Ever wonder about a mix you've seen in the store? Is it any good? Could it replace something you'd otherwise make from scratch? Welcome to Mixed Review, where the whole point is putting mixes to the test! —The Mgmt.
Duncan Hines recently introduced a new line of "decadent" cake mixes that look much fancier and more upscale than the traditional Classic Yellow and Chocolate Fudge varieties. This week, I tried out the apple caramel version.
The picture on the box was of a thick square of cake shot through with rivers of golden, gooey caramel. With a few fresh apple slices alongside, it looked like the perfect after-school snack—though I did find the tagline "Contains a pouch of real ingredients" a bit disconcerting.
The box actually contains two packets: one of cake mix and one of caramel mix. The first step is to prepare the caramel mix by stirring it with 1/3 cup of water, 1 tablespoon of oil, and an egg. The caramel mix behaved a lot like instant pudding: at first it was rather viscous and grainy, but after standing for a few minutes it transformed into a thick caramel gel.
Next I stirred the cake mix with 1 cup of water, 1/3 cup of oil, and 3 eggs. The cake batter was pretty much indistinguishable from regular plain ol' cake mix batter, but it was scattered with tiny nuggets of dried apple, each about the size of a grain of Israeli couscous.
Finally I swirled the cake batter and the caramel together in two round 8-inch pans (you can also use a 9x13-inch pan, or a Bundt pan), and slid them into the oven. I appreciated how quick and simple the mix was to prepare. From start to finish it took me less than five minutes, and I only used two bowls, a spoon, and a knife.
When my cakes emerged from the oven they had burnished, golden-brown tops. The swirls of caramel looked enticingly sticky and sweet, even if they were a bit sunken. I cut a thick wedge and dug in.
Much as I wanted to love this mix (caramel apple cake in under five minutes!), the flavor just wasn't up to par. I couldn't detect any tart, fruity apple. Worse, the caramel tasted a lot like pancake syrup. The consistency of the cake was nice and moist but in the end it was far too sweet. While this cake wasn't for me, I do think it would make an excellent breakfast treat for little kids. Bake it up in a muffin pan—breakfast cupcakes, anyone?