Food & Drink

Stir Crazy: Carrot Poke Cake, Brownie Peanut Chews sweet-tooth treats

Orange gelatin is the secret ingredient to this Carrot Poke Cake.
Orange gelatin is the secret ingredient to this Carrot Poke Cake.

Is there anybody around here who doesn’t like a good poke cake recipe?

I can imagine bakers in test kitchens at Kraft, Betty Crocker and Taste of Home using their creativity to come up with different ways to “poke” box cake mix recipes. Wouldn’t that be fun, to spend the day experimenting with baking recipes, then have someone else clean up the mess? Hmmm. I know it doesn’t work that way.

Years ago I spent a day in the test kitchens at Kraft in a Chicago suburb, and found it fascinating. But, the work is repetitive: Expert cooks/dietitians/nutritionists spent time repeating the same recipe using different size and color pans, varying temperatures and ovens, each in her own kitchen area, of which there were at least a half-dozen. Then, they taste-tested the results. There was a lot of cake, so just about everybody in the building got a slice. And it’s a big building. (And, you do have to clean up your kitchen area.)

It’s a fond memory for me because the bakers (all women) had this great camaraderie, sharing advice and ideas, talking through problems and generally looking like they really enjoyed their work.

I’ve never tried a carrot poke cake, but Kraft has a recipe. It’s a super-moist spice cake with shredded carrots and a tangy orange flavor that makes a surprise appearance under delicious cream cheese frosting.

And since my sweet tooth is out of control as I’m writing this, why not combine brownies and Rice Krispie treats into one dessert? Better Crocker did it, throwing in peanut butter chips, too, and came up with Brownie Peanut Chews.

Contact me at, 618-239-2664 or follow me on Twitter @BoyleSuzanne. Write to P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427.

How to make Nutella cake in a mug

Carrot Poke Cake

1 package (2-layer size) spice cake mix

2 cups shredded carrots

1/4 cup raisins

1 cup water

3-ounce package orange flavor gelatin

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

2 cups powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare cake batter as directed on package; stir in carrots and raisins. Pour into 13-by-9-inch pan sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. About 5 minutes before cake is done, bring water to boil.

Pierce cake with large fork or skewer at 1/2-inch intervals. Add boiling water to gelatin mix in small bowl; stir 2 minutes, until completely dissolved. Pour evenly over cake. Refrigerate 3 hours.

Beat cream cheese, butter and spice in large bowl with mixer until blended. Gradually add sugar, beating well after each addition. Spread onto cake. Serves 16.

Tip: Don’t have pumpkin pie spice? Instead, use a mixture of 1/4 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and nutmeg, and 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger.

Brownie Peanut Chews


1 box (1 pound, 2.4 ounces) premium brownie mix

Water, vegetable oil, and eggs called for on brownie mix box

2 cups miniature marshmallows


1/2 cup light corn syrup

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 1/3 cups (8 ounces) peanut butter chips

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/3 cups crisp rice cereal

1 1/3 cups salted peanuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees for dark or nonstick pan). Grease bottom only of 9-inch square pan with cooking spray or shortening.

Make brownies as directed on box, except after removing from oven, immediately sprinkle with marshmallows. Bake 1 to 2 minutes longer, or until marshmallows just begin to puff.

In 3-quart saucepan, heat corn syrup, butter, vanilla and peanut butter chips over medium heat 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly, until chips are melted. Remove from heat; stir in cereal and peanuts. Spread evenly over marshmallows.

Refrigerate 45 minutes or until firm. For brownies, cut into 5 rows by 5 rows. Store in refrigerator.