Friday, April 30, 2010

It just seems like cheating..

I've never seen the point of cake mixes. How hard is it to sift a few dry ingredients into a bowl? I never thought I'd find myself adding cake mix to my supermarket trolley, but the Edmonds book actually has two whole chapters devoted to recipes based on their cake mixes: 'Baking with Edmonds' and 'Desserts with Edmonds'.

With this in mind, I've been keeping an eye on the cake mix section, and a few weeks ago took advantage of a special and bought a chocolate cake mix. It cost me about $3.50 on special, but I was horrified to see the usual price was $5.65! For what? A bit of flour, sugar, baking powder and cocoa? I've since realised that the one I bought was a sort of deluxe version that also includes a sachet of icing mix. The plain one is a bit cheaper.

The mix sat in my cupboard for several weeks, until yesterday I finally decided to use it for some date caramel bars (p71) last night. I liked the look of the recipe because it seemed rich and decadent: a date and chocolate base iced with caramel icing.

You start by putting the chopped dates in a saucepan with some butter and water. Once the butter has melted, you take it off the heat, let it cool, then add the cake mix and eggs. The result was quite a stiff mixture, but it looked ok once I'd smoothed it into the tin and put it on to bake. Despite my reservations as to the mix, it came out looking and smelling lovely.

Once the base had cooled, I started on the icing. It's quite astonishingly sugary - the main ingredients are 1 cup each of brown sugar and icing sugar. You start by heating the brown sugar in a pan with some butter and a couple of tablespoons of milk. Once the sugar has dissolved, then you take it off the heat, and mix in the icing sugar.

The icing was also pretty thick - it was actually setting as I spread it on the slice. It ended up looking a bit patchy, especially around the edges. But never mind, that doesn't affect the taste! As per the recipe, I cut the slice when the icing was "almost set" i.e immediately. The recipe is supposed to make 16 'bars', but I cut mine into 20 squares, and even then I felt they were bigger than they needed to be - I'd hate to try and get through a full-size bar!

Once again spreading the calories around the office, I took the tidiest pieces into work this morning. The slice had dried out a bit since my 'quality control' tests last night, but it was still quite well received - as a free morning tea usually is!

I'm afraid this slice has not converted me to cake mix. It was nice, but I wouldn't be rushing to make it again. I think I could make a better one from scratch. The icing was very sweet, a bit too much for some people. In contrast, the cake itself is not at all sweet: it has quite a nice cocoa flavour really, but the texture is quite dense (possibly from having the wrong size box of cake mix, but the recipe was unclear about that), and the flavour of the dates is all but lost in the chocolate. Also, it doesn't look like it's going to keep very well - not a plus for a single like me.

There are plenty more cake-mix recipes to try, but they'll have to be a lot more impressive than this one to convince me that cake mixes are worth buying.

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