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Have Your All-Natural Cake, and Eat it Too

The busier I get, the more tempted I am to give in to the convenience of packaged goods. One of my daily goals is to eat like my grandmother did - whole foods, fresh ingredients, seasonal dishes - with nothing out of a cardboard box. But that can be a difficult goal to reach. So I get really excited when I discover a convenience food that is natural, free of ingredients I can't pronounce, and most importantly, tasty.

The busier I get, the more tempted I am to give in to the convenience of packaged goods. One of my daily goals is to eat like my grandmother did - whole foods, fresh ingredients, seasonal dishes - with nothing out of a cardboard box. But that can be a difficult goal to reach. So I get really excited when I discover a convenience food that is natural, free of ingredients I can't pronounce, and most importantly, tasty.

That's why I was happy to discover Naturally Nora, a company that produces all-natural baking mixes. They make cake mixes and icing mixes with delightful names like Sunny Yellow, Cheerful Chocolate, and Cookie Cookie. As I was pleased to see on the box, their ingredients are things you might find in your kitchen, not in some laboratory. Free of artificial flavoring, preservatives, and hydrogenated oils.  The short list of about 8 ingredients  looks refreshingly simple next to the 18+ ingredients in typical grocery store baking mixes.  Best of all, I can actually pronounce every single ingredient!

Nora, the company founder, set out to create a healthier option for her family. (In my opinion, she has succeeded.) Her mixes are as convenient and easy-to-use as others on the market. The dry mixes contain no dairy or soy, and they can be prepared without either, if you're lactose-intolerant or allergic to soy. (The instructions suggest using vanilla soy milk in place of dairy and swapping butter for margarine.) The batter works for two 9-inch round cake pans, one 13-inch by 9-inch pan, or 24 cupcakes.

(Keep reading to hear about my TK Test...)

The TK Test: I used the chocolate cake and chocolate icing mixes, with 2 percent milk, to bake a double chocolate cupcake. They were a hit in the Test Kitchens. They had a classic flavor, but the cake was especially moist and dense and the icing was smooth and creamy. I am often bored with cupcakes if I don’t get icing in every bite, but the cake was rich enough to keep my attention regardless.

Now I realize that dessert is dessert-- full of sugars and carbohydrates -- but I felt a little less guilty about this indulgence. Knowing exactly what I was putting in my body comforted me. When I'm cooking with real ingredients, enjoying any food (even sweets) in moderation seems like a safe and reasonable way to live.

Full Disclosure: We don't plug products in exchange for payment from the companies that send them. Marketing and PR folks often send unsolicited products, from gear to foods, to our editorial offices. Frequently, they end up discarded on the freebie table. If something looks promising, though, we might test it. Only when we run across an occasional exceptional find will we write about it to share it with you.