Bake Shop in a Book – Duncan Hines (1979)


Over Labor Day weekend, I decided to visit my parents in Tennessee. It rained 90% of the time I was there, so we ended up doing a lot of indoor activities like napping and watching television. Once, when we actually decided to leave the house, we took a trip to the local antique mall, where I picked up this little gem for just under $4.00.

What I like about this cookbook is that it was produced during the height of “fast food” in the 70s, which means that it does its best to sell itself to busy bakers who were probably working outside of the home in one capacity or another. As a result, it promises to “make it easy for you to turn out delicious, fresh-baked goodies that compare favorably to those of the finest bake shop” without having to “crowd your busy day with time-consuming preparations or worry about less-than-perfect results.”


Case in point. This unfortunately-named cake looks like a pile of undercooked sausage casserole sprinkled with hashbrowns, but I’m sure it tastes delicious.


For many people, cake mixes are the stuff of life. The idea of baking a cake from scratch can be a daunting one, and this cookbook seems to get that. In addition to keeping the recipes exceedingly simple to follow, the book is organized by month so bakers can easily locate a seasonally appropriate or holiday-themed treat.

June, for example, opens with a recipe for a three-tiered wedding cake and an ice cream cake for good old Dad before providing a number of summer-themed recipes that encourage bakers to transform boring old cake mixes into something special.




In a recipe for “Easy Double Cherry Crumb Pie,” a package of Duncan Hines Deluxe Cherry Supreme Cake Mix becomes the base for a cherry-flavored crust that has the consistency of graham cracker crumbs.  Meanwhile, a package of Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme Cake Mix replaces the traditional flour and powdered-sugar based crust in a not-so-traditional Lemon Bar. And then a box of Duncan Hines Pudding Recipe White Cake Mix transforms into this psychotic baked good that will forever haunt your dreams:


BEEP BEEP Bakers! When you’re down here with us, you’ll float too!


Oh, and for people who legitimately want to make these for an It-themed viewing party, here is the recipe. I imagine that all sorts of creepy variations of this dessert could be made – especially with Halloween around the corner – so have at it!




What I find the most intriguing about this cookbook, however, is that it constantly encourages bakers to experiment with creating their own variations as if to say: “Hey, just because you’re making something out of a box doesn’t mean you can’t get creative or have fun.” And this attitude makes the book seem weirdly genuine.

The best example of this message comes in a section titled “Create your Own Recipes” toward the beginning of the text that reads as follows:


It’s easy to create cakes with special appeal for your family. Simply start with a package of Duncan Hines Cake mix and add your family’s favorite frostings, fruit toppings, and fillings, in any combination they like.

If you are more daring, try experimenting with a new cake idea. For instance, the addition of pumpkin to Duncan Hines Deluxe II Spice Cake Mix would seem to be a good combination. Of course, some new ideas may prove disappointing. But if you are inspired, go ahead. Bake your idea.


I don’t know why, but I can’t stop smiling at this section because it sounds soooo 70s. Like, I can’t stop imagining that this cookbook personified would be a braless, Kubrick-era Shelley Duvall in an orange leisure suit chain smoking and encouraging you to go ahead and mix that pink grapefruit juice into a box of Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme Cake because “Why the hell not?!”




Of course, some new ideas may prove disappointing, but why the hell not?




Okay, nevermind. That’s why the hell not.



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