I used almost two cans of the frosting as I like to have a lot to work with.
*The stencil printed out on very flimsy copy paper was very tough to work with.  I had problems with the paper wanting to stick to the cake, which made it tough to remove... which scattered some sprinkles on areas of the cake where they weren't wanted.  If I were to do this again, I'd copy on cardstock, cut out the spider, laminate it, and then cut it out again.  I'd then spray the side that was going to touch the cake lightly with cooking spray.
*I used a small, clean paintbrush to sweep up errant sugar granules.

Source: Country Living

The results:

If you’re one who doesn’t mind a boxed cake mix and canned frosting, you’ll probably like this, and if you lean toward baking homemade cakes, you won’t.  The maple syrup/pumpkin additions didn’t do anything to mask the boxed-cake-mix flavor.  It tasted like a Chocolate-Maple cake mix cake- nothing special.

Did this recipe deserve the cover spotlight?

I don’t think so.  If the goal was to entice home cooks to easily jazz up a boxed cake mix and add a cute Halloween decoration, I don’t think they chose the right recipe.  I’m fairly experienced with baking and decor, and I had quite a lot of trouble getting the spider to look good on the cake.  It’s do-able, but for those who don’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen, the spider template could be quite difficult to pull off (resulting in some angry readers who spent $$ on ingredients for something that is not presentable).

Lori is the founder of RecipeGirl.com. She's a professional recipe developer and food writer, and she's the author of The Recipe Girl Cookbook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: April 2013). Beyond food, Lori enjoys traveling, being outdoors, running, and maybe even singing a little karaoke. The mountains near Lake Tahoe are home for Lori and her husband of 18 years. They have an 12 year-old son who blogs at RecipeBoy.com.

24 Responses to ““Along Came a Spider” Cake”

  1. 1

    VeggieGirl — October 22, 2009 @ 5:33 am

    STUNNING!

  2. 2

    Maria — October 22, 2009 @ 7:28 am

    What a festive cake. I personally hate spiders, but I like this one!

  3. 3

    Mariah — October 22, 2009 @ 7:45 am

    Lori,

    I agree with you — this recipe did NOT deserve the cover! I saw an easier-looking spider cake recipe on Laura’s Best Recipes that would work well for me, as I’m soooo not the decorator type. Here it is: http://laurasbestrecipes.com/2009/10/zoes-halloween-marble-spider-cake.html

    –Mariah

  4. 4

    Sandie (Inn Cuisine) — October 22, 2009 @ 7:55 am

    Great concept for a food blog. Love your honest thoughts about this recipe too!

  5. 5

    Barbara Bakes — October 22, 2009 @ 7:59 am

    I can live with a cake mix, but I refuse to use the canned frosting. Cute idea though! I’m enjoying the reviews!

  6. 6

    Elle — October 22, 2009 @ 8:21 am

    Well, it *looks* great, even if it didn’t live up to it’s expectations. Bummer!

  7. 7

    Sonja — October 22, 2009 @ 8:57 am

    Adorable cake! Looks like a cute cake to make for the kiddies in a pinch! Love reading your “notes” on the recipes.

  8. 8

    Margaret — October 22, 2009 @ 9:17 am

    Yeah, I saw that. looked cute, but not cover material. Thanks for making/reporting.

    take a look at july 2008 for a possible future ‘cover’ report.

    Enjoy reading.

  9. 9

    Phoo-D — October 22, 2009 @ 9:32 am

    Despite being a dud in flavor your presentation is stunning.

  10. 10

    Michelle — October 22, 2009 @ 12:33 pm

    It’s creepy cute. I don’t know if I’m discerning enough to know the difference between homemade cake and a box mix.

  11. 11

    noble pig — October 22, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

    This came out amazing and it’s so easy to make!

  12. 12

    inhel — October 22, 2009 @ 6:01 pm

    I really think it is a fantastic job. Keep up with good recipes.

  13. 13

    Pam — October 23, 2009 @ 5:56 am

    Your cake was very interesting…so I had to go and see where it led, like a halloween maze…..great blog you have and a fab. job done!

