Tried and Tested – Ready-Make Cake Mixes
Tesco Free From Vanilla Sponge Mix 350g, £1.70, tesco.com
Requiring just 3 eggs, 140g unsalted butter and a splash of water, this cake mix replaces wheat flour with rice flour, potato and tapioca starch to make a surprisingly light and fluffy sponge. The thick batter was easier to mix with an electric whisk but it was also possible to do it with a hand whisk. It cooked in the time stated, 20-22 minutes, and held its shape well – not getting too ‘crumby’ when filling with butter cream. The flavour was as delicious on the day it was made as it was the day after. Very popular with tasters who could not tell it was gluten free.
Best lemon drizzle
Sainsbury’s Lemon Cake Mix with zesty lemon icing 470g, £1.90, sainsburys.co.uk
Easy-to-use instructions on the box, with little illustrations alongside, would make using this to bake with children great fun. This mix needed 2 eggs, vegetable oil and some lemon juice (for the drizzle) to make the sponge, filling and drizzle. Each sachet in the box was clearly labelled. The finished cake was a good size and depth with a commendable fluffy texture. The filling and topping had a great lemony tang without any artificial aftertaste. The cake remained fresh the day after.
Simply add 2 eggs, 100ml semi-skimmed milk and 4 tbsp of vegetable oil to the sponge mix and whisk for 2 minutes. Split the mixture between two 8in round tins and bake for 15-20 minutes. Then beat125g softened butter until soft and fluffy before adding the sachet of frosting. The instructions claimed there would be sufficient frosting to sandwich both cakes together and to cover the top and sides, but we found there was only enough for the middle and top. However, the finished cake was a lovely colour, rose well with visible bits of real carrot and a good carrot cake taste. The topping was delicious and it stayed moist for several days.
Best chocolate brownie
Asda Extra Special Belgian Chocolate & Salted Caramel Brownie 300g, £2, asda.com
We discovered that not all brownies are created equal and that this really was the champion. We also really loved that it is baked in the box it came in. Making it was a two-stage process. You start by melting 60g butter in a microwave with the sachet of chocolate chunks. Add 2 eggs to the packet mix and stir with a wooden spoon, then add the chocolatey butter and pour into the box. To make the salted caramel, tip the sachet
of caramel into a pan and add 50ml of semi-skimmed milk, bring to the boil while vigorously whisking – kids will love how it suddenly foams when done. Pour this into the box and swirl with a knife before baking in the oven on a low heat for 45 minutes. The end result was a dense, moist brownie with a heavenly chocolate flavour, well balanced with a salty sweet tang.
Best chocolate cake
This was the lightest sponge tested that was also moist and chocolaty – and made enough for 12 good-sized slices. Add 125ml vegetable oil, 230ml water and 3 medium free-range eggs and whizz them up with the packet mix before splitting between two 8in cake tins – or one deep-sided 10in tin. The cake rose beautifully and when cooled and topped with Betty Crocker Tempting Chocolate Icing (£2.50), the result was a delicious, moreish cake that had everyone coming back for an extra slice. It also stayed fresh for three days – if it lasts that long!
Best Victoria sponge
ASDA Victoria Sponge Cake Mix 480g, £1.75 asda.com
This had everything in one box, including the jam, filling and extra icing sugar to put on the top for that ‘shop bought’ finish – you just need to add 2 eggs and some butter. The cake rose beautifully and had a light fluffy sponge that was a perfect Victoria sponge pale yellow. Our testers felt it needed a little extra jam to boost what was provided, but the butter cream pack made up a good amount of creamy filling, which was nice and sweet.