Baking doesn’t have to be about following the rules. Clever tricks and tips turn packet mixes and readymade cakes into delicious homemade treats

Jazz up a cake

  • Cheat's fondant fancies make perfect party food: simply cut ready-made sponge into 5cm cubes, cover with ready-to-roll icing and drizzle with melted chocolate. 
  • Bake a marble cake using a chocolate sponge mix and a plain sponge mix. Make them up separately in 2 bowls, dollop alternate spoonfuls into a large cake tin, and swirl together gently before baking.
  • Upside-down cake is an easy and impressive dessert. Pour chocolate cake mix over drained tinned pears or plain cake mix over peaches. Bake, turn out of the tin and serve with ice cream or crème fraîche.
  • Add a teaspoon of Madagascan vanilla extract or Sicilian lemon extract to a plain sponge mix to give your cake extra flavour.
Sprinkle ready-made crumble mix over fruity muffins before baking. Soft cake and crunchy crumble are a perfect combination.

Crumble ideas

  • For a quick fruit crumble, top frozen red berry mix (such as blackberries, strawberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants) with a ready-made crumble mix. Bake in a medium oven until bubbling and golden brown.
  • Soft cake and crunchy crumble are a fantastic combination: sprinkle ready-made crumble mix over fruity muffins before baking. 

Use a shortcrust pastry mix, sweetened with sugar, to bake shortbread rounds. When cool, sandwich and top with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Dust with icing sugar.

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Quick and easy dessert idea

Special scones

A packet scone mix makes a quick cobbler dessert or scones for afternoon tea.

  • For a classic fruit cobbler, make the scone dough according to pack instructions and roll into balls. Put chopped apples and pears or red berry mix in an ovenproof dish, dot scone balls over the top to cover, then bake.
  • Pinwheel scones are a clever twist on tradition. Roll scone dough into a rectangle and sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon and dried mixed fruit. Roll into a sausage shape, cut into rounds and bake until risen and golden.

Pizza dough tips

  1. Calzone: make up your pizza dough and top with passata, mozzarella and fresh basil. Fold in half, seal the edges and bake.
  2. Dough balls: roll your pizza dough into walnut-size balls. Brush with a little melted butter and roll in finely chopped garlic. Bake and serve as a tasty snack.
  3. Soft pretzels: roll pizza dough into long, thin sausage shapes. Twist into a pretzel knot, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds before baking.