Bake it Till You Make it: Holiday Extra by Dayna Altman

Recipe: Chocolate Cake Mix Crinkle Cookies


1 Box Chocolate Cake Mix 

⅓ cup vegetable oil 

2 eggs 

1 tsp vanilla 

1 Tbsp Powdered Sugar 


  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. 
  2. In a large bowl combine cake mix with vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla to create a dough. 
  3. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. 
  4. Shape dough into small balls to create cookie shapes.
  5. Roll balls in powdered sugar and place on baking sheet. 
  6. Bake for 10 minutes and enjoy!

My (Holiday) Story

I wholeheartedly believe that storytelling is our most powerful resource in change. While this is something I have valued for as long as I can remember, I have seen it unfold before my eyes through Bake it Till You Make it, this year. I truly believe that the storytelling that is among the pages of this bold mental health and resilience cookbook is changing the way people think in ways big, small and every way in between.  

Because I know the power of the narrative, I have been thinking a lot about how I can do my part in changing the way we think about the holiday season. Last night when I hung up the phone from my FaceTime appointment with my therapist, Dena, I decided to go into the kitchen. This was pretty weird! As I publicly share often, I am much more of a mental health advocate than a baker or cook. You can ask my sister what it is like to bake with me when she is home: I turn on the music and she does the work. Nevertheless, this moment felt authentic. I wanted to create a recipe I could share as a way to accompany a story about the holidays for the Bake it Till You Make it, community. I started by going through my cabinets. I found some vanilla, a boxed cake mix and took out a bowl. I immediately felt guilty. 

“A boxed cake mix recipe, really, Dayna?” 

But instead of leaning into this guilt turned imposter syndrome, I took a moment and thought: ” if that is the best I can do in this moment, then that’s pretty awesome.” As a recovering perfectionist, I find this time of year burdened with that word. The perfect cookie, the perfect Ugly Christmas Sweater, perfect gift, perfect holiday card, perfect Instagram post, you name it, we probably want it perfect. So, what if we just stopped and gave ourselves a little credit for doing the absolute best we can in this moment? 

Let me reassure you that something (and probably more than one thing) this holiday season, will not be perfect. And that is totally ok! In fact, that’s normal; that makes a better cookie and a more authentic gift or card. When we are overwrought with perfectionistic standards we don’t let ourselves connect and I think that can make the holidays feel very lonely. Everyone carries their own baggage around this time of year. Whether they are grieving something publicly or privately struggling with what it means to be celebrating this holiday season in a different place they have may have thought they would be in, this is tough. In a lot of ways,  this time of year make us feel as though we are doing it “wrong” if we are not feeling anything but happy. 

If this still feels hard to believe, let me tell you this. On Sunday, my friend,  Brenna, and I had plans to make cookies and deliver them to people in our community.  When Brenna got to my home, I was a mess of tears. The Sunday scaries coupled with just general life circumstances, I lost track of the time and couldn’t pull it together when she called me to tell me she had arrived. I, at first, felt guilty that my tears would mean that our cookie project would be delayed, did I need another reason to be mad at myself? And yet, Brenna reminded me, like she always does, that it’s not about the project or the cookies, it’s about the company. If you can be raw with someone this holiday season, you are doing it right. And if that doesn’t feel safe yet, that is also ok, and I am proud of you for being able to see this..maybe you can make a small step toward connection in the coming weeks? 

Either way, I have decided to share with you a twist on a cookie recipe that can be made with a box of cake mix, because we are all just doing the best we can, wherever we are. And I can guarantee as lonely as it may feel, there are other people who understand. So, keep doing what you can and let the comparison go. It doesn’t always matter how the cake is made but how it is shared. So I challenge you to use this simple recipe as a way of connection. Maybe you bring it into work or maybe you eat the whole batch of cookies yourself and reconnect to YOU, whatever it is you need, it is just perfect. 

Happy Holidays! 


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