Recently a gluten-free chocolate cupcake mix product showed up on my desk with which, now I’m sorry to say, I was unfamiliar. Curious as I was to find out who had provided me with this new item to review, there was no one around to question. So I immediately got to work learning about this new item for myself.
The product that I couldn’t wait to break into and put through our testing process was Stonewall Kitchen’s Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcake Mix. I’m sure by now you probably believe that I would apply great review results to anything containing chocolate. Well, I have a very distinguishing palate, even when it comes to critiquing chocolate. So, fair and balanced, off I went to scrutinize this cupcake mix.
Stonewall Kitchen Chocolate Cupcake Mix includes the dry ingredients for the cake mix and the dry ingredients for the complementary frosting. Great! I love it when products pair their components together for a complete experience. But that didn’t stop me from separating the two entities and determining how each contributes to the whole in its own right.
I had a dinner/dessert function, with one other gluten-free companion and several people who are gluten-consumers, later the same evening of my review day. I decided to kill two birds with one “stone”, as the saying goes, and bring my finished product along as my dessert contribution. I must say here, it can sometimes be risky business to plan on bringing an untried recipe or product to a group gathering. But throwing caution to the wind, and with a shortage of time on my hands, that’s what I decided to do. So I began my review process.
I thought since little cupcakes are all the rage right now, I would create a dessert with that theme in mind. The package says that it makes twelve cupcakes, so I set up mini cupcake pans with 24 cupcake liners. I prepared the cake mix recipe according to the package directions, with one exception. I substituted 3/4 cup of almond milk* for the requested dairy milk, since some of us at Daily Forage are dairy-free. I mixed up all the ingredients and, when the dry and wet ingredients become incorporated, I inhaled this wonderful aroma of chocolate … with a hint of something. I took a little taste of the batter, and there was that hint of something again. It was delicious … it was coffee. I went back and looked on the package. Yes, the coffee was listed, but I guess it didn’t register with me earlier because I was reading for “unsafe” ingredients. The coffee flavor was a very nice surprise. Sometimes coffee and chocolate can compete in a recipe and bring about muddy results. Not in this batter. Complementary, not competition. And I found the batter to be the perfect consistency, even though I had made the milk substitution.
I poured the batter into the cupcake liners and found that I had plenty of batter left to make a two-layer 5-inch mini cake using ramekins. Perfect! Now I could keep the mini cake for the next day. Do you think a 5-inch cake is too big to be a personal size cake? It’s chocolate, after all.
After baking at 325º for 16 minutes, I could smell the cupcakes. They were done. The kitchen smelled so inviting. It definitely had that home-baked aroma. When I put the cupcakes on the cooling rack, I noticed the top of each one had popped up with a souffle-type topper. This really gave the mini cupcakes a little personality. Fun! The mini cake layers continued to bake another 6 minutes then also came out perfectly. Since I had a few more cupcakes than I needed for the evening dessert, I wasted no time taste testing one of these little gems. Light. Fluffy. The perfect cake texture. Chocolatey. Not too sweet. And that little hint of coffee. Divine! (And if you’re a person who is not really a coffee lover, this is still a great cake to try. The coffee really is subtle enough to add a special something, without necessarily being decipherable as coffee.)
After letting all the cakes cool completely, I prepared the frosting according to the package directions, again with substitutions. For the butter, I substituted an equal amount of gluten-free, non-dairy butter*, and for the milk I substituted almond milk once again. The directions say to use 1-3 Tbsp of milk. I started with one tablespoonful. I mixed up all the ingredients in a tall-sided bowl and started on the very lowest speed of my hand mixer, so not to create a powdery dust in the air. I continued mixing on low for one minute, until all the ingredients were well combined and the texture was creamy with no lumps. The one tablespoonful of almond milk was plenty to create a smooth, spreadable frosting, without being too moist or runny. The frosting had a more “milk chocolate” flavor compared to the deeper cake mix. It was sweet without being overbearing. Very good frosting. There were many ideas that came to me of other desserts in which I could use this frosting. Again I thought to myself, “Why wait. Let’s frost a cupcake.”
Well, this brings me back to the title of this review … "The sum is greater than its parts.” Each of the parts of Stonewall Kitchen’s Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcake Mix produced a delicious outcome but, when the cake and frosting were paired, there seemed to be a marriage of flavors that brought out the best in each component. The sum, or completed cake and frosting combination, resulted in a cake far better than its parts and a dessert worthy of serving to any guest – gluten free or not.
The directions were simple in execution and produced predicted results (even with substitutions). The finished dessert was divine. The high quality product does come with a higher price point. But the results speak for themselves. Daily Forage can only come to one conclusion: You must try this product when you need to impress the most distinguished palates.
Though it is difficult to improve on perfection, the execution of the dessert was taken to another level, only with the help of a trusted partner, I must confess. With his creativity, a fun twist was applied to our dessert. We decided for each serving we would use two mini cupcakes, each unfrosted at this point. One cupcake was sliced into thirds. Using a small, circular cookie cutter, we punched a hole in the center of the bottom cake layer. Into this hole, we piped the prepared Stonewall chocolate frosting. Then we dolloped a spoonful of gluten-free, non-dairy, whipped topping* atop the bottom layer. We placed the next cake layer on, and applied the same procedure described to the first layer, dolloped another spoonful of whipped topping, then placed the souffle-style cupcake cap on top. Then we drizzled some homemade raspberry sauce on the plate to create an eye-pleasing presentation, and a hint of a sweet-tart flavor contrast. The finishing touch was placing a single slice of sugared almond on top of the cupcake cap.
The party-goers complemented us with rave reviews … and more than one person did I catch doing a little swiping of the finger to the plate to leave no dessert flavors unappreciated.
Daily Forage Rating: ◊◊◊
*These are the substituted ingredients used in this review.
Blue Diamond Almond Milk – Vanilla, Unsweetened
Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread (previously reviewed on Daily Forage)
Rich’s RichWhip Non-Dairy Whip Topping (previously reviewed on Daily Forage)