As you might expect, I’m much more likely to advocate baking a batch of homemade cupcakes from scratch instead of using a boxed mix. The term “boxed mix” tends to assume that you’re using something that cost about $3 at the grocery store, though, and lately more and more high-end cake and cupcake mixes have been popping up in stores. Martha Stewat has some, Ina Garten has many and even cupcake stores like Sprinkles have a line. Prices tend to be about $11-14 per box – a significant jump over Betty Crocker. In this month’s Good Housekeeping magazine, they put several of these popular high-end mixes to the test to see if they were worth it.
Most of the mixes, as it turned out, were pretty good. The Martha Stewart Collection mixes produced great cakes and came with instructions for glazes and fillings. Rose Levy Beranbaum’s cupcake and frosting kits were a bit complex, but the results were worth it. Barefoot Contessa‘s mixes took almost no work and still came out perfectly, and the ultra-rich Jacques Torres brownies (not quite cupcakes, but close) were said to be to die for. But not all the mixes tested well, so we have to conclude that price is not always an indicator of quality when it comes to cake mix. The Sprinkles cupcake mixes, even when tested by skilled bakers, produced cakes that were bland and dense – and fell far, far short of the cheap and moist supermarket brands.