There are people who look down on cake mix cakes. There's an instinctive feeling that cake shouldn't be this easy, and that if it's made from a mix it won't be special. People worry that the magic ingredient, Love with a capital L for "labor intensive" is missing from these cakes. I get that. I do.

    But the thing is, using a mix saves a lot of time, and the results are consistently good. If I'm looking to whip up some cupcakes and I don't want to take all day measuring ingredients, a cake mix is a good way to go. So the important question for me is always "How can I make this mix cake unique?" And this time, the answer was to add walnuts and blackberries to the batter, then decorate the cupcakes with swirls of beautiful blackberry frosting. These cupcakes are so good. I'm proud to say I used every shortcut at my disposal, and they came out just lovely. I didn't miss the extra work, and I don't think you will either.

*makes about 2 dozen cupcakes

1 box of yellow cake mix, any brand
3 eggs (depending on how many are called for by the cake mix)
1/2 cup oil (again, depending on what the mix calls for)
1/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped
about 1 cup fresh blackberries
2 tsp granulated sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened
3+1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tbsp milk
3 tbsp blackberry jam
additional fresh blackberries to top cupcakes
1 tsp granulated sugar

    Mix up the cake mix according to the package instructions. Stir in the walnuts. Spoon the batter into lined cupcake tins. In a small bowl, mix the blackberries with the granulated sugar. Put one blackberry in the middle of each cupcake. Let the berries float on top of the batter; they sink to the bottom during baking. Bake the cupcakes according to the package instructions and allow them to cool before frosting.

    In a medium bowl, combine the softened butter and confectioner's sugar. Stir in the milk and blackberry jam until the frosting is smooth and spreadable. If the frosting is too thick, add a little more jam. If the frosting is too thin, add a little more confectioner's sugar. In a separate small bowl, combine the blackberries and the granulated sugar. Spread or pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes, then top with fresh blackberries if desired.