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Trader Joe’s Golden Yellow Cake Mix, reviewed

Trader Joe's Yellow Cake Mix

I love to bake cakes from scratch, but I am often curious about cake mixes put out by more gourmet retailers to see how they stack up to the real thing. A good example was the expensive, but outstanding, Ad Hoc Yellow Cake Mix. Trader Joe’s ever-expanding line of baking products includes cake mixes, as well as convenient frosting mixes, so I wanted to see how Baker Josef’s Golden Yellow Cake Mix stacked up.

There is a lot to like about this cake mix. It is made with all natural ingredients and contains unbleached flour, dried cane syrup (i.e. raw sugar) and buttermilk as a flavoring. Nothing that you can’t pronounce. You add eggs, water and oil or butter, mix and bake. Most cake mixes are designed to give you almost fool proof results, and this one is no exception with its very simple directions. It turned out a cake with a slightly buttery flavor and a tender, somewhat crumbly, crumb. It turned out to have a much better flavor and texture when made with butter than with oil, even though oil was suggested as an alternative to butter on the box.

Unfortunately, I can’t help comparing it to the Ad Hoc yellow cake mix – which really did produce an excellent cake, mix or not – and I have to admit that it is not nearly as good as that one even though they have similarly “gourmet” ingredient lists. That said, it is also a fraction of the price. Taking all this into account, I would definitely consider keeping a box of this mix in the back of the pantry if you like to have a cake mix on hand for those times when you’re not going to make your own from scratch. It is minimally processed, with recognizable ingredients and is easy to make on top of it. I’ll also take a homemade yellow cake over this one, but if you put a nice layer of chocolate frosting on top I wouldn’t complain about eating a slice!

Update: Based on some reader comments, I went back and tried this mix again. I would say that the cake seemed much more crumbly and somewhat more coarse than the first time I tried it. The flavor wasn’t too bad, but it did make me wonder if they had changed the formulation. I’m keeping the original review up, but I don’t think I would recommend this mix at this time! Let’s hope TJ’s gives their formula a tweak and improves the texture of the cake, bringing it up to the standards of the rest of their products.

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  • June
    April 12, 2011

    This is one of our favourite mixes! The chocolate is even better.

    With the golden yellow mix I put in a heaping teaspoon of strong cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of ginger and 1/2 teaspoon of allspice or cloves. Pour it into a rectangle pan and top with a typical streusal mix. It bakes up into the most wonderful spice cake.

    The chocolate version isn’t sicky sweet and doesn’t leave that chemical taste in your mouth. It’s quite dense without being fudgy. It makes the best Black Forest cake ever!

  • Samantha
    April 12, 2011

    I just bought the chocolate mix. Thanks for the review!

  • Good to know! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood there with my hand on that box of mix at Trader Joe’s, wondering if it’s any good. Each time I’ve decided I’d just make my own. It is nice to have a box on hand, though.

  • Yellow Cake Guy
    July 16, 2011

    I bought this cake mix from TJ because I wanted to make my daughter a nice yellow cake with chocolate frosting for her 3rd birthday party. As I was mixing the batter I tasted the batter. It didn’t taste right. It tasted like an old Betty Crocker pancake mix with a hint of cornmeal. I was hoping it would taste like a yellow cake when it was out of the oven. When the cake came out of the oven I waited 20 minutes and tasted it. It tasted like somewhat like a corn muffin….definitely not at all like a yellow cake.

    The next morning after church I went and bought the regular yellow cake mix I usually bake. I love TJ, but I seriously do NOT recommend the yellow cake.

  • Let them eat cake
    August 11, 2011

    I, too, found that this cake tastes almost exactly like TJ’s cornbread and not like cake. I was hoping that it would somehow develop a cake-taste while baking(the batter tasted strange) but it just tasted like cornbread. I am hoping that the chocolate frosting (also from trader joes, really good!) will somehow save it so that my boyfriend can have an edible cake for his birthday. I just wish I had time to make another cake before we celebrate and throw this one out 🙁 NOT RECOMMENDED!

  • Let them eat cake
    August 11, 2011

    p.s. I don’t know how this could have gotten such a great review, maybe they have changed the mix since last reviewed?

  • Cherie
    September 25, 2011

    I think it tastes like cornbread as well! I just finished baking it, and was hoping for better results. Despite 3 eggs and 2 sticks of butter, not good. Hopefully the chocolate it better.

  • Tastes like Cornbread!
    November 8, 2011

    This “cake” tastes exactly like cornbread. I would never buy it again for cake, but I would buy it to use as cornbread. I made this and frosted it with the trader joes chocolate icing. Cornbread, with chocolate icing? YUCK! It was terrible, I threw it out.

  • Maureen
    November 12, 2011

    I just used this batter to make my husband’s birthday cake-I always bake from scratch and he loves Betty Crocker on his bday so this seemed like a good middle ground. After the first bite he asked if I accidentally used pancake mix. I felt something was off since the batter was first mixed-it had the consistency of pancake batter with a cornbread taste. We haven’t had too many misses from TJ’s but this is one we won’t be buying again.

  • Patty
    April 19, 2012

    The first time I made Trader Jo’s yellow cake mix I used olive oil (only oil I keep in the house) instead of buter. I frosted it with the Trader Jo’s white frosting mix (I used butter in that). The cake did sort of taste like cornbread but was good anyway.
    The next time I made it I used butter instead of olive oil in the cake mix. I used cream cheese instead of butter in the white frosting mix.
    The cake didn’t taste like cornbread this time. It tasted more like a nice buttery pound cake. It was delicious with the cream cheese frosting.

  • Robin
    May 6, 2012

    I used 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice and 1/2 cup water for the cake mix and then Patty’s idea of using cream cheese in the white frosting and added 1 tsp lemon extract as well (with a couple drops of yellow to make it look more lemony), it was a hit. People at the party thought the lemon tasted better than the chocolate (which was good too). I also notice when using Cream Cheese in the frosting you need less water otherwise it may turn the consistency of icing.

  • Erin
    May 28, 2012

    Another one that thinks it tastes like cornbread. I hope the Kindergarteners like cornbread with chocolate frosting!

  • Mandy
    June 3, 2012

    Just tried it. Tastes like cornbread, not sweet enough for cupcakes. My toddlers ate it, but my husband and I didn’t like it at all. Threw most of it out.

  • Stephanie
    June 27, 2012

    Love TJ’s however the cake mix was horrible. It tasted exactly like cornbread and I was baking cupcakes for a party. Very disappointing.

  • Sonia
    October 11, 2012

    Sadly, they have discontinued this cake in Sept 2012. I don’t know about the vanilla, but i LOVED the chocolate and the ICING, was to die for!!!! So much better than Better Crocker or Dunkin Hines and all natural ingredients…why would they discontinue this? What other brand can I buy that was all natural that tasted this good? And no, I don’t bake, nor do I want to learn. Just want my Trader Joe box cake back..in Chocolate please!!

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