Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Review: Betty Crocker GF Yellow Cake Mix

Well, it was inevitable. Our little micro-Wal-Mart finally got in some of the Betty Crocker Gluten Free Mixes. I was ready to try yet another yellow cake in the search for an acceptable mix. So far I have a wonderful recipe for a GF pound cake, but none of my baking efforts have yielded a tasty regular yellow cake with the light texture and not overly sweet taste. On to the review!

First off, the price: 5/10 At $3.79 per 10 serving box it is run of the mill on the gluten free side of things, but far more expensive than the $1.29 mixes that were right beside it. Not too bad though, considering that I just saw another GF cake mix that was $7.99 (but it would do two layers of an 8x8... so... it is a draw).

Next the ingredients: 10/10 Nothing that I would not regularly use in my own cakes (rice flour, potato/tapioca starches, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt). So that was a nice change from the ingredients lists as long as my arm on many GF products.

Onward to Cooking: 10/10 Once again, nothing really new here. Beat three eggs, some water and some vanilla together for two-three minutes till well combined. Pour into your mold of choice--for me it was a muffin tin filled with ungreased liners. (It has high altitude directions which boil down to cooking at 350F for all pans and to use slightly less batter in each cupcake tin.) I got 18 medium cupcakes out of the mix according to the directions and that included me licking the bowl and spatula clean of their gooey goodness.

Preliminary Taste Test (batter): 5/10 Because I am one of "those" people who like cake batter, I had to try it. Sure enough, it tastes like yellow cake batter... but a little more sweet and it had the familiar grittiness that white rice flour lends to everything it touches. Overall not unexpected, not like regular wheat flour, but not overly bad either.

Out of the Oven: 8/10 As soon as the timer went off for 18 minutes I tested the cupcakes and they were just done and ready to come out and greet the world. They rose nicely and gained about 1/4 to 1/3 of their height while in the oven. (Some of that rising did wear off as they cooled, but nothing substantial.) I used two different "pans" for baking the cupcakes: one regular dark muffin pan and several silicone muffin molds on a dark pan base. Both form types contained paper liners and both rose equally well and held their shapes. I popped them all out of the pans and onto a cooling rack.

And into my Mouth: 7/10 I let them cool slightly before attempting to burn my fingers on freshly baked cake. I tried one from the silicone mold approach and one from the regular pan--just for scientific data points mind you... I would never pig out on cakey goodness... never... much. The cupcake baked in the metal muffin tin did not want to separate from the paper and I lost some of the cake to the liner (which I then nibbled off later, but that is not the point). The one from the silicone mold separated easily from the liner and had a slightly better texture all around, more cakey and less grainy. I am assuming that the way the silicone cupped the wrapper and cake lended itself to better hydration of the rice flour, but I am not 100% sure on that. Both were very nice and I gladly had another cake. One thing I noticed (that I have been bothered by in other cake mixes) is that they tried to make up for a lack of flour flavor by adding too much sugar. It is okay and not overwhelming like past mixes that I have tried, but I think that they still could use less sugar and have it turn out better.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 Overall it is a good mix and I will probably buy it again if for no other reason than so I can mimic and tweak it to my homemade tastes. I prefer to make as much of my baked goods and food overall at home from scratch since it tends to be cheaper and (normally) healthier for me. It would be great for anyone who needs to bake a cake for a child, and the kid could even help make it without too many problems. I am pleased that it worked at the 4500ft altitude here and held its shape, as many of the mixes I have tried used too much leavening and it rose too much and collapsed. I do wish that the price was lower as the mix does only make a small amount, but it is standard for the GF market. I also am pleased that it is being carried by a national chain so that everyone can have access to a decent GF product--even if it is not the best that could possibly be made.

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