If you were gluten-free fifteen years ago, baking a cake wasn't as easy as opening up a box of baking mix. The only way to enjoy cake would be to either make cupcakes from scratch using a slew of costly gluten-free products or purchase a cake from a specialty bakery. Today, top companies are including gluten-free baking options such as cake, cookies, and even bread mixes to accommodate gluten-intolerant folks who love baked goods.
My husband's grandfather (my grandfather-in-law?) who we refer to as Papaw, was diagnosed with celiac disease only a few years ago. Since then, he's been on a strict no-gluten diet, which can sometimes be hard. "It's just three ingredients I can't have," he shares in his Appalachian accent, "Wheat, barley, and rye, but it's practically in everything on the face of the earth."
According to a study by Nils-Gerrit Wunsch, the global gluten-free food market value is predicted to rise from 5.6 billion to 8.3 in only four years. This is great for those with gluten intolerance because it makes room for more products to consume and buy.
This brings us to today's test: gluten-free chocolate cake mix. My small town's grocery store had three different types of gluten-free chocolate cake mixes to choose from when I visited the other day. Armed with cake mixes and gluten-free frosting, I decided to cook each box up, test them out, then drop off the best gluten-free cake at my husband's grandparent's home as a sweet surprise.
Each cake recipe was baked according to its packaging and topped with the same frosting.
3. Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Chocolate Cake
Established in 1978, this Oregon-based whole-grain and health food company was one of the first gluten-free mills in 1991. Today the employee-owned company produces over 117 gluten-free products such as gluten-free flours (rice flour, almond flour) to gluten-free yellow cake mix and their 1:1 gluten-free baking flour.
I was expecting this mix to come out on top due to its price and brand, however, it was our least favorite of the bunch. Made with eggs, milk, oil, and boiling water, this cake has the lowest rise and lacked sweetness. It also had a chemical aftertaste that I couldn't get behind. It also had the longest list of ingredients.
2. King Arthur Baking Company Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix
Formally known as King Arthur Flours, the Vermont-based company sells a variety of gluten-free baking mixes, brownie mixes, cookie mixes, and flour blends.
Of the three mixes, this one was the only one that was also dairy-free. The ingredient list was also simple and included cane sugar, rice flour, cocoa, tapioca starch, emulsifier (rice starch) baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum. Of the three cakes, this one also had the best crumb and when chewed, it felt like you were digging into a regular layer cake or birthday cake.
The bake time on this one took longer than stated on the box by a few minutes. If I had to pick a non-dairy cake to bring to a party for someone with an allergen, I would bring this one.
1. Ingles Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix
I had low expectations for this mix since it's a store brand, however, I was pleasantly surprised at how much this cake mix tasted like a homemade chocolate cake. Unlike the others, this recipe called for a stick of softened butter, which added a lovely richness to the batter. The ingredients included cane sugar, brown and white rice flour, cocoa powder, potato starch, tapioca starch, baking powder, sunflower lecithin, xanthan gum, and natural vanilla flavor. It was also the cheapest option of the bunch.
On my lunch break, we loaded up the car with the winner and headed up the mountain to my husband's family holler. We dropped off the cake to his grandparents and waved as we drove past his uncle leaf blowing the road as the family cattle looked on.
It was a fine cake, according to Papaw.
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