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Joy the Baker's boxed cake mixes are pastry chef-approved

These aren't your grandma's cakes, but they sure are tasty.

A photo of Neapolitan icing on a sheet cake in the following order from left to right: chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Credit: Reviewed / Jess Stephens

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My mom was a Montessori teacher and when I was a toddler, she'd set out basic baking ingredients like flour, eggs, sugar, and butter and I'd have at it. When the concoctions I created were inevitably unbalanced, I'd turn to cake mixes. As an adult, I reverse-engineered my grandmother’s gooey butter cake and when my dad asked why I didn’t make it with the cake mix, I felt this was a true testament to our collective love of the boxed stuff.

Today there are countless boxed mixes on the market, from the fashion-forward to the funfetti failsafe. And now, popular food blogger Joy the Baker has joined the boxed mix game with her creative cake options—but do they conjure nostalgia, save time, and most importantly, taste delicious? I tried all three to find out.

About Joy the Baker

Left: A top-down photo of three different cakes arranged on a marble counter. Right: Joy Wilson, founder of Joy the Baker, poses next to her lined of boxed cake mixes in her home kitchen.
Credit: Williams Sonoma

Joy the Baker has been churning out recipes since 2008.

Joy Wilson is the woman behind these mixes as well as the Joy the Baker food blog. She's a self-taught baker, cookbook author, and founder of The Bakehouse in New Orleans, LA. Her trio of cake mixes and other confections are available exclusively at Williams Sonoma.

What’s included?

Each kit includes the dry ingredients for a batter and topping along with the instructions. The three boxed cake mixes, exclusively sold at Williams Sonoma, are Chocolate Cake With Neapolitan Frosting, Espresso Chocolate with Peanut Buttercream Frosting, and Vanilla with Pecan Praline Glaze.

What's not included?

You'll need all the wet ingredients for the cake and frosting (dairy, vegetable oil, and eggs) as well as a baking sheet—ideally the Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker's Half Sheet—to make any of the three cakes. An electric hand mixer like the Cuisinart HM-90 Power Advantage Plus is helpful, but you can get by with a whisk like our favorite GIR (Get It Right) 11-inch Ultimate Whisk and some elbow grease if necessary. Instructions for the two chocolate mixes offer the option of baking in two 6-inch cake pans for a layer cake variation.

I baked three of Joy the Baker’s cake mixes and here’s what happened

Vanilla with Pecan Praline Glaze

Left: A person holds a box of vanilla cake mix with praline frosting. Right: A top-down photo of a cake with praline frosting in a glass baking dish.
Credit: Reviewed / Jess Stephens

The praline glaze adds major sticky bun vibes to this cake in the best way possible.

Growing up, I would die a little inside each time my grandmother would pull out butter pecan ice cream for dessert instead of my beloved chocolate chip. Yet somehow, this cake was a defiant underdog! It had a silky smooth batter and the pecan glaze was neither too sweet nor too light on the pecans.

If you like a sticky bun in the morning but aren’t up for wrangling a dry caramel or a yeasted dough, this is the mix for you. It would be a winner next to your office coffee maker whether that’s in your home or in an actual office.

Chocolate Cake With Neapolitan Frosting

Left: A person holds a box of chocolate cake mix with Neapolitan frosting. Right: A top-down photo of a cake with Neapolitan frosting.
Credit: Reviewed / Jess Stephens

The powdered frosting packets are what set this cake apart from other store-bought mixes.

If you, like me, were allowed to ingest copious amounts of raw batter as a kid, this batter will speak directly to your cake mix nostalgia. The chocolate cake itself isn't necessarily better than a supermarket cake mix you can buy for a fraction of the price. However, the vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry frosting powder packets make a better frosting than the store-bought alternatives.

Both the vanilla and chocolate frostings deliver custard flavor realness à la soft serve, while the strawberry frosting powder pack actually had a whole dehydrated strawberry inside, so the natural fruit flavor really shined. This cake is pretty sweet, but no more than a spoonful of frosting scooped directly out of the can.

Espresso Chocolate with Peanut Buttercream Frosting

Left: A person holds a box of espresso chocolate cake mix with peanut butter frosting. Right: A top-down photo of a chocolate cake with pale brown peanut butter frosting.
Credit: Reviewed / Jess Stephens

Fans of quality buttercream frosting will love this cake.

This cake is the love child of a Little Debbie Nutty Buddy and a Hostess Ding Dong. The powdered peanut butter frosting mix, when whipped with butter, mimics the intensely sweet filling of drugstore chocolate peanut butter Easter eggs. For coffee aficionados, the espresso powder in the cake batter has a slightly astringent aftertaste, something that could easily be fixed in a cake from scratch by hydrating the grounds. That said, cake mixes are about defying mortality so that you can have your cake and, well, spend your time elsewhere. And by that rubric, this cake has the fastest buttercream I have ever made.

Are the Joy The Baker cake mixes worth it?

At about $20 per box, these mixes are priced well beyond your grocery store stalwarts and not all flavors are created equally. But if you're a longtime Joy the Baker fan, this premium could be well worth it as a way to connect to the baker herself. After all, the cake mixes stem from a beloved food blog project that began in one woman’s kitchen more than a decade ago. And besides, you can't really go wrong with cake.

Get the Joy the Baker Sheet Cake Trio at Williams Sonoma for $59.85

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