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Taste Test: Gingerbread Mixes

Slideshow SLIDESHOW: Taste Test: Gingerbread Mixes

[Photographs: Christine Tsai]

The Winners!

Best: King Arthur Flour

Runners-up: Williams-Sonoma and Trader Joe's

We love dark, spicy, molasses-laced gingerbread. Of course, there are tons of recipes for baking it from scratch. Dorie Greenspan's version includes bittersweet chocolate. My recipe has German doppelbock beer and plums. But sometimes you need a quick baking fix.

Gingerbread mixes are a great option when you're short on time or incorporating the gingerbread into a larger dessert, say a trifle.

Which brand to choose? We tested five total: three available at supermarkets (Betty Crocker, Krusteaz, Trader Joe's) and two specialty brands (Williams-Sonoma and King Arthur Flour).

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From left: Williams-Sonoma, Betty Crocker, Trader Joe's, Krusteaz, King Arthur Flour.

The Criteria

  • Texture: Gingerbread is a hearty cake. It should be a bit thicker and more toothsome than say, a fluffy yellow cake. But it shouldn't be dry, leaden, or loafy. Gingerbread should definitely be moist, but not cross over the line into greasy, gummy, or sticky territory.
  • Taste: The spices should be a well-balanced blend of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom. It should also taste of molasses. While it should taste sweet, the sugar should play second fiddle to the spices.

Why the Losers Lost

The Krusteaz mix was our least favorite; Betty Crocker was a close second-to-last. Our main criticisms were that they lacked spice, tasted bland overall, and their textures were too gummy and sticky.

The Winner

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Our favorite by just a smidge was King Arthur Flour. It had a moist, cakey texture and the most spice action. It reminded us of homemade versions, and that's the highest form of praise in this tasting.

The Runners-Up

Nipping at the heels of King Arthur Flour were two mixes: Williams-Sonoma and the Trader Joe's. We loved King Arthur Flour's ginger-rooty flavor and the tiny bits of crystallized ginger, but overall the texture was a bit too dense and dry. Trader Joe's was definitely the most molassesy but some testers found it a bit overpowering.

Read more about all the gingerbread mixes in the slideshow ยป

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