These traditional Southern cakes are so good, no one will guess they're not made from scratch.

Secrets from the Cake (Mix) Doctor
Anne Byrn (left) and Southern Living Test Kitchens Director Lyda Jones collaborate on the three-layer version of Tennessee Jam Cake.
| Credit: Tina Cornett, Beth Dreiling / Styling: Buffy Hargett

Wish you had the time and talent to make great cakes like your mother or aunt? Then take some advice from Nashville food writer Anne Byrn, a.k.a. The Cake Mix Doctor. Her books offer great ways to enhance mixes to make them as good--or better--than cakes made from scratch.

Her books, The Cake Mix Doctor and Chocolate From the Cake Mix Doctor, offer updated versions of a number of favorite Southern cakes that have graced family dinners and covered-dish suppers for a generation.

"I wrote a story for The Tennessean in Nashville in June 1998, sharing cake mix recipes my family had doctored," Anne explains. "The reaction was so strong, I asked readers to send in their own favorites. I got 500 recipes within one week. I quickly realized this should be a book."

The Cake Mix Doctor (Workman Publishing Company, Inc., $14.95) was a runaway success. Anne soon had a Web site,, and a second book. She most recently turned her surgical skills to savory foods with The Dinner Doctor (Workman Publishing Company, Inc., $14.95). Of course, the book includes her signature cakes as well.

Her efforts have helped other time-pressed cooks produce delicious desserts. Anne says, "The Cake Mix Doctor has made baking accessible to an awful lot of people who hadn't had any luck with it before." Whip up your own excellent confection with one of these favorites adapted from The Cake Mix Doctor.