Before today I'd never really thought about cake mixes. I'd never used one and always felt a bit pompous and arrogant about the fact I always made my own sponges. But I got a Mrs Crimble's Home Bake Muffin and Sponge Mix in order to do my very first product review (get me!).
They promise that the mix is easy to use, creates perfectly yummy gluten free cakes, and is completely reliable; you won't get a duff cake that looks a bit sorry for itself. Well I thought I'd test out these claims...
But then I thought; what do I know? I'm a bit of a food novice, a nobody who just clunks about in the kitchen and makes a mess. No, for this review I'd need a real expert. Someone who actually knows what they're talking about when it comes to cakes.
And that someone is my very best friend Elena, also known as the fabulous Frivolous Mrs D, and the owner of Sugar & Spice (& All Things Iced). She makes cakes for a living you see so I thought I'd rope her in to help me bake and give her professional opinion on the results. She's even a dab hand at making gluten free cakes to order, so I was quietly confident that she'd know what she was talking about.
Now, the product...
At first glance the packaging gets a bit tick from me; simple, colourful, very clearly a gluten free product, eye-catching on a crowded supermarket shelf, and it does what it pretty much says on the hypothetical tin. The instructions for use on the back of the pack were spot-on. I was pleasantly surprised that the instructions were so clear and concise, and also that Mrs Crimble's had included tips on how to diversify the mix by adding different flavourings. Despite us both being quite experienced in the art of baking, I think the instructions would be easy enough to follow for a complete beginner. Inside the box you get a white packet of dry ingredients; none of the suggested additional flavourings are included.
Now, the baking...
I was actually surprised by the use of water in the mix; I had expected milk to be the natural choice so I had to go against my instincts by including it. Mrs Crimble's - I have faith in you.
The method itself is very straight-forward. Firstly whisk together the egg, melted butter, and water in a medium bowl; then add in the dry ingredients from the white packet and any additions you've decided to include from the tips (we included cocoa powder, a little extra sugar, and chocolate chips - as suggested). Then beat the mix together until it resembles a smooth batter; I did this with a fork and although the mix looks like it's gone a bit wrong to start with (a tad dry and lumpy...), a couple of minutes beating with the fork worked a treat. The resulting batter is smooth, thick, and with the addition of cocoa looks delightfully chocolatey.
With the mix you have the option to make one large sponge cake or 6 muffins; we went with the muffin option for today. The next steps are exactly the same as making muffins the old-fashioned way: we divided the mix equally between 6 muffin cases placed in a muffin tin and topped with a few extra chocolate chips for decadence. Then we popped them in the oven; the instructions recommend 10-15 minutes at 190c/170c fan. Ours actually took 17 minutes to cook through completely, but oven times and temperatures do vary and who's going to quibble over 2 minutes? When done remove the muffin tin from the oven and leave the muffins to cool completely before devouring.
Now, the results...
I'll admit that when the muffins first came out of the oven I was a little sceptical. They looked a bit sunken but that was because of my stupidly big muffin tin, not the mix! They didn't quite have the deep chocolate colour I had expected and I thought I'd undercooked them slightly.
However upon tasting my initial doubts were proven completely wrong. The muffins were moist, light, and actually really enjoyable; I never choose to eat muffins when I'm out because I always find them too dry and stodgy but these were vastly different. They were chocolatey but I think they could have done with a little more cocoa powder for more of a chocolate hit. If I didn't know they were gluten free I don't think I would have been able to tell them apart from mainstream muffins; except that Mrs Crimble's had a far better texture in my opinion.
Here's what the expert Elena thought:
"The muffins are light and airy, and they don't suffer from the powdery texture that a lot of gluten free cakes have. I wouldn't be able to tell they were gluten free if I bought them; I'd much rather have one of these than a shop bought muffin!"
I think the beauty of using a mix like this is the ease of use and the fact that they're a lot quicker to make. They're also pretty cost effective if you're only making one batch; it's far more expensive to have to buy a large bag of gluten free flour, sugar, starch, xanthan gum, etc. The reliability is also a massive plus; you don't have to worry that you're going to mess up the ratios of flour to starch and end up with rubbish cakes. And with gluten free baking, which can be intimidating and hit and miss at times, this is a godsend.
|My awkward face...|
I'd thoroughly recommend having a go with this mix if you're short of time, short of money, and short of patience. I guarantee that you can relax, it'll all end up OK.
The only problem is that you can't claim the glory of making fabulous cakes all by yourself...
NB. This product was gifted to me, but this had no reflection on the review itself. The review was unbiased and objective.