“ Brand: Dr Oetker / Type: Chocolate „
Dr Oetker seems to be a brand that's sweeping the country, coming out with everything from pizzas to yogurt, but with their acquisition of the Supercook range, they have a fair share of the home baking market too. Most of their mixes, like those of other brands, require the sort of additional ingredients I don't keep in the house, but these bake in the box cake mixes only need milk adding. Again, that's not something I tend to have in, but I will buy when guests are coming over, which happily coincides with when I tend to bake.
I got this mix a few months ago, when Aldi had them on special offer for about £1.50. The shelf-life is good, but unfortunately the packaging is not, and every time I got it down just to check the date or, this week, to confirm how much milk I would need, it left a small trail of floury cake mix behind it. I never quite worked out where the hole was, or if it was just a seal that had become a little unsealed, but it was slightly irritating since one of the added bonuses of cake mixes rather than baking from scratch is that they leave less mess. Minus one star for that, then.
The mix comes in a box which, despite the above, is tricky to get into, and I couldn't peel it away as they suggested. Instead, I jabbed it viciously with a knife, which seemed to work, but again makes it lose a star (and also less suitable for children to make alone). Inside, the mixture looked like flour with chicken pox - little red lumps scattered within the whiteness, though these were dried raspberry flecks rather than anything scabby. Tasting as you go is a key component of home cooking, so I stuck in a finger. It tasted like flour with hard bits in it, but then it wasn't yet cooked.
The instructions are simple: you add milk (115ml, they recommend semi-skimmed) to the mix in the box and stir with a fork before popping into a pre-heated oven. No bowl to lick? Minus another star... At first I wasn't convinced I'd added enough milk, despite measuring it precisely, but with a bit of mixing it turned into a nice, gloopy mixture that came about half way up the box (you bake it in its original packaging, which is quite handy). Obviously I had to lick the spoon at this point, and the mix tasted ok but didn't have that lovely sweet, buttery, sugary taste from-scratch cakes would. It tasted a bit synthetic, but I could pick up on the raspberry pieces, so was looking forward to trying it when cooked.
You then bake for 10 minutes before removing to stir again. This was a bit odd, since my cake had a crusty top by this point, and I had to shatter this to mix it all back together again, but I did as I was told, and then put it back into the oven for 25-30 minutes. The fact they tell you to stir it 'quickly' added the slightest of panics to my cooking sesh, as I hadn't expected to be breaking up semi-formed cake at this stage, and having to mix it back in - I would have liked it if the instructions had prepared me for this, forewarned being forearmed and all that.
25 minutes later...
By this point, my house was smelling lovely and homely. I checked the cake and it looked ready, so I removed it from the oven to cool, getting a whiff of burnt cardboard in the process - where the mixture has splattered the sides but in only a thin layer, it had all gone black and burnt. I was glad this hadn't been evident during the baking, but as soon as I opened the door the kitchen took on a rather different aroma, and a window had to be opened, despite the snow outside.
You are advised to leave the cake on a rack to cool before removing it from the box, so I did this. But, when it was time to get it out, I realised this was much easier said than done. Even after running a knife around the inside of the box the cake didn't want to come out. You are told to rip the box in the corners, and peel each away, but they aren't perforated enough and don't tear neatly. My cake had also stuck to the bottom of the box, and when I eventually got it out, it began to crumble into little pieces. This is a sort of loaf cake, but by the time I had removed it it looked like a loaf whose side and bottom crusts had been removed - not a good look.
I had intended serving the cake whole, but there was no way it was going out on my cake stand looking like that, so instead I attempted to carve it into slices. This was a very hit and miss process, with some slices halfway presentable and others crumbling into oblivion. The mix, when baked, is supposed to serve 8-10 people, but my version only stretched to half of that. And it still looked like a cake with chicken pox, even more than before.
Leaving my kitchen scattered with crumbs, and feeling slightly exhausted by this point (not to mention wishing I'd just baked from scratch), I served it up. It might not have looked wonderful, but it was bound to taste ok, right?
After all that, the cake was a complete let down. It was hard to detect any of the white chocolate flavour but they had really gone over-board with the raspberries. However these still seemed rather dry and crunchy, leading to a cake littered with nasty hard bits in every bite. The cake was also quite stale-tasting (despite being fresh from the oven) and not light and fluffy as it should have been. It tasted a bit bland and was tarter than it was sweet. We tried smothering it with buttercream frosting and sprinkles, but even that didn't work, so in the end we shunned the cake and just ate the (also Dr Oetker) buttercream. From the pot. With a spoon.
This cake had so much potential but I liked it better before I baked it, when the prospect of a white chocolate loaf cake with plump, juicy raspberries was much more appealing than the resulting not at all chocolatey crumb cake with tiny, hard raspberries. I think the problem was down to both the ingredients they had used and the method of baking, and with neither delivering, it's hard to recommend this product.
The nutritional information is based on semi-skimmed milk, but they don't tell you whether the mixture would also work with skimmed or full fat stuff, or even non-dairy alternatives - this is just one example of the lack of detail in the packet instructions. I assumed this meant it was straight-forward and you couldn't mess it up due to human error, and to some extent that is true, but the cake came out funny looking and oddly tasting, even without my help. Not one I'll be buying again.