In addition to the cake mixes you can buy at the grocery store and the ones available at higher end gourmet stores, there are many mixes out there made by smaller producers that can give you great results and make fun gifts. One example of this is the Vintage Bakeshop, which specializes in all natural baking mixes packaged in stylish, vintage-inspired wrapping.
I tried a mix for their Red Velvet Cupcakes to see if the cupcakes turned out to be as lovely as the packaging. As with most mixes, you simply add a few of your own eggs, oil, etc. to the mix and stir, then you’re ready to bake. The mix comes together easily and has a very intense color to it that carries over into the finished product. I should note that all of the mixes from the Vintage Bakeshop line are complete natural (i.e. sugar, flour, etc.) with no artificial preservatives or other ingredients – except for this red velvet mix, which contains artificial red coloring (red dye no. 40). I like red velvet cupcakes and am not bothered by a bit of food coloring, but I wanted to point out that their other mixes do not contain any for those who keep an eye out for certain dyes.
The finished cupcakes were very moist and tender. I could taste the hint of cocoa that was in the cupcakes, as well as a hint of vanilla, just as you should be able to do in a real red velvet cake. This made them feel a lot more homemade than many mixes. The best part about this mix is that the packaging is simply adorable. It is the kind of thing that makes a great addition to gift baskets for Mother’s Day or other holidays. The frosting recipes included with the mix (all scratch recipes) are nice, too, and it will always improve a cupcake to use homemade icing.