In kitchen and gourmet stores, you’ll always see a section of premium baking ingredients alongside the pots, pans and other kitchen gear that you might want to add to your collection. Premium baking ingredients might include exotic nuts or chocolate, unusual sugars or cake decorations, or even specialty flours. Lately, this section of the store also usually includes premium cake and other baking mixes. I’m always curious to try these products – especially when they’re branded with a famous restaurant or bakery – because I want to how they stack up to the real thing.
The problem with these premium mixes is that they have a premium price – and that price is high enough to raise some eyebrows and get people wondering if $14-20 is really worth it for a small box of baking ingredients and a recipe.
The premium cake and baking mixes typically include just the dry ingredients for a recipe, along with the instructions for making the cake (or other baked good). Unlike grocery store cake mixes, they typically call for butter (not oil) and milk, as well as eggs. Some will call for other types of dairy, like buttermilk or yogurt, and might use egg yolks or whites in addition to whole eggs. The recipes also tend to be a little more complex than the foolproof grocery store mixes, with multiple steps that mean you get just as much cleanup as you do when making a cake from scratch.
The upside to all this is that everything is premeasured and you will turn out an excellent cake if you follow the directions. No one will know that you used a mix of any kind when you go to serve it. I’ve also kept a recipe or two that I’ve gotten from the boxes for future reference, since the recipes were quite good.
The downside to using the mixes is that with the time, effort and extra ingredients you need, it is actually easier and less expensive to just make the cake from scratch in the first place.
At the end of the day, I would have to say that these expensive cake mixes aren’t worth it for regular baking, but they can definitely be fun once in a while. They’re just too expensive to be that “emergency mix” in the back of your pantry, unless you really only bake occasionally and want top-notch results from your mix. I prefer them for a splurge once in a while and to compare them to the “real” thing for fun. They also make good gifts for friends and family who like to bake but wouldn’t ordinarily go out and try a premium cake mix themselves. I will also note that the mixes are definitely more worth the price than some of the premium frostings that I’ve seen. They do taste better than the standard can o’ frosting from the grocery store – but at $20 for a jar of butter and sugar, there is no question in my mind that frosting is one area where you are better off just making your own, even if you are starting with a cake mix.