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Barefoot Contessa packaged cake/cooke mixes

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Two local supermarkets in Baltimore are now stocking the Barefoot Contessa packaged mixes for cakes and cookies, using recipes featured in her cookbooks.

One would think, just another celebrity chef coming out with a new line of food. Shrugs, life goes on.

But the lady Contessa is charging a range of $9.99 to $17.99 for her mixes. Yep, you heard this correct.

Like most regular cooks, I know packaged mixes are nothing more than flour and sugar. And as someone who is bakes cakes and pies on a frequent basis, I also know how easy it is for an experienced, hell, even non-experienced, cook to throw together a good pound cake. But I can't help but be intrigued for Ina Garten is indeed a very good cook with appealing food. Has anyone splurged and bought a box? How do the mixes stand up compared to much cheaper Pillsbury cake mixes? Is it worth the money?

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  1. I was at a family reunion earlier this summer and my aunt made the Barefoot Contessa Coconut Layer Cake (http://www.givinggallery.com/barefoot... ). It was ... okay. Definitely better than any other boxed mixes that I've had, but didn't come close to a cake made from scratch. It had a slightly metallic undertaste that I associate with boxed mixes (I'm guessing that's from one of the stabilizing ingredients), but not overwhelming. The recipe would have been improved (I think) by toasting the flaked coconut. Of course, it would have really improved if made from scratch with fresh coconut, too.

    That being said, if I were in a position where I didn't have the time or access to the required ingredients to cook from scratch, I would consider purchasing one of the Contessa's mixes (whereas I wouldn't purchase one of the Duncan Hines/Pillsbury/Betty Crocker mixes unless I was making a recipe that specifically called for a boxed mix).

    1. I haven't tried them but re the prices, you should compare with the Barefoot Contessa products offered online by Stonewall Kitchen- they have alot of her mixes.

      1 Reply
      1. re: emilief

        Crate and Barrel is also selling the products in their stores ... I can't recall all the prices, but they were certainly not 17.99 ... sounds like your local place is marking them way up. And, yes, her products have been in my Stonewall Kitchen catalog for the past few months. BTW - her cookbooks are great! Try the lemon poundcake ....

      2. I sent two packages of the Outrageous Brownie mix to someone as a gift - this same someone has been the recipient of "The Real Thing" (pounds and pounds of actual Outrageous Brownies) from me in the past. When asked, she hemmed and hawed about the boxed mix before admitting that they did not hold a candle to the "real" ones. These were my first and will be my last BC mixes.

        9 Replies
        1. re: Sherri

          I should add that this is a real shame because my gift recipient is a housebound 87 year old lady who can no longer make her own meals. Her helper is an "uncook" but certainly capable of following package directions. The BC Outrageous Brownie mix would have been a real boon and added some pleasure where it is needed. Instead, it was an expensive disappointment.

          1. re: Sherri

            Oh, that's sad to read, Sherri. Have you tried the Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Brownie mix (http://www.ghirardellimixes.com/brand...) ? It's surprisingly good if you're looking for an easy-to-prepare mix. My step mother, who's an excellent from-scratch baker, has quit making her regular brownies and switched to this mix. If you can find a box on-sale, you might want to purchase it and make it yourself to see what you think. I know I'd have no qualms about buying this and would have some qualms about buying the Contessa's brownie mix based on the experience with the coconut cake mix.

            (ETA: I'm not sure of the ingredients/stabilizers used in the Ghiradelli mix. If that's a concern, then I'd be inclined to think that's probaby quite a few stabilizers.)

            1. re: ElsieDee

              I took you at your word and using the Ghiradelli link just shipped four boxes of the double chocolate brownie mix. Thank you!
              FWIW - 4 boxes of Ghiradelli cost about the same as 1 1/2 boxes of BC.

              1. re: Sherri

                Oh, wow - I do hope that your friend (and you) like the results. IIRC, the brownies are of the dense, fudgy variety (instead of being more cakey). Let them cool to at least room temp. before cooking (they really need to set-up a bit). Don't flour the pan but use cocoa or sugar once it's been oiled. If you end-up hating the brownies, please let me know - I'll buy the boxes from you :)

                I like them baked in a round cake pan and served in small wedges with fresh sliced strawberries and a little dollop of lightly-sweetened, semi-whipped cream.

                1. re: ElsieDee

                  Er, the sentence that reads "Let them cool to at least room temp. before cooking ..." should read "Let them cool to at least room temp. before slicing ..." Apologies.

                  1. re: ElsieDee

                    Since I live in a different state, I won't be tasting these but I cannot tell you how pleased I am to read all the terrific recs. I do believe that we have a winnah. Again, thanks for putting me onto the Ghiradelli brownies. I would have never tried them as I cook from scratch.....now, I'm thinking I need some cool weather to turn on the oven. My thanks to all of you.

                2. re: Sherri

                  Your friends will not be disappointed at the Ghiradelli brownie mix. It's very very good. Most and fudgy.

                3. re: ElsieDee

                  Ha! I just went to my pantry to see which brownie mix I've been using. It is Ghiradelli. I made Ghiradelli brownies for work the same week I had BC brownies at a party. There is no comparison!! Ghiradelli is far better and like others I prefer to make brownies from scratch so that's saying a lot.

                  1. re: ElsieDee

                    I don't generally eat anything from a box on principle but I have to agree that the Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Brownie mix is amazing. I am constantly baking and I normally make everything from scratch but if I am making a triffle or something that needs a batch of brownies, I always use this mix.

              2. Mostly out of curiosity and having a gift certificate to Stonewall Kitchen, I ordered the Chocolate Chunck Cookie Mix ($10), Coconut Layer Cake Mix ($15), Oatmeal Maple Scone Mix ($7 or $8), and Outrageous Brownie Mix ($11). Everything was okay, but certainly not worth the cost in my opinion. The scones had a sort of artificial maple flavor which I didn't care for. The brownies were not the best box mix I've ever tried. As a baker I'd rather make everything from scratch, which would taste better and cost about the same or less.

                1. I haven't tried any of these and wouldn't, because even though I'm the laziest person on earth, I don't use mixes--if I really don't feel like baking it myself, I just buy it at a bakery. But I saw one Barefoot Contessa mix that really baffled me: fruit crumble. Yes, a $6.95 box of the dry ingredients that you mix with butter to make the toppingg for a crumble. You still have to work the butter into the ingredients. You still have to wash, peel, and cut up the fruit. Laziness I understand, but are there really people who are willing to do these things and yet are somehow not confident of their ability to put some flour and sugar into a bowl by themselves? I don't get it.