Archive for: cake mix
Red velvet cake probably comes in just behind vanilla and chocolate cakes in terms of popularity these days, so it should be no surprise to see that red velvet cake mixes are becoming much more common to allow people to easily bake their own at home. Regular cake mixes don’t usually catch my eye, but the last time I was in the baking aisle I couldn’t help but notice the new Pillsbury Supreme Collection Red Velvet Cake Mix, which had a tunnel of cream cheese filling baked right in to the middle of a red velvet bundt cake. It definitely didn’t look like your average cake mix from the picture on the box.
The mix reminded me of the Fun Da Middles cupcake mix from Betty Crocker I tried several months ago, which had a cream filling that was baked right inside of cupcakes. This kit included a red velvet cake mix and a cream cheese filling mix. The cake mix was a fairly standard cake mix that had a bright red color to it even before some liquids were added. The filling mix was dry and made with powdered cream cheese, which is what made it shelf-stable enough to be packaged with a cake mix, and you simply needed to add water and vegetable oil to it to rehydrate it and make it a little creamier. To put it together, you simply poured the prepared cake mix into your bundt pan and added the filling in a ring on top of the batter. The magic of getting the filling into the center of the cake happened in the oven.
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.
Cereal – usually with fresh fruit on top – is my go-to breakfast on weekdays. Honey Nut Cheerios are one of my staples (because they go so well with bananas and berries), but I have a weakness for Cinnamon Toast Crunch and will occasionally sneak a box into my shopping cart at the grocery store. I liked it as a kid and still like that cinnamon toast flavor to this day. Recently, I spotted the logo for this cereal in an unexpected place outside of the cereal section of the market: on a box of muffin mix the baking aisle. Cinnamon Toast Crunch Muffin Mix is made by Betty Crocker and seems to be part of a new line of breakfast cereal-inspired muffin mixes. Of course, I couldn’t resist giving it a try to see if it captured the flavor of the cereal.
The muffin mix is easy to make with the addition of oil, water and eggs to the dry mix. The mix includes lots of chunks of cinnamon cereal bits, all with a good natural cinnamon flavor to them. It also comes with a streusel topping, which is also packed with the cinnamon bits. The muffins smell like Cinnamon Toast Crunch when they’re baking and look great when they come out of the oven, thanks to a high rise and a generous amount of streusel topping. They’re moist and fluffy, and they have cinnamon swirls running through the interior of the muffin – just like the cereal. Did they capture the essence of the cereal? They came close. Their good cinnamon-sugar flavor and a bit of crunch from the streusel was enough to evoke some of that same childhood fun that the cereal does.
Cake mixes usually come in very predictable flavors, across all brands and all price points, even when the texture and ingredients of the cakes vary a bit. The cake and cookie mixes from Peanut Butter & Co are a little bit different because their premium mixes focus on peanut butter. Their Mighty Fine Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes Baking Mix is just one of these options, and makes a batch of chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting – and the frosting is made with all-natural Peanut Butter & Co peanut butter that is included with the mix.
Not many baking mixes include the ingredients that you need to make the frosting (except the butter, in this case) right in the box, and that was one thing that made me want to give this a try. The other thing was that I like Peanut Butter & Co, which specializes in unusually flavored peanut butters, and was curious how thier mix would stack up. I bought mine recently at a local store, though I see that they are out of stock on their website at the moment.
The cupcakes are made by adding butter, eggs and milk to a dry mix. They have a strong chocolate flavor and are not too sweet. They’re also very moist slightly dense – not fluffy as some generic cake mix cupcakes – but this actually gives them a satisfying feel and helps them stand up to the rich peanut butter frosting. The frosting has a nice peanut butter flavor, but I thought it benefited from pinch of salt to highlight the roasted nut flavor a bit. Overall, the cupcakes taste a lot like peanut butter cups with a dark chocolate flavor from the cake and their salty-sweet peanut butter frosting. The box said it would make only 8 cupcakes, but I got 12 good sized cupcakes from the mix.
The mix is slightly more expensive than most grocery store mixes, but much less expensive than the premium mixes sold at stores like Williams Sonoma. Since it includes the peanut butter for the frosting and gives you a good result, this is a mix that is pretty satisfying and worth trying if you like that peanut butter and chocolate combination and are looking for a quicker-than-homemade fix.
Williams Sonoma stocks a wide range of premium baking mixes, most of which are from famous bakeries and restaurants. For instance, they stock many mixes from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc. Recently, however, they’ve expanded their offerings to include some of their own baking mixes, including a line of cupcake mixes. I immedately liked the packaging of their new mixes, but I was also interested in the range of flavors. They include chocolate, vanilla and red velvet – staples for many premium cupcake mixes these days – and also offered lemon and coconut. Coconut is not a cupcake mix flavor I see often and, as a huge fan of coconut, I felt that I needed to give that Coconut Cupcake Mix a try.
The mix is made with your usual cupcake ingredients: organic flour, sugar, baking powder, unsweetened coconut, coconut flavor, vanilla powder, canola oil, sea salt, baking soda and nonfat dry milk. You add your own eggs, butter and milk to the mix, using the same cold butter technique that I use in my Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes. The finished cupcakes were super tender and had a great coconut flavor, exceeding my expectations for a coconut cupcake mix because the flavor tasted very natural, not artificial. These aren’t your average cake-mix cupcakes and they really do taste homemade.
The packaging, which is very cute, includes a recipe for a simple buttercream frosting. I added some shredded coconut myself to give the frosting a finishing touch and to let everyone know from a glance that these were coconut cupcakes.