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Monday, January 18, 2010

Pamela's Gluten Free Classic Vanilla Cake Mix Review

Gluten Free Dairy Free Cupcake

Behold, the Cupcake. The Gluten Free Cupcake. The Gluten Free, Dairy Free Cupcake. Dude.  Now, bear with me, I'm going to wax a bit...well, dreamy. The Cupcake, you see, may very well represent all that is good and decent and pure in the world. Stay with me. A handful of delight, a perfect serving of sweetness, that little touch of love at the end of the day. We're not talking about some clunky piece of cake here. Not some layered monstrosity of mousse and cream and hardened icing rosettes. Never a hunk of gooey sludge you must squish down with a cool glass of milk to slick the way. But rather, the very symbol of simple satisfaction, a diminutive delight, a nod to your sugar craving without completely losing your head. An homage to the art of satiation. In a world of excess, waste, instant and overwhelming gratification, inflated serving sizes and general disproportion, we still have the noble little Cupcake to remind us, "slow down, take a breath, savor each bite, moment, smile".

Gluten Free Cupcake

Or maybe it's just so fucking good that I've completely lost it and moved into Nutberg. I've been craving cupcakes for, well, about 22 years so this week seemed as good a time as any to make some treats. To be honest, I've been a bit turned off to Pamela's products (aside from the GF Bread Mix) because of their use of milk, almond flour and chocolate chips which may contain milk. I just feel that it's a bit irresponsible to use dairy in a GF product when about 50% of Celiacs can't consume dairy. Also, nuts? Why? Hello allergen, nice to meet you in my Gluten Free product. It just doesn't make sense to me to use known allergens in a product made specifically for people who are already hyper-sensitive to a variety of foods.

In any case, I picked up a bag of Pamela's Classic Vanilla Cake Mix in the hopes that it would live up to my deepest and wildest Cupcake Dreams. I conjured visions of fluffy, delightfully - yet not too - sweet, soft, dewy, golden, perfectly rounded single serving puffs of joy. Is that so much to ask?

Pamela's Products Classic Vanilla Cake Mix, 21-Ounce Bags (Pack of 6)What I got was so very close to my sugar coated visions - the amazement was heard throughout my building. They rose and plumped up perfectly, had a perky golden color, and represented the Cupcake community - GF or otherwise - most admirably. When nibbling on these sweet little noms it's like sinking into a pillow of win. Perfectly soft, delectably light, fluffy, oh so fluffy. That awesome, airy softness gluten provides so nicely? Mimicked awesomely in these GF counterparts. They're like little Cupcake ninjas, as if they're truly Glutened Cakes waltzing around incognito.

I have but one qualm with these GF cupcakes, and I'm really wrestling with myself on this one. I did feel that the taste...left a tad bit to be desired. Don't get me wrong - they were yummy. I just can't help but feel that maybe adding a little vanilla next time...or something might kick them up a notch. It must also be noted that they chose a Tapioca Starch/White Rice Flour/Potato Flour combo which - frankly - will just by nature leave the flavor caboose behind. White rice? Potato? Are there any two things in flour form with less flavor on the planet? I firmly believe that anything will taste better with a selection of Buckwheat/Millet/Quinoa flour backing it up. Maybe Pamela's configuration makes for the super fluffiness, who knows, I'm not a big time baker. I've seen more manufactured products using Buckwheat flour lately, I hope more chime in.

Tips for more fully enjoying your GF Cupcakes

  • The directions suggest an additional egg to make a fluffier Cupcake (that makes four eggs!) which I definitely added. I would suggest doing the same.
  • Straight from the oven were certainly best but unless you plan on eating them in one sitting (not recommended) you have to store them. I put all my Cupcakes (unfrosted) into plastic containers and kept them in the fridge. They held up great. 
  • When I wanted to eat one I would take my frosting out of the fridge and let it soften up at room temperature for maybe 10 minutes. 
  • To achieve the awesome softness I speak of at length even after refrigeration: microwave your Cupcake for about 5-7 seconds. Allow your Cupcake to cool a bit before applying your frosting, otherwise the frosting will melt and that is annoying, trying to catch dripping frosting greatly reduces your enjoyment/slow savoring of said Cupcake. (Note: Please observe if you have used the foil type of Cupcake tins. If so, please do not microwave without removing :) )
  • I would seriously consider making your own frosting over buying the ones you will see in your local GF aisle. Paying 6 or 7 bucks for a mix and then the same amount for frosting is just ludicrous. Plus, making it yourself means you can have a whole plethora of flavors.

Simple Frosting
This really isn't a measuring thing.

  • Spectrum Naturals Organic Shortening (or butter of your choice)
  • Confectioner's Sugar
  • Milk (Cow, Rice, Coconut, or a variety of your choice)
  • Unsweetened Coco Powder
  • Optional: Peppermint Oil, Orange Extract, Coffee, Vanilla, puree fruit, amaretto etc. 
Put a few spoonfulls of your shortening (or butter) into a large bowl or plastic container. If you're using butter either let it soften naturally or cream it with a fork. Pour in maybe a 1/2 cup of sugar. Start with a splash of milk. Begin stirring these together vigorously. You will notice as they come together that it's starting to get that 'frosting' look. If it's too runny, add more sugar. Stir in the coco powder until it reaches the level of chocolately-ness you desire. Add in any additional flavorings you may want or leave out the chocolate and have a white frosting. If you've mixed this in a plastic container you can simply put the lid on when you're done an store it in the fridge until you're ready for another cupcake.


  1. Great photos as always!

    And I love the product reviews. Frankly, almost every gluten free mix I've tried so far has tasted practically inedible. So it's nice to know which ones are worth buying.

  2. Good to know =D. I'm not a big mix girl, but I'll keep that in mind!

  3. I need photography lessons from you. :)

    I have yet to find a fabulous vanilla cake mix or recipe. However, if you ever make it up to Pittsburgh, there's a little GF/DF bakery there called Gluuteny that makes the best darned vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting I've ever had. I beg my parents to bring us some when they come to visit. :)

  4. Thank you Iris :) There are definitely some horrible mixes out there, it's time to weed them out!

    Hey Lauren, I hear you - homemade is almost always better. I just like to keep the options open for newly diagnosed people who are overwhelmed or people who just don't have time.

    Aww, you're sweet Rebecca :) It's all in the lighting. Why is it so hard to get awesome texture and fabulous taste all in one shot? I just don't understand it. I may have to create an excuse to go to Pittsburgh :)

  5. Lauren- i am not a big mix fan either, but if you read the ingredients on this particular brand of bagged cake, you might be as surprised as I was to only really find respectable and whole items. Also, the directions state to plunk all the contents together with the eggs and such and mix for a short time, avoiding over mixing; I found when making this cake that if I beat my wet ingredients like mad for a good while and make them super frothy, then fold in my package (dry ingredients) I was able to make a surprisingly fluffy and "normal" tasting cake.

  6. Hey MsAnthropologist, excellent points, thanks for the tips as well, GF products always need a little something extra :)

  7. Jessica, you are hilarious. I was just reading random stuff and cracking up. My family was like "What's so funny???" It was hard to explain...

    Some of my favorites:
    obsessed- OBSESSED - with gorilla munch (I love that crap so much)

    oreoist things since... well, oreos

    how the whole floor could hear you screaming about how well these cupcakes turned out. HILARIOUS!!!

  8. Caleb, that is the comment to end all comments! It's so good to know that there are people out there who *get* my humor - you've brightened my day :) Thanks for reading!


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