It seems like Sandra Lee has popped up everywhere you turn. From entertainment news rags reporting that superstar Angelina Jolie used Lee’s “No-Bake Cake” recipe for her son’s birthday to Lee herself calling out her haters, this week has gone Sandra Lee crazy.
For those of you unfamiliar with Lee, she is a Food Network personality for her show “Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee,” where she uses 70% pre-packaged goods and 30% fresh ingredients to make a variety of meals. She is seen as a shining beacon of the busy mom, food-noob, and college kid who would prefer to open packages rather than deal with actual ingredients. Her fan-base has supported her through 16 books and a tenure as a Food Network regular.
Yet, her adoration and authority seems puzzling. On the outset, it would seem like her recipes are the panacea of any college student: making culinary treats with store-bought ingredients that taste just as good as fresh. But, when put into practice, Lee’s recipes often come out confusing at best and absolutely terrifying at worst.
For example, the “No-Bake Cake” recipe that Jolie prepared simply involves stacking store-bought cakes on top of each other, plastering pre-made cookies to the side, and then sprinkling god-knows what else on to make the cake look like the decorator had a manic fit. What has been touted as “easy” just sounds embarassing: what self-respecting college kid, let alone a busy mom with a family to please, would show up to a friend’s birthday carrying a garbled mess of store-bought Shaw’s bakery items and then convince them that it was actually “made with love?”
And I wish this was as bad as it could get, but then there’s the infamous Kwanzaa cake, which has turned into an internet phenomenon (you can even buy the diagram, right, on t-shirts and posters). Blogs like Cake Wrecks even express open-mouthed awe at the atrocious cake, which features ingredients like grocery store angel food cake, canned apple pie filling, and corn nuts. It’s beyond absurd and delving into the inedible, and I can’t help but feel sincere condolences to those who celebrate Kwanzaa. It is also hard to imagine that anyone would look at the cake and think “Gosh, that looks like it would be a great hit!”
I can go on and on: mixing unmade lemon jello packets into cream cheese, dipping Pillsbury biscuits in cinnamon sugar to make them “sweet shortcake,” and unraveling Twizzlers to use as cake streamers. “Semi-Homemade” ceases to become a valuable tool and starts to look…trashy. It makes it hard to recognize how Lee herself could even be pleased at Jolie, who is apparently absentee enough to throw cupcakes on top of a regular cake for her son’s birthday and call it “semi-homemade.” It just goes to show that even in cooking, effort will always outshine ease, and no matter what, never put corn nuts on a cake.
Watch Lee in hilariously awkward “No Bake” action with Mario Lopez, where she says she can turn a $40 cake into a $500 cake that she claims to have used for birthdays, anniversaries, and yes, even weddings. Let me know if this is what you dream of cutting into after walking down the aisle: