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Are pricey cupcake mixes worth it?

cake mixesAs 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.

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  • Hilary
    November 29, 2007

    Re: Sprinkles, the cupcakes in the store are bland and dense too. Blech!

  • Leah
    November 29, 2007

    I’m so glad to finally know there are people who agree with me when it comes to Sprinkles!

  • Heidi
    November 30, 2007

    I’m not a mix fan in general. I’m baking beer bread from scratch right now and it’s so easy that I can’t think why anyone would need a mix to make it but they sell them all the time. Weird.

  • LAmonkeygirl
    December 8, 2007

    I third the disapproval of Sprinkles cupcakes. I used to drive past the Beverly Hills location every day and there was always a line out the door. I couldn’t understand it. Perhaps it’s an instance of the emperor’s new cupcake, i.e. a lot of fuss over nothing.

  • herschel
    December 20, 2007

    the sprinkles mixes are insane! $14 for the mix + $3 ingredients = 12 bland, dry cupcakes without frosting = 2 much money + not enough sense

  • Kel
    December 20, 2007

    I bought the Sprinkles mix (wincing at the price, but since they were supposed to be so amazing…) and the cupcakes weren’t bad. However, I took a box of Betty Crocker mix and made it with the directions from the Sprinkles cupcakes and they tasted exactly the same! I kicked myself all over the kitchen when I realized how much money I wasted!

  • Katie
    December 20, 2007

    I’m with Heidi, it is too easy to make your own from scratch, (and cheap to boot) to use expensive mixes. Though I am curious about the ingredients in the ones that tested well.

  • erin
    January 11, 2008

    i’m with all of you on the sprinkles cupcake thing. i was so disappointed after all the hype when i tried them a few years ago, way too much frosting (we took one and cut it down the middle to split and it fell over because of all the frosting) and not enough flavor. i swear, using boxed cake mix gives so much more flavor and are so much more moist than those.
    and is it true that the famous vanilla cupcakes from magnolia bakery are the same as sprinkles? i’ve never tried them, but i sure hope not!

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