The world of boxed cake, cookie, muffin, and brownie mixes is confusing at best, debilitatingly overwhelming at worst. Spend more than 45 seconds in any grocery store baking aisle and you’ll see what I mean: The shelves are lined top to bottom with brightly colored boxes, all covered in tiny font, bombastic claims (The gooiest! The fluffiest! Just like Grandma’s!) and edge-to-edge photos of piping hot baked goods beckoning to hungry shoppers like Sirens taunting Odysseus with their bewitching songs.
OK, I’m being dramatic, but the point stands: When you’re pressed for time and a premade mix is your only option, sifting through the din to find a box not teeming with hydrogenated oils and unpronounceable preservatives is a real needle-in-the-haystack situation. A word to the wise? Stick to these six vetted and approved numbers and you’re sure to be the belle of the bake sale ball.
Free of GMOs, trans fats, artificial colors, and hydrogenated oils, this certified USDA organic baking mix fluffs up like a charm. We’re going to say it: Miss Jones might be, pound for pound, the best no-frills cake mix on the market.With no dairy or soy in the box, it’s totally up to you whether you add eggs, butter, and milk or swap in vegan substitutes (they even provide a vegan recipe online). The organic cane sugar, tempered with earthy vanilla and a dash of sea salt, doesn’t overpower, so it’s perfect for doctoring up with a custard or jelly filling, fresh fruit, glazes, or frosting. Go ahead and get crafty.($6; amazon.com)
Muffins, cake, brownies, or cupcakes—this Paleo-friendly, dairy-, soy-, and gluten-free mix can do it all. The ingredients are fittingly simple: almond flour, organic coconut sugar, cocoa, arrowroot, organic coconut flour, baking soda, and sea salt. No preservatives, no BS.The mix itself only packs a comparatively low eight grams of sugar per serving, and recipes printed on the box include suggestions for optional add-ins like sweeteners or vanilla extract to make things extra versatile. ($6; amazon.com)
Fall is prime snickerdoodle weather IMO. What’s better than the intoxicating cinnamon-sugar smell linked with crisp weather, cozy flannel blankets, and roaring fireplaces? These warm, fudgy, 100-percent organic squares—a straightforward mix of brown sugar, wheat flour, sunflower oil, sea salt, baking powder, vanilla, molasses, and cinnamon—hit the spot like none other. They’re like snickerdoodle cookies on steroids… and yet somehow still only 80 calories per serving. Thank you, healthy baking world. ($14 for 3; amazon.com)
These rice flour-fueled, gluten-free treats are the ideal combination of light and crispy at the edges and plump and gooey in the center. They’re packed with velvety semisweet chocolate chips but pass on bleached flour, GMOs, artificial preservatives, hydrogenated oils, and artificial flavors. One box makes 22 two tablespoon-size cookies, so don’t forget to pick up that extra carton of (nondairy) milk—you’re going to need it. ($4; amazon.com)
If you’re looking for a reliable blank canvas to satisfy all your gluten-free muffin-making needs, this is it. On its own, the mix is neutral yet tasty, with a light, pleasant vanilla scent and hearty texture.But where it really shines is as a base for antioxidant-rich blueberries, walnuts, or any other flavorful additions that might catch your eye. Going vegan is easy with this one, and no matter how you prepare it, you’re looking at 14 grams of whole grains in each muffin, including fava bean flour and flaxseed meal for a dose of protein.($21 for 3; amazon.com)
Good old King Arthur strikes again with this rich and creamy cheesecake bar mix complete with real ground vanilla beans, savory cinnamon, and a melt-in-your-mouth graham cracker crust made with whole-wheat flour and molasses.There are no preservatives, corn syrup, artificial colors, or flavors. And it’s verified non-GMO and super customizable—the website includes recipes for tasty twists like pumpkin swirl, caramel pecan, and chocolate chip bars.The coolest thing about this particular mix (besides its undeniable deliciousness) is that for each box purchased, King Arthur donates a meal to someone in need. As if you need another excuse to indulge.($7; amazon.com)