We challenged ourselves to come up with a showstopping dessert that uses boxed cake mix as a starting point--and we succeeded. Fresh carrot and apple plus a splash of bourbon boost the flavor of the layers, while the browned-butter glaze is, well, the wildly delicious icing on the cake.
1/2 cup nonfat buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons bourbon
3 large eggs
1 (18.25-ounce) box spice cake mix (such as Duncan Hines)
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup grated peeled Honeycrisp apple (or any sweet-tart apple)
Baking spray with flour
1/4 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar, divided
2 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons 2% reduced-fat milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash of salt
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 350°.
To prepare cake, combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at low speed for 1 minute or until well combined. Add cake mix to buttermilk mixture; beat at medium speed 1 minute or until well blended. Stir in carrot and apple until just combined. Divide batter evenly among 3 (8-inch) round cake pans coated with baking spray. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans; cool completely on wire rack.
To prepare glaze, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat; cook 6 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Cool slightly. Combine browned butter, 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, cream cheese, milk, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at low speed 2 minutes or until smooth.
To assemble cake, place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread 1/4 cup glaze over cake layer. Top with second layer and spread with 1/4 cup glaze. Top with third layer. Stir the remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar into remaining glaze. Spread remaining glaze over top of cake. Sprinkle with chopped pecans.