Friday, 3 August 2012

Waitrose Summer Cupcake Mix Review

With the London 2012 Olympics well underway now, we're right in the midst of the Great British Summer.  2012 has given us  the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the Euro Cup Football, and now the Olympics.  What it hasn't given us is good weather (insert sad face here). Even though this summer's weather has been absolutely dismal, it's been great to see how the residents of the UK have really come together to celebrate everything British.

Over the past few months I've seen loads of new British themed products released.  Some were traditional favourites, some were never seen before, and others were a perfect blend of old and new.

Waitrose has released two new cupcake mixes to help celebrate this years festivities.  They mixes are a fun twist on two British summertime classics - Eton Mess, and Bucks Fizz.  If you're not from the UK, then you may not be familiar with either of those, so let me clarify. Eton Mess is a delicious dessert that takes fresh cut strawberries and crushed meringues and blends them together with sweetened whipping cream.  It's delicious!  I made my own version of Eton Mess a few years ago, and you can get the recipe here.  And as for Bucks Fizz, it's just the British version of what North American's call a Mimosa - aka: Champagne and Orange Juice.

These cupcake mixes are a similar concept to the cake mix bags Waitrose released last summer (you can see my review of them here).  They're a bit different than a regular Betty Crocker mix.  With these, the ingredients are already pre-measured for you which is great if you're short on time, or preparing for a party and want to keep the mess to a minimum.  Also included in the box were the cupcake cases (as pictured on the box) which was a nice surprise, because they were actually very good quality and a nice design.  Unfortunately when the cake mix was sent to me the boxes arrived quite badly squished, and so did the cupcake cases.  The cases that came with the Eton Mess cupcakes were too badly squished for me to use them, but I managed to find some similar ones in my "collection", although they weren't as nice a quality as the ones that were included with the mix.

Both cupcake mixes do require you to add in a few ingredients of your own, just as you would a regular cake mix.  

The Bucks Fizz cupcakes called for the addition of the juice and zest of an orange, as well as an egg and some butter.  Also included in the mix was the icing sugar needed to make the icing, some candied orange peel and some popping candy to simulate the bubble in the champagne.  Unfortunately the popping candy in my mix must have had some moisture leak into it because it was just 2 big solid lumps of candy fused together.

The final result was a very moist cupcake with chunks of candied orange peel, and a lightly orange flavoured icing with additional chunks of candied peel and freshly grated zest.  I really liked these cupcakes, and I think with the addition of the popping candy they would really would have been excellent.  I was a little skeptical that there wouldn't be enough icing for the cupcakes, but it made just the right amount.

The Eton Mess cupcakes were a strawberry cupcake with real bits of dried strawberry in them - no fakeness or artificial flavours - bonus!  The addition of an egg and some butter turned the strawberry mix into a very moist and delicious sponge that really allowed for the strawberry flavour to shine through.  Also included with the mix was a small packet of raspberry jam and some mini meringue pieces to sprinkle on the cupcakes that are topped with freshly whipped cream that you supply yourself.

Although I really liked both of these cupcakes, I did prefer the Eton Mess ones but would have preferred for the jam that was included to be strawberry rather than raspberry. I actually thought the raspberry jam tasted a bit chemically.

Overall I thought the new Eton Mess and Bucks Fizz cupcake mixes from Waitrose were excellent.  My only points of criticism (aside from the raspberry jam) would be a) that each mix only makes 6 cupcakes, and b) the price - at £3 per mix, these cupcake mixes are fairly expensive when compared to the other boxed mixes that make 18 - 24 cupcakes.  On the other hand, the £3 price tag (equivalent to £0.50 per cupcake) seems like a bargain when you compare it to the tins of Williams and Sonoma and Sprinkles cupcake mixes that I saw while on holiday in Canada which sold for $22 CDN + tax for a 12 cupcake mix (equivalent to more than $1.83 CDN (£1.18) per cupcake!).

So, would I buy these mixes again?  Probably. They're great if you're in a time crunch and are looking for a unique cupcake flavour to impress your friends and family.  You also don't need to buy a large amount of ingredients that you might not use again (like the candied orange peel or meringue pieces).  I'd also recommend them to friends and family that aren't really in to baking much.  If you really enjoy baking and experimenting with new recipes like I do, then you may just prefer to come up with your own Eton Mess or Bucks Fizz cupcake recipe from scratch.

If I was ranking these out of 5 stars, I'd give these 4.5
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