A few weeks ago, I picked up a couple containers of Ad Hoc Milk and Dark Chocolate Frosting from Williams Sonoma because I couldn’t resist the chance to try some of chef Thomas Keller’s famous goodies in my own kitchen. At the same time, I picked up a box of Ad Hoc Yellow Cake Mix to go with the frosting. After all, gourmet frosting calls for gourmet cake, doesn’t it?
When you buy the Ad Hoc jarred frostings, you’re paying about $20 for a big container of (delicious) premade frosting. When you buy Ad Hoc’s Yellow Cake Mix, which is also available exclusively at Williams-Sonoma, you’re basically paying $14 for the recipe to Ad Hoc’s yellow layer cake. The box comes with two bags inside of it: a bag of sugar and another bag containing flour, baking powder, vanilla and salt. You need to add all of the other ingredients yourself, including butter, vegetable oil, eggs, egg yolks and buttermilk. You’re adding more ingredients than come in the box. The upside is that you get the feeling of making a cake from scratch, but a mix is supposed to make things easier and this cake took just as much work as a cake made completely from scratch. This is why I say that you’re paying for the recipe, not for the convenience of a mix.
That said, this is an excellent recipe and it makes a great yellow cake. The cake is very tender and has a light, fluffy, even crumb. The texture is very similar to that of a less expensive cake mix. All of the color in it comes from egg yolks, not from artificial coloring, so the cake has a very slightly yolky flavor and (for me) might have done well with a little bit more vanilla to balance it out (if I’m going to be as critical as I can). All in all – it tasted like a cake mix cake – a good one, but still a cake mix cake. I’d save the recipe on the box, weigh out the ingredients in the bags and give this a go completely from scratch next time. The jump start on measuring ingredients is nice, but not nice enough for the price tag and because the mix doesn’t save me any time in the kitchen.
Like other premium gourmet items, it does make a fantastic gift for a baker, cook or Thomas Keller fan because it makes such a good product and is a “wow” item (who knew he made cake mix?!) to unwrap and look forward to trying in your kitchen. And if yellow cake isn’t your thing, you can also try Red Velvet and Chocolate Layer Cake Mixes from Ad Hoc, too.
Sweets By VickyApril 1, 2010
I’ve been eyeing the Ad Hoc at Home book for like, ever! 🙂 It’s great how you do reviews on stuff I could never get my hands on (in Singapore), and even if I did, couldn’t taste it since I’m gluten intolerant! MMMM though. and the jar of frosting..MMM!
RoggieApril 1, 2010
Think of how many from scratch cakes you could make for the price of just this cake mix and frosting. And they would be just as good plus you would have bragging rights.
RaymondApril 2, 2010
Thomas Keller is rich enough. If I have to pay that much money for a bag of sugar and flour and then have to add everything else myself only to have it come out still tasting like a mix I would just as soon buy Betty Crocker. So much easier to make it from scratch myself.
Cat @ ButteryBakeryJuly 20, 2010
Usually when I use a mix, the baked cakes turn out too domed and I end up having to trim off a lot of cake. Is it the mix or something I did? Also I find the texture of a mix cake to be somewhat lacking and too crumbly in general, this mix cakes doesn’t look that way.