“ Brand: Weight Watchers / Type: Mix „
I am a new convert to carrot cake, and have never attempted to make it before, but the Co-op near work had a bunch of these mixes on their reduced shelf, so I thought for 95p (down from £1.89) it was worth a shot. As I've said before, I like Weight Watchers mixes not for their low calorie content but because they don't require added ingredients - my main reason for not baking from scratch is that I'd have to make an inordinate amount of whatever to use up the eggs, milk and butter I'd have to buy in specially.
This is a very simple mix to make. You start by opening the larger of the two packets in the box, and whisking in first 60ml, then a further 75ml of water. They suggest using an electric mix, which certainly makes things easier. At the first stage the mixture looks more like a thick frosting than a cake batter, but when you add the second lot of water is wets up nicely and begins to look like a from-scratch concoction would, right before you pop it in the oven. I used precisely the amount of water suggested, and it turned out perfectly. You then dollop the mixture into the cardboard baking tray provided, and level it out (I did this by whacking it hard on the work surface a few times). Then you pop it in the over, "for 20-25 minutes until golden". Instructions like this are a little tricky for me when baking at home, as my oven can be a bit of a show off and cook things faster than it should, so I kept an eye on it and pulled it out at 18 minutes when the cake seemed done and the cardboard was starting to smoke. You leave it to cool in the baking tin, and can even serve it from this later - I didn't but almost wished I had as quite a bit of the bottom stuck to the base when I was trying to lever it out.
The second step of the cake mix is to make the icing. This is provided in powdered form, and you stir in 10ml water initially, adding more if required. I found even the 10ml was too much and my icing was a little gloopy. Ordinarily I would just add some normal icing sugar to even it out, but I didn't have any in so had to leave it as it was. I put the iced cake in the fridge over night and it did set to some extent, but was still sticky to touch. The cake is easy to ice if you've used the baking tray provided as this is a bit taller than the height the cake will have risen to, so you can ladle the icing on and not worry too much that a domed top will make it drip off, as the high edges will catch it at the sides.
I had intended keeping this mix in for a while - despite it being reduced, its best before date was not until June this year - but the day I bought it was a friend's birthday, and since I was popping in to her work place the following morning I decided to make it to take in as a treat. This also meant I got to try some, but wasn't resigned to eating the full 10 serving cake.
I've not had many carrot cakes before, but I thought this one was yummy. Though it was quite a shallow tray bake it came out very soft and moist and not as tough or chewy as I thought it might from looking at it. The mix is technically carrot and orange flavour, and contains 8% carrot flakes. Though that number didn't mean much to me, when I tried it I thought it was an odd amount. There's not enough that you get chewy carrot in every bite, and in fact the pieces are so rare that when you do get one you almost wonder whether it was a mistake, as if someone had dropped a bit of egg shell into the batter (though this is obviously not a possibility: you, the mixing chef, don't have sight of an egg through the whole process, and the ingredients of the pre-mixed mix include only dried egg, not the runny type).
While the above made the texture a bit weird at times, the taste of the cake was lovely. It had a fruity, almost healthy smell, and though the carrot taste was subtle, the orange added a real tang to it. The cake went into the oven a dubious bright orange colour, but came out a much more mellowed, almost mustardy one. The white icing was deliciously sweet but didn't have a distinct flavour to it, it just tasted sugary.
The cake technically makes 10 slices, though these are rather small, and probably marked out in these dimensions just so they can claim each one is just 1 Point on their diet system (or 76 calories for the rest of us). That said, eat two slices (or just cut it into 5 larger pieces) and it's still not a wildly unhealthy snack. Hell, you could even eat the whole thing for just 760 calories, which is quite a lot but equally no more than a dessert in somewhere like Pizza Hut. (Interestingly they say 10 slices = 1 Point per slice, but 8 slices = 1 ½ Points per slice which doesn't quite add up).
This mix is a good one to keep in the cupboard for baking emergencies, as it needs no additional ingredients and can go from box to cooling rack in just 30 minutes. It also makes a change from the usual cookies and chocolate brownie mixes I tend to try. You need no special ingredients, and equipment is limited to a whisk and either a measuring cup or tablespoons and teaspoons to get the amount of water correct. Since it all goes in one bowl and no weighing is required, plus the baking tray is provided and disposable, there's also very little in the way of washing or clearing up to do afterwards, which is a bonus.
At the reduced price I thought it was a bargain, while even at its usual price I would think it good value for money for something that tastes freshly baked, and can feed 5 - 10 people.
It's easy to make and hard to mess up, which is my kind of cooking, and most importantly it produces a light, fluffy, subtly flavoured cake. Losing a mark for the funny distribution of carrot pieces, it still scores highly from me.
Suitable for vegetarians, but not for vegans.