Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Betty Crocker Goes Gluten Free: Our Test Kitchen Version

GF_Images_Box_DevilsWhen Betty Crocker offers gluten free cake mixes, you know that Celiac has become mainstream. The story about how the corporation came to develop gluten free products is on the box. A familiar tale - a child of an employee and a test kitchen employee were diagnosed with Celiac. No one wanted to leave them out of the joy of being able to eat Betty Crocker baked goods. Thus a rationale for the development of a new product was born.

Betty Crocker offers a chocolate devil's food and yellow gluten free cake mix. A gluten free chocolate chip cookie and brownie mix can be had as well. Their website offers a variety of recipes using each product.

In our test kitchen, we are mixing up the chocolate cake mix into cupcakes, adding a Betty Crocker frosting-in-the-can that seems to have no offending gluten ingredients, but is not labeled gluten free. One can assume that if they have gone to the trouble of developing a gluten free baking mix, the frosting will soon follow. Until then, finding the product that does not contain gluten is tricky because some do, and some do not. It pays to read carefully, or make your own from scratch.

We paired the chocolate cupcakes with Betty Crocker chocolate chocolate chip frosting.

Better with homemade frosting, or none at all

First, read the instructions and ingredients list on the box carefully. Gluten free is not fool proof entirely. The ingredients list is a tutorial in how the final product, once baked, might taste. The first ingredient listed is sugar. No decent cake should have sugar as the primary ingredient, even a gluten free cake. Especially a gluten free cake. But with a little innovation, you can improve the flavor.

The box requires that you add a stick of softened butter, some water, and eggs.

Always use unsalted butter. Water is a good because it blooms the cocoa powder and eggs are necessary. To this we added extra cocoa powder, some finely ground espresso (decaf) coffee, a tiny bit of vanilla and almond flavoring, a spoonful of sour cream, and one additional egg to compensate for the additional dry ingredients. The addition of unsweetened cocoa powder will cut back on the sweetness and enhance the chocolate flavor.

The Enhanced Ingredient List

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, very soft
  • 1 cup of hot water (not boiling)
  • 3 jumbo eggs or 4 large eggs (at room temp if you can)
  • splash of vanilla and almond flavoring or liquor
  • heaping tablespoon of sour cream
  • 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of finely ground espresso beans


Preheat the oven to 325. Make sure butter is very soft, but not melted. Eggs at room temperature mix better. Mix everything on low speed until incorporated. Mix for 2 minutes on medium speed until fluffy. Scoop into cupcake pan (using paper liners) about 3/4 full. Bake about 22 minutes at 325 degrees. Toothpick should come out clean.

Cool and frost. Leave them out until frosting sets. If you cover them before that happens, the canned frosting will slide off overnight. Blah.

baked and cooling - they tasted best plain!

The Critique

Grainy - Not a bad mix, but they could use a better grade of gluten free flour that is not as grainy. That happens a great deal with commercially prepared gluten free products. There is no need for that anymore. Really finely ground gluten free flours are available these day.

Too Sweet - No adult would really enjoy a cake that sweet. It had to be cut with lots of unsweetened cocoa to lighten up the sweetness.

Overall Flavor - The initial flavor would have been flat. It needed a boost with the vanilla, almond or liquor. But it is a decent basic cake if you cut the sweetness.

Going Back for More? - Maybe. Probably would avoid having to do that, but in a pinch, with some modification, it might be a timesaver. But never would use that frosting again. It was pretty much the worst frosting we ever tasted. It could use substantial improvement but is not worth the effort. Would make our own next time, or just use a ganache.

Grade - A++ for the effort and production of a gluten free product. C + for the chocolate cake mix with sugar as the lead ingredient. And an F- for any of the Betty Crocker canned frostings.

just frosted, but later it all slid off the cupcakes...
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