I love to bake cakes from scratch, but I am often curious about cake mixes put out by more gourmet retailers to see how they stack up to the real thing. A good example was the expensive, but outstanding, Ad Hoc Yellow Cake Mix. Trader Joe’s ever-expanding line of baking products includes cake mixes, as well as convenient frosting mixes, so I wanted to see how Baker Josef’s Golden Yellow Cake Mix stacked up.
There is a lot to like about this cake mix. It is made with all natural ingredients and contains unbleached flour, dried cane syrup (i.e. raw sugar) and buttermilk as a flavoring. Nothing that you can’t pronounce. You add eggs, water and oil or butter, mix and bake. Most cake mixes are designed to give you almost fool proof results, and this one is no exception with its very simple directions. It turned out a cake with a slightly buttery flavor and a tender, somewhat crumbly, crumb. It turned out to have a much better flavor and texture when made with butter than with oil, even though oil was suggested as an alternative to butter on the box.
Unfortunately, I can’t help comparing it to the Ad Hoc yellow cake mix – which really did produce an excellent cake, mix or not – and I have to admit that it is not nearly as good as that one even though they have similarly “gourmet” ingredient lists. That said, it is also a fraction of the price. Taking all this into account, I would definitely consider keeping a box of this mix in the back of the pantry if you like to have a cake mix on hand for those times when you’re not going to make your own from scratch. It is minimally processed, with recognizable ingredients and is easy to make on top of it. I’ll also take a homemade yellow cake over this one, but if you put a nice layer of chocolate frosting on top I wouldn’t complain about eating a slice!
Update: Based on some reader comments, I went back and tried this mix again. I would say that the cake seemed much more crumbly and somewhat more coarse than the first time I tried it. The flavor wasn’t too bad, but it did make me wonder if they had changed the formulation. I’m keeping the original review up, but I don’t think I would recommend this mix at this time! Let’s hope TJ’s gives their formula a tweak and improves the texture of the cake, bringing it up to the standards of the rest of their products.