By Danielle Centoni
When you’re craving something moist and chocolate-y and nothing but a thick slice of cake will do, there’s a lot to be said for the ease and reliability of a box of chocolate cake mix. No last-minute realization you’ve run out of cocoa powder. No fingers tightly crossed that the recipe you picked is actually going to turn out. Just tender, rich cake that begs for a tall glass of milk.
The trouble is, most boxed mixes are full of artificial flavors and questionable ingredients. But, as always, there are exceptions to the rule, mixes that offer a shortcut to homemade chocolate cake, minus the junk. We gathered them all up and put them to the test.
To make it into our taste test, we looked for mixes that met three requirements: First, they had to be free of artificial colors or flavors. Next, we looked for cake mixes with non-GMO ingredients. And finally, we zeroed in on mixes without corn syrup, palm oil, and other unnecessary additives and preservatives. Think: highly processed ingredients like sodium stearoyl lactylate and distilled monoglycerides.
This narrowed the playing field quite a bit.
Of the remaining options we found, some had sugar substitutes like erythritol or were made with alternative flours. We decided to exclude those from the list since they’re really their own category. This left us with four traditional, healthier chocolate cake mixes to try: King Arthur Deliciously Simple, European Gourmet Bakery Organics, 365 Everyday Value, and Miss Jones.
We were looking for the combination of light and tender texture with rich, chocolate-y, not-too-sweet flavor. They were actually all pretty delicious (it’s chocolate cake, after all), but one grabbed the top spot.
The Best Traditional Chocolate Cake Mix: Miss Jones Baking Co. Moist & Rich Chocolate Cake Mix
This cake easily won us over for its moist texture and deep flavor that felt like homemade, but easier. Also in its favor? Miss Jones is all organic and made entirely with recognizable ingredients right down to the vanilla and sea salt. The only downside, at $6 a box, it’s a bit on the pricey side.
If you’re on a budget, consider 365 by Whole Foods’ version, which was a very close runner-up — super-light and super-chocolate-y. Though not organic, its ingredients list meets all our requirements and it costs half as much as the Miss Jones mix.