Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Baker Josef's Chocolate Cake and Frosting Mixes

Since Russ mentioned Baker Josef in his last post, I thought now would be a good time to bust out a review of the Chocolate Cake and Frosting Mixes.

Now, let me break something down for you. I can't bake. I just barely got an "S-" in Home Ec in 9th grade. The "S" stands for "satisfactory," but the minus implies it's a little less than satisfactory, and just slightly above a "U" for "un-freaking-acceptable." I think they would have given me the "U" if I hadn't tried so hard. But I really did try, and I still failed miserably. So my teacher, though frustrated, had mercy on me. I remember my whole group was a little...shall we say "unskilled" in the culinary arts. All four of us needed a little extra grace in the kitchen. I remember one of our assignments was to bake rice krispy treats, and we wound up chiseling the blackened finished product out of the pan with a hammer and icepick. I'm not kidding.

So, the natural choice was to let my lovely wife prepare and bake this product. She presented it to me as a sort of late Valentine's Day present. So sweet. We also planned on giving a piece to one of our neighbors...but that didn't happen. We couldn't part with it. So. Freaking. GOOD!

Sonia's an adept baker. She says it was simple. She just added eggs, water, and butter to the cake mix, baked it according to the directions, and then added hot water and butter to the icing mix. Seems straightforward enough to me. But for some reason my IQ drops about 50 points when I'm in the kitchen, so I let her handle the whole thing. I do attempt to cook for my wife sometimes, but I don't want to screw up the dessert stuff. It would just be a big letdown for everyone involved.

I actually prefer white cake or red velvet. Not usually big on chocolate. But I must say...this was probably the best chocolate cake I've ever had. The icing was amazing, too. I wouldn't change a thing. The moistness and texture probably has a lot to do with the way Sonia baked it, but I gotta say, both of these mixes are big winners. Props to Sonia and her good friend Baker Josef.

And again, not sure about the ethnicity or the origin of this Josef fellow. But he seems to know what he's doing.

Double fives on both.

Baker Josef's Chocolate Cake Mix, Bottom line: 10 out of 10.
Baker Josef's Chocolate Frosting Mix: Bottom line: 10 out of 10.


  1. Sounds like something good to keep on the shelf in case you need it in a pinch. Yummmm..chocolate cake.

  2. Great review. I needed to know if the cake and frosting mixes were good before I present the finished goods to guests.

    Just a note: You mentioned you like red velvet cake, but not chocolate cake. Red velvet cake is simply regular chocolate cake with lots of red food coloring!

  3. I tried this the other day and my frosting didn't turn out. I think I put too much water. So we poured my not turned out frosting over ice cream and it was still good.

    I just found your blog and I wanted to say thank you! I love Trader Joes and I'm always trying to make a list before I go but there is never anything up to date so I am always writing down things they don't have anymore.

  4. KA - sorry to hear re: the cake but sounds like you made the best out of it. And thanks for the kind words. It's tough to keep up with what they do and don't have. I haven't seen some things there that I reviewed just a few weeks back. But hey, keeps us eating new stuff and reviewing, and hopefully it'll keep you reading!

  5. Love the review. Just one nitpick. Rice Krispy treats aren't baked, so there's no way you could have had a 'blackened finished product.'

  6. Read this review a few months back, and remembered to look for the chocolate cake and icing the last time I made the trip to TJ's.

    I was a bit skeptical, given one of the reviews saying the icing didn't turn out, but we went ahead and made everything. The bottom line?

    This cake is fantastic!! So is the icing!!

    I do not make cake from scratch and always rely on dry cake mix from the big names sold at supermarkets. Baker Josef's chocolate cake is the best dry cake mix we have tried. It was moist, chocolatey and very, very yummy. The icing was fab (we followed the directions exactly), and this is a definite item to keep on the pantry shelf.

    Will definitely buy this again.

    1. I agree the cake and icing work very well together. :)

  7. I haven't tried the frosting but the cakes are as close to home made as I have ever tried. I grew up on home made chocolate cake and this gives it a run for the money. I will never buy cake mix from the regular grocery store again.

    1. We were pleasantly surprised as well. This reminds me to add it back into my TJ's shopping list. We're overdue for some cake.

  8. YUM YUM YUM and the kids look so cute with chocolate all over their faces, hands, and clothing and on my couch....not happy about that. But the cakes so good you don't really care! This cake is the best I've ever had - note I used unsalted butter for both cake and frosting! Super yum with Milk!

  9. Chocolate cake is subjective of course. I'm from the south where your average dessert trumps the best California could possibly offer up. (I've spent the last half of my life thus far in CA...)

    We love Trader Joes, but found this cake to be kinda weird. It had a strange soybean aftertaste. I mentioned this to my wife (who really disliked it) and she looked on the box for ingredients-- and there it was: soybeans.

    I liked the frosting better than she did (she said it tasted a little "coconutty", and I sort-of agree), but we both certainly agree that Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines have far superior chocolate cake mixes.

    Sorry TJ's; no homerun on this one-- at least not for us.

  10. I have used this for birthday cakes and Love IT!! Sadly, when I went to buy a couple of boxes a few weeks ago I was told they no longer carry it. *sigh*