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Top Pick Of The Week

December 5, 2006
Updated October 2009

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Christmas Bundt
This gorgeous Christmas centerpiece can become a family tradition. We recommend the Bundt Chocolate Macaroon Cake Mix. Photography courtesy of Nordicware.
WHAT IT IS: Gourmet cake mixes and decorative Bundt cake pans.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: The gourmet cake mixes have not one-dimensional flavors, but complex elements. Combined with the festive new Bundt pan designs, edible masterpieces can be made by anyone.
WHY WE LOVE IT: It couldn’t be easier to make something this impressive. (That’s what specialty food is all about!)
WHERE TO BUY IT: NordicWare.com.


Nordicware Bundt Cakes
Page 2: Bundt Cake Mixes

 

This is Page 2 of a five-page review. Click on the black links below to visit other pages.

INDEX OF REVIEW

MORE TO DISCOVER

Bundt Cake Mixes

You could buy yourself a nice gift and get all seven Bundt cake mixes to see what you like best. It may seem like a bit of a luxury, but once you have the boxes in your hands, they will save you time and money. There’s no need to run out and buy an innocuous bottle of wine to bring somewhere when you can bring a cake, for less money and greater impact.

All of the cakes are very moist, classic comfort food. We thought most were excellent—we would have been happy to bake another one the next day, and the next. We had fault with just one, but we’d try it again. (There are also Brownie and Cranberry White Chocolate Scone Mixes that we did not have a chance to try.)  If we had to be picky, it’s that the names of some of the cakes—Chocolate Decadence, Chocolate Macaroon and Cinnamon Streusel—could be more accurate. But that wouldn’t change the taste.

Caramel Apple Spice Cake. A delectable apple spice cake with swirls of caramel in each bite. We baked this mix in the Bouquet Bundt Pan shown below and in the Sweetheart Rose Muffin Pan (the little muffins shown at the top of the page), thinking that it would be a delight for brunches. We were right! Tasting like a wonderful cross between a coffee cake and a gourmet cinnamon bun, this cake’s “surprise” is the apple filling you chop from a fresh apple and toss into the center. With the warm caramel sauce you pour on top (just mix brown sugar and butter with the packet contents), it is a taste of heaven—you can’t help but want another piece. We adored this cake warm out of the oven. At room temperature it was good, but lost the warm “cinnamon bun” magic, even with hot caramel sauce on top. We restored the glory by heating it in the microwave for 15 seconds. We prefer making this recipe in the individual sizes. The muffin size is pretty and perfect for small portions or for tea time, when guests might want an assortment of sweets.

Chocolate Decadence Cake. A moist, lightly textured cake with a surprise swirl of cinnamon inside. Please, marketing people and others in the approval chain: Look up the word “decadent”—a word originating in the self-indulgent behaviors of morally corrupt ancient Romans—and port it over to self-indulgent behaviors of today. Somehow, a piece of chocolate cake doesn’t equate: Repeated benders at Las Vegas buffets might qualify. Either way, this is not an excessively rich or over-the-top chocolate cake. Not only is this a wholesome line of cakes, but to compound the issue, for some reason, this particular mix just wasn’t as captivating as the others (not as complex, not as “gourmet,” not as chocolatey as the other chocolate cakes). Using the required butter and sour cream with a Duncan Hines Devil’s Food Cake mix produced a result that was preferred by our tasters. We’ll make this flavor again to see if it changes our minds. But until then, more excitement awaits.

Christmas Bundt
Imagine a Chocolate Macaroon Bundt in this festive 3-D Christmas Tree. Decorate with icing and miniature candies.

Chocolate Decadence Cake MixChocolate Decadence Cake Mix—not “decadent,”
but a wholesome chocolate Bundt cake recipe.

Chocolate Macaroon Bundt. Chocolate Macaroon, a “tunnel of coconut” version of the famous Tunnel of Fudge cake, was the top selling mix in the original Chocolate Macaroon Cake Mixline of Bundt mixes by Pillsbury, and one wonders why other major mix lines have not been successful with some type of chocolate coconut cake. It seems that people on every recipe website lament the original, discontinued mix and have created a recipe to replace it. Now, anyone who would rather buy the gourmet mix rather than blend together 15 or more ingredients, will be glad to hear of its return. Almond Joy® and Mounds® lovers who never knew it in the first place will be thrilled that there is a cake version of their favorite candy. As with Tunnel of Fudge, one of the tube-style bundts is needed for the tunnel to develop (shown on the box is the Tunnel of Bundt pan, specially developed for tunnel cake-lovers). We personally love the combination of chocolate and coconut, and made this cake especially festive by purchasing coconut shavings at our specialty food store and adding them to the top of the cake with a vanilla glaze: 2 cups of sifted confectioners’ sugar blended with 1 tablespoon of softened butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of milk. It looks like snow on the mountaintops, perfect for winter or for your favorite skier. In terms of the name Chocolate Macaroon, if you had not known about the previous mix, would the name evoke a chocolate and coconut cake? For a gourmet audience, “macaroon” can mean three things, ranging from almond meringue to meringue-ganache cookie sandwich, and only lastly to chewy coconut confection, which is what “chocolate macaroon” sounds like to us (read our History Of The Macaroon). Putting “Coconut” in the title will excite coconut lovers and prevent purchases from people who don’t like the stuff. Evidently, Nordic Ware has been apprised of this confusion: while the boxes say “Chocolate Macaroon,” on the website the product is called Chocolate/Coconut Macaroon Bundt Mix.

Cinnamon Streusel Cake. A moist, buttery cake with a cinnamon swirl, this is a delicious cake for breakfast, brunch, tea time or any time. The scent of cinnamon fills the kitchen, and warm from the oven or eaten at room temperature, this cake  is a delight. Except for the name again. Nag we must, for streusel (correctly pronounced STROI-zuhl, Americanized to STROO-zuhl) is a crumblike topping made of flour, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon that is used to top coffeecakes, fruit crisps and other baked goods. Streusel is German for “granules,” not for “cinnamon swirl.” The crumbs sit on top of the cake, the swirl appears inside the cake. As long as you understand the difference, proceed to bake this tasty cinnamon swirl cake as often as you like. And understand that, in our job as food educators, our wish is to move forward with enlightening rather than clear up confusion (see next entry).

Holiday Tree Bundt
These two holiday bundt pans are available in gift sets
with a box of our favorite Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake Mix for $40.00. Pan only, $35.00. Above, Holiday Tree Cake Pan.

Wreath Bundt
Holiday Wreath Cake Pan—available by itself or in a
gift set with a box of Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake Mix
(shown above, baked in pan).

Mocha Latte Bundt Coffee Cake. Why not start each Sunday with a fresh-baked coffee cake? There’s no reason to settle for anything commercial when it’s so easy to whip this one up. If you have children old enough to use the oven, you can train them to do it: There’s incentive to make this sophisticated coffee cake with notes of coffee and chocolate (the “mocha”) and cream (not exactly “latte,” which is espresso and steamed milk). Nordic Ware sells a traditional coffee cake ring pan if you prefer that shape; or let the kids bake a coffee cake Sand Castle (every mix is interchangeable with every pan, excepting the “tunnels”). That’s a double incentive.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake. This is a popular British flavor that is not well-known across the pond. Why, in 300 years, sticky toffee pudding has not become popular, we can’t guess: For us it was love at first bite. To those whose experience with Sticky Toffee Pudding is limited to the Häagen-Daz special edition flavor of this past summer: While that ice cream is rich and very sweet, this cake is restrained and elegant. Buy a box and create this exquisite cake, which is dense and has the rich flavor of caramel. It also has a terrific toffee sauce (the "sticky toffee," mixed from a separate packet with a stick of butter), better than we have made from any recipe. In fact, we would love to be able to buy the toffee sauce mix to pour on all of our desserts. We made this cake in the Sand Castle Bundt. Guests who were not smitten by the castle were slayed by the taste. The toffee sauce brings just the right amount of extra sweetness, yet it is very delicious without the topping for those who wish for a lighter dessert (and it leaves more sticky toffee for us). Hedonists: we added plain vanilla ice cream and it was a slam dunk. The Sticky Toffee Pudding Häagen-Daz didn’t work here, but really fixed up Chocolate Decadence.

Tunnel Of Fudge. The recipe that started the Bundt craze, this mix needs to be made in one of the tube-shaped Bundt pans to enable the tunnel to form. The taste was splendid, as one might have expected. Unfortunately for us and the tunnel, the floppy red silicone pan with which we had replaced our original Bundt pan has proven very unsatisfactory.* Perhaps as a result, the fudge tunnel ended up on the bottom of the cake, not more toward the center. We blame it on the pan, not on the batter. Another of the mixes we made in the silicone pan had baking problems, too. Everything made in a metal pan from Bundt was problem-free, even the most complex designs, where one might not have believed the cake would emerge from the pan in one piece.

*Silicone bakeware was supposed to create non-stick, pop-out baking; instead our cake pans buckle and produce lopsided results—and they aren’t stick-proof, either. The manufacturer says we have an early edition and that the silicone he uses has since been improved; but he did not offered to replace the various pans we purchased with the “better” product so we could see if there is a difference. There are several brands of Silicone bakeware available; rather than indict our brand, we’ll plan a “bake-off” with the top 4 brands next year.

 

Continue To Page 3: Entertaining With Bundt Cakes

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