With layers, reclaiming the pedestal is a piece of cake

Consumer Reports News: September 14, 2011 02:46 PM

We hate to break it to you kids, but cupcakes are going the way of Tutti Frutti. Layer cakes are back in all their multitiered glory, according to the Wall Street Journal. The proof is in the pop culture pudding—a seven-layer caramel cake is a scene stealer in The Help and Duncan Hines is now making cake mixes that appeal to grownup tastes.

Not everyone can master a homemade layer cake even when using one of the top cake recipes from Epicurious. But whether you’re attempting a made-from-scratch creation or using a store-bought cake mix, having a capable mixer will help you produce a crowd-pleasing confection. In Consumer Reports mixer Ratings, our recommended models range in price from a $30 Cooks hand mixer to a $200 KitchenAid stand mixer. Which you choose depends on what type of baking you do.

Hand mixers are good for light-duty tasks such as whipping cream or egg whites, mixing cake batter, and mashing potatoes. And they don’t take up any counter space. Stand mixers can do all that and more and might be a better choice if you make a lot of cookies or knead bread dough. Of course, they’re heavy and take up more space. In addition to making counter space available, you'll need enough clearance under an overhanging cabinet for when the mixer is in the up position.

While we haven’t tested any of the new grownup cake mixes in our labs, we do have Ratings of brownie mixes. Some supermarket staples such as Duncan Hines, Pillsbury and Betty Crocker were very good. But the brownies that took the cake were Trader Joe's Brownie Truffle and Barefoot Contessa Outrageous.

Mary H.J. Farrell

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