I have never had a lot of success with making cakes from scratch. Perhaps that is because I grew up with cake-mix cakes and continued to make into my adult life. I’ve tried many homemade cake recipes and while some taste good, I can’t ever recall one that tastes GREAT.
I really love cake. You can see that my first couple posts on this blog are about cake. Cake soothes me. Sounds silly, I am sure, but when I bite into cake, it makes me forget the world around me. I don't make it often as I eat way too much of it when it's around but I usually keep a couple cake mixes in my cupboard. Recently though, I've not felt very good about using them. Since I have made cakes from scratch, I see what goes into them and it’s quite simple. When I look at the ingredient list of a cake mix I see a lot of mystery ingredients. Take a look for yourself:
Supermarket Brand Name Chocolate Cake Mix: sugar, enriched bleached wheat flour (flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), vegetable oil shortening (partially hydrogenated soybean oil, propylene glycol mono- and diesters of fats, mono and diglycerides), cocoa powder processed with alkali, dextrose, leavening (sodium bicarbonate, dicalcium phosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate), contains 2% or less of: modified food starch, wheat starch, polyglycerol esters of fatty acids, salt, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, cellulose gum, xanthan gum, maltodextrin, artificial flavors.
What’s a diester? What’s a polyglycerol ester of fatty acids? I looked a few of the ingredients up and still can’t tell you what they are. I know that my cake recipes never asked me to hunt down those ingredients.
I kept putting off buying a Trader Joe’s (Trader Josef’s) cake mix because of the price. I know I mention price a lot and I do hope that you don’t think that I am cheap. If you read the previous post you may understand where I am coming from when I mention the cost of food products that I discuss in my posts. You see, a Trader Joe’s cake mix costs $2.99. You can get a brand name cake mix at Target or Walmart for usually less than $1.50. It’s twice as much. Yes, I do know we are talking $1.50 versus $3.00 and not $150 versus $300 but it still all adds up.
Well, one day I did it. I bought that chocolate Trader Joe’s cake mix. It was worth every one of the three dollars that it cost. I opted to use the ½ cup of butter instead of the ½ cup of oil. It also calls for 3 eggs and water. It was as easy as making any other cake mix but the results were amazingly different.
This cake resembled what I had always longed for in my attempts at homemade cakes. It was not fluffy like a regular cake mix but dense, in a good way. It had a great, deep chocolate flavor. It tasted to me what cake should taste and I now know that spending the $3 to ensure that I have a homemade tasting cake with the ease of a mix is well worth it.
Here are the ingredients in the Trader Joe’s chocolate cake mix:
Trader Joes Chocolate Cake Mix: sugar, unbleached enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, may contain malted barley flour, enzymes, ascorbic acid), cocoa (processed with alkali), cornstarch, leavening (sodium bicarbonate, sodium acid pyrophosphate), soybean oil, salt, buttermilk, natural vanilla flavor.
See how many fewer ingredients are in it? Everything besides the cornstarch are ingredients I’ve used in homemade cake mixes and I love that it uses unbleached flour, unlike the brand name mix. It’s simple and it tastes absolutely amazing.
I topped my cake mix with a basic chocolate frosting, something along the lines of this recipe. Trader Joe’s does make a frosting mix as well. However, I have no problems with making my own frosting so I don’t usually buy frosting unless I am taking whatever it is I’ve frosted somewhere where it will be sitting outside since it’s a little more stable than homemade in warmer weather.
If you are like me and cakes are one of your weaker areas or you just need a quick to make dessert, I hope you will consider trying Trader Joe’s cake mix next time you have a need for cake. If you do not have a Trader Joe’s around, I know that Dr. Oetker makes an organic cake mix. I’ve never tried them but the ingredient list is similar to Trader Joe’s and there’s that added bonus that it is all organic. I’d love to hear if anyone has tried the Dr. Oetker brand because they have a couple more flavor choices than Trader Joe’s…ya know, in case I ever get sick of yellow or chocolate.