“What are you up to?” my mom asked me on Tuesday night.
“Making Betty Crocker cupcakes…”
Her deafening momentary silence was followed by a near-horrified gasp. “What?!”
See? Even my own mother knows that I just don’t do boxed cake mixes. It’s been literally years since I’ve purchased one. Not an act of snobbery; I just like to know exactly what I’m eating. If something contains a number of ingredients I can’t begin to pronounce, chances are it’s not finding its way to my tummy.
Enter September, 2012. Following an overnight decision to eliminate gluten from my diet (more on that in a future post), I had to make huge adjustments in how I cook and how I bake. Cooking is the easy part. Baking? It’s like learning to ride a bike all over again. Though I know how to combine ingredients for doughs, batters and the like, the actual in-oven baking process of gluten-free goods is much, much different.
Rather than waste my hard-earned cash on the often expensive ingredients required for gluten-free baking, I considered my purchase of the Betty Crocker Gluten Free cake mixes to be a quick crash course in the science of cupcakes. Without gluten, baked goods don’t always react like they should.
I purchased both the golden yellow and devil’s food flavours in the interest of a balanced experiment. Each required a handful of eggs, water, butter and – in the case of the golden yellow mix – vanilla extract. Preparing the batter is no different than preparing any other box batter: dump the mix in a bowl, add your wet ingredients and let the mixer run its course for a few minutes.
One thing to bear in mind – both when baking either wheat-based or gluten-free treats – is that both the speed and length of time you mix for can matter very much to how your final product turns out. Normally I tend to eyeball a batter and decide when it’s ready based on how it looks. Betty Crocker’s instructions were to mix the batter vigourously once blended for two minutes, so I actually set the timer on my phone.
Something I noticed about the batter as I poured it into the tins was the consistency. Though still silky smooth, it appeared to have a slightly granular texture to it which is something I’m not familiar with in cake or cupcake batters. Once the tins were in the oven, I licked the spoon (always lick the spoon – it’s rule no. 1!) to confirm the granular texture. However, once the cupcakes were done baking, the texture was exactly as you’d expect from any cupcake.
Each mix supposedly yields a mere one dozen cupcakes (about half that of a traditional box mix), but I managed to easily get 16 cupcakes from the devil’s food batter and 14 cupcakes from the golden yellow batter. Each required the maximum baking time suggested in lined non-stick trays and by that time they were baked perfectly. The toothpicks came out clean.
I’d read a few reviews online about this product, prior to purchasing it, and there were mixed results and reviews. Many people seemingly had difficulty getting the cupcakes to either taste right or bake properly. I’m a firm believer that, in cases like these, if you stick to the instructions and avoid improvisation, you’ll probably end up with a successful end product.
Why was I making these boxed cupcakes in the first place, you ask? In the spirit of All Hallows’ Eve, our office was having a “witching hour” with tasty treats and I offered to bring these little nuggets of sugary deliciousness. Naturally the cupcakes needed to be appropriately decorated.
Though I initially wanted to make cutcakes, I decided against something so time consuming as sugar glass on a post-yoga school night, so I went with piped buttercream in mummy and candy corn designs instead. Needless to say, my Halloween cupcakes were a delightful hit amongst my co-workers and none could even tell that they were gluten-free.
So the question remains: would I whip up a box of Betty Crocker Gluten Free cake mix again? Sure – but only in a pinch. It’s a fast and simple way to bring a gluten-free treat to the table. However, if I had more time (which I didn’t on Tuesday night), I’d stick to my old-fashioned guns and start from scratch.
Have you tried baking one of the Betty Crocker Gluten Free cake mixes? If so, did it work for you? Would you make it again?