Oh Hershey’s… How I love thee… but not this time.

I recently purchased two boxes of Betty Crocker Hershey’s cupcake mix on sale because, let’s be honest, how can you pass up a deal that includes cupcakes and chocolate?

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Each kit included the cake mix and filling for a dozen cupcakes, and the S’mores kit even included the crushed graham cracker for the base.

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I normally like to “fancy” up chocolate cake mix by adding a box of instant chocolate pudding and mini chocolate chips, but for this review I decided to bake them exactly as the instructions requested. I even left the container of chocolate frosting unmodified. Boy was that a mistake…

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Sadly, the cake for each cupcake was not good at all. It wasn’t that it was just bland, but it kind of tasted like what I imagine cardboard would taste like. I think if I had added pudding and chocolate chips it would have greatly improved the flavor. On the bright side though, the process for making these cupcakes was extremely easy.

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I haven’t made cupcakes yet that you bake the filling in the center of the batter, but it worked out really well. Some of the filling in the Hershey’s Chocolate cupcakes did explode a little out of the top of the cupcake, but luckily it wasn’t too bad.

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I would only buy this cake mix again if I intended to modify it. Adding some pudding mix and chocolate chips would only take a few extra seconds and I think the results would be so much better. What would take these to the next level even more, would be to use your own favorite dark chocolate frosting recipe, or modify store-bought chocolate frosting, as we have done before here.

Even though these cupcakes didn’t turn out as I was hoping, I’m still a box mix girl and probably always will be. I’ll leave the from-scratch baking to the pros, but I have definitely learned that adjusting a box mix is the way to go.

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

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Taste Test: How does Chef Duff’s Cake Mix Compare?

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I did it again… While walking down the grocery aisle I was totally sucked in by colorful packaging, sale prices, and big names:

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We haven’t reviewed Baltimore local, Chef Duff of Charm City Cake’s, line of cake mixes and frosting yet because, to be honest, they are a bit pricey compared to the competition. The retail price for the above is $5.69 for a box of cake mix and $3.29 for a tub of frosting (I’m sure prices vary by location). On sale, I picked these up for $3.49 and $2.99, so still not super cheap. The box of mix did come with a large packet of pre-made peanut butter ganache though, so I was glad to see they hadn’t skimped on that.

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Even though we’ve heard that Chef Duff is not a fan of the cupcake frenzy (crazy, I know!), I decided to use this mix to make cupcakes instead of a layered cake. Take that Chef Duff! (Kidding! We actually really love him, his show, and that he calls Baltimore home).

In order to provide you all with an accurate review of the product line, we didn’t modify this mix or frosting like we normally like to do and the only “extra” thing I decided to purchase was Peanut Butter Oreos to add on top (if you haven’t had these, what are you waiting for? Seriously, run to your nearest grocer).

When I mixed the batter according to the directions it appeared very runny and the dry ingredients didn’t seem to mix easily in with the wet, causing little chunks throughout. Shrugging this off, I filled the baking cupcakes and set the timer on the oven. The instructions called for 20 to 25 mins, but that seemed really high to me, so I decided to bake for 16 minutes (my normal cupcake baking time) and add more time if necessary. I’m glad I did that because they were completely finished baking when I checked them.

Once they cooled, I cored the center and added the peanut butter ganache. The texture of it was perfect for the filling, and the bag it came in made filling the cupcakes easy and mess free. Since I was filling the cupcakes, I didn’t chill the ganache as the box suggests, but if you are going to spread it on a layer cake, I definitely think you should. It might be too runny otherwise.

Before I frosted the cupcakes, I did a little taste test of Duff’s Chocolate Fudge Frosting, and was glad I did. It was really rich and overly sweet, like typical pre-made store bought frosting. I decided a thin layer with a dollop on top would be the perfect amount.

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Overall these cupcakes were good. Not great. Not Special. Just good. Although, I was able to get 25 cupcakes from the mix, while with other brands I’m lucky to get 22. Also, it was nice to have something included in the box to use as a filling, but in my opinion the cake and frosting were just as good as any of the competitors’.

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I’m not sure if I would seek out Chef Duff’s mixes in the future. I may pick up a box from time to time, if they are on sale and I fall into the gimmick trap again, but otherwise I think I’ll stick with my old friends, Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker, and Pillsbury.

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

Two Year Anniversary Giveaway!

** THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED**

July is a month of birthdays for the Crusaders’ family. Crusader Stacy and Jenn will be celebrating their 31st birthday next week. Our littlest crusader, Leah, just turned two. Our dad (who might as well be an honorary crusader since he goes on so many adventures with us) has a birthday at the end of the month. And…Our blog just celebrated it’s 2nd anniversary on July 7th!

We can’t celebrate without including our followers, and the best way to do that is a giveaway! We think you’ll love some of the great summertime items in our Grand Prize package!

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For starters, we are including Pillsbury’s Orange Creamsicle cake mix and frosting, which Crusader Stacy used as a base for her Orange Creamsicle cupcakes.

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We also picked up extra boxes of these cupcake candies just for our winner. Check out our review here!

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Some other items we’ve included, that are always popular, are:
– Cupcake Chapstix (there was a lot of excitement over this with our last giveaway!)
– A Cupcake-To-Go container
– Fun summer cupcake liners

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And then there are the cupcake items we just can’t resist:
– Cupcake gift bags
– Cupcake duct-tape (because duct-tape fixes everything, so why not have cupcakes on everything?)
– And more!

This year we also doing a 2 FOR TWO! What that means is, since this is our second year we are going to send a goody bag to a 2nd place winner! So now…how to win?!

There are several ways to enter and each entry counts:

– Comment below telling us your favorite cupcake flavor
– Like us on Facebook*
– Follow us on Twitter*
– Follow us on Foursquare*
– Follow us on Pinterest*
– Sign up to follow our blog via email or WordPress (sign up located in the right column on the homepage)*

* Please comment below after you sign up to follow our blog, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, Foursquare, and/or Pinterest. Your comment below will act as an entry into the content. If you already have connected with us via social media, please make note below for your entry.

The contest will close on midnight next Monday, July 22, 2013. A winner will be drawn at random and announced on Wednesday, July 24, 2013.

Please let us know if you have any questions. Good luck!

– The Cupcake Crusaders

NOTE: We are only able to ship within the USA. Sorry to those who don’t qualify!

** THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED**