In my view of things, a great way to learn how flavors interact with one another is to start with semi homade ingredients, and slowly add your personal touches to them. I think this lessens the pressure on the individual to make a “perfect dish” while making their way around unique seasoning combinations. I started cooking, and most recently baking, but taught myself how flavors meshed together by experimenting with box cakes. I am all about expressing one’s self creatively through food, and took it upon myself to create unique flavors, by adding things like pudding, or flavored syrups to cake batters.
Butterscotch pudding cake, with rum, coconut and a chocolate glaze. Semi-Homeade!
Why pudding? Pudding, (along with pieces of pineapple, carrots, and even apple sauce) add a richness to a cake, but also a lot of moistness. My mother taught me this trick, an I have made it a point to experiment with fruits, pudding, and even Greek yogurt to discourage dry cakes.
One cake I experimented with was a yellow cake, but added about 1/4 of butterscotch pudding mix, (or less according to taste and awareness of sugar content) a little rum, and coconut flakes, and allow it to bake. I drizzled melted chocolate icing from the package on the cake, giving the cake a somewhat homemade feel (because of the flavor originality) and a moist texture that made it much more indulgent. So, fake your way into baking by using semi homemade recipes
Two layer box cake with a homemade icing, and strawberries in the center and on top.
and jazzing it up! Now, I can say I have a much stronger sense that certain ingredients like vanilla can enhance other flavors, but nutmeg and cinnamon can be paired up with certain fruits to round it out or add depth. Now, I am a baked good snob, and often make cakes and other baked good from scratch. The same goes for non baking food; adding a pinch of garlic, or pepper, or even exotic ingredients to pastas, means, and rices can make cooking more adventurous and exciting. Play with your food, and you’ll have a better sense of how seasonings work, and more confidence!