  14. 14

    Jessica @ How Sweet It Is — October 23, 2009 @ 7:00 am

    I LOVE this cake. It is so sharp for Halloween! I gotta try to make it.

  15. 15

    TasteStopping — October 23, 2009 @ 7:09 am

    First, this looks amazing. Second, as a baker (and sometimes decorator), I truly appreciate your straight-forward assessment of the recipe. Not only do you give fair criticism, but you go one step further to offer some really helpful tips, in case anyone is tempted to try it after seeing your gorgeous result. My feet are pretty firmly planted in the make-it-from-scratch camp, and I’m wondering what the additions called for in this recipe might do for one of my cakes? I’ll have to keep it in mind.

    Best,
    Casey

  16. 16

    RobinSue — October 23, 2009 @ 3:39 pm

    I am one to use the cake mix in a pinch or when it is for kids who can’t tell either. Funny they would use a box cake mix cake for the cover- but I think we are in such a hurry-up world, that is what folk’s seek out sometimes. You did a great job on the spider even though you said it was a pain!

  17. 17

    Slickriptide — October 23, 2009 @ 7:26 pm

    Hey, Lori.

    I was wondering – Is it possible that you missed a trick by choosing pureed pumpkin over pumpkin pie filling? I ask because you seem to have been concerned about the sugar but the real flavor component would be the pie spice.

    Reading the recipe, I got thinking about a coffee-house experience I had some time back. A local coffee house offered aztec spice mochas. If you’ve ever had aztec spice chocolate, you can imagine that it tastes pretty good as an espresso beverage.

    I visited my regular coffee house and they didn’t have aztec spice but they offered to try approximating it by mixing pumpkin spice with an ordinary mocha. The result was interesting. It wasn’t a particularly faithful version of aztec spice (which has some “hot”, pepper flavors in it) but it was decent regardless.

    With that experience in mind, I look at this cake recipe and wonder if one point of the pie filling is to mix the pie spice flavors with the chocolate cake to get a “spicy chocolate” flavor. My local grocer sells “pumpkin pie spice” bottles in the spice section. Maybe a couple of tablespoons of pie spice in addition to the pumpkin would have been in order to fully replicate the intended flavor of the recipe.

    • Lori Lange replied: — October 23rd, 2009 @ 8:13 pm

      Slick- Excellent point!

  18. 18

    Katrina — October 24, 2009 @ 12:09 pm

    It looks fun. Although I’d have a hard time biting into the leg of a spider or something! ;)
    Love your new blog, Lori.

  19. 19

    Rachelle @ "Mommy? I'm Hungry!" — October 24, 2009 @ 5:08 pm

    Everytime we are at the grocery store waiting in line, the kids are always “Eeek! A spider!” when we see that magazine lol!

    Yours looks great!! I would’ve had a heck of a time with the sprinkles, that’s for sure! lol

  20. 20

    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — October 24, 2009 @ 7:28 pm

    Lori – just saw the new blog (I’ve been offline for a few days preparing for a dinner party)… I love it! What a great idea… Can’t wait to see more of your cover recipes!

    Not sure this would have been my pick of recipes for the cover, although it is very festive/seasonal, which they love in magazines.

  21. 21

    Sues — October 25, 2009 @ 5:26 pm

    Omg yours looks even better!! But I agree, not really a cover recipe!

  22. 22

    Louise — October 26, 2009 @ 9:53 am

    Guilty. I have been know to doctor up a few boxed cake mixes in my time. However, I am so bad at copying templates. I’m sure it’s my deep aversion to sewing which causes it. I too appreciate your frankness when it comes to this luring cover. Thanks for sharing, Lori

    P.S. I have found adding a few dribbles of very hot water to the canned frosting makes it less sweeter and easier to spread. In this case, I may have tried a bit of heated orange juice if the notion occurred.

  23. 23

    megan — October 27, 2009 @ 8:46 am

    You did a great job on the spider. I never have very good luck with stencils because they always seem to bleed on me. Job well done!!!

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