Forum columnists Tracy Briggs and Tammy Swift are trying to bake outside the box with new subscription groups – InForum

In my experience, I find that you either love to cook or bake, but not usually both. For me, baking is the real deal and probably one of the reasons I bonded with the lovely Tammy Swift who also loves baking. (It also doesn’t hurt that we share a love of ’70s pop culture. For example, one day I told a guy in a story I wrote recently that Bobby Sherman mentioned it. Google him, guys.)

Anyway, Tammy was on hand when I suggested we try a fairly new baking trend—bread subscription boxes. And the timing was perfect. How many kids and parents are reading this right now thinking “what can we get mom?” If she’s a baker, she might love it. Best of all, a gift is a click away. Done and done.

The concept of baking subscription kits is very similar to meal delivery kits like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron, which deliver ingredients for gourmet dinners straight to your door. Often packed in ice, the boxes include meats, vegetables, spices, and seasonings along with recipe cards to help you cook dinner on your own.

However, baking groups are also slightly different. While most kits we’ve found provide you with dry ingredients and recipe cards, they often don’t come packaged with ice. Instead, you are responsible for providing perishable items such as milk, butter, and eggs. Many also only charge once a month and not weekly like meal kits. A list of popular subscription boxes can be found at the bottom of this story.

Tammy and I chose different kits, then compared notes on taste, cost, and how easy the recipe was to follow. Read our reviews below and see if this might be a good gift for the mom in your life who loves to bake.

I chose the Crumble Crate after seeing a picture online of the Carrot Cake Roulade. The rolled cake looked eye-catching, especially with the cute little gum paste decorative carrots on top. I was a little intimidated to try it because I’ve had little luck with spring roll buns like this one. They usually end up breaking for me. But I wanted to give it a try.

The box arrived at my doorstep in just 10 days or so and I set about making the cake.

Here’s what I learned about the company and my own baking:

How it works: Each month, the Crumble Crate offers a signature candy Reflecting the flavors of the season. For example, the desserts for the next three months heading into summer are: Lemon Cake, Mini fruit pies with vanilla cream, peaches and cream. Each recipe comes with a difficulty rating, so you can rate whether you want to try it or not. You can order monthly, for three, six or 12 months.

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The Crumble Crate box comes with the items needed for the cake including flour, sugar, spices, vanilla, oil and gum paste. But it also contained tools such as an offset spatula, vegetable grater, and garnishing tools.
Tracy Briggs/Forum

Previous featured desserts: Lavender Macrons with Lemon Curd, Rose Water and Pistachio Madeleines, S’mores Cupcakes or Coconut Citrus Bars.

it costs: Prices drop for a longer subscription. The boxes cost $43.75 for a 12-month subscription, up to $47.95 for a one-time purchase.

measuring: The box containing Roulade’s carrot cake items was very small. But it included a lot of items—mostly cake ingredients including flour, powdered sugar, spices, vanilla extract, oil, and gum paste, but also baking tools including an offset spatula, icing, and a carrot slicer.

What I had to offer: Three eggs, carrots, butter, cream cheese, and parsley to use as carrot toppings for garnish.

Ease of use: The recipe card was full size and easy to read. It had pictures and each item in the box was clearly labeled, so I had no trouble doing what I was supposed to do. A video on the site was helpful in learning how to make carrots out of gum paste.

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Tracy Briggs made a carrot sponge cake roll out of a bakery box.
Michael Vosberg/Forum

My baked goods results: amazing! Imagine me doing “Chef’s Kiss” Moah! Roll not broken. It didn’t wound as tight as it should have been (funny coming from a baker) but that’s user error. No group error. I thought the cake looked great! I thought the flavor of the cake was warm and spicy – the way I liked the carrot cake and cream cheese was rich and decadent.

A good Mother’s Day gift? definitely. (My husband and daughters fingers crossed reading this story.)

Now I’m going to hand it to Tammy as she handles another baking subscription box. (Yes, we know we have really tough jobs.)

I chose the Mix Box, quite frankly, because it was the least expensive option I could find.

I also loved that the Mix Box is a product of the Homemade Bakers Club, which is owned and operated by founder Katelyn Kline. Kline selects recipes, packages ingredients by hand, answers emails and runs all business operations herself from an inspected property in Pennsylvania.

How can I not support this newbie? Take that, Betty Crocker!

Here’s what I learned about the company and the bakery:

How it works: Mixbox offers a season-appropriate candy box each month. The Mayo box included strawberry white chocolate cookies with lemon icing, while last December’s recipe featured Caramel Snickerdoodles. If you don’t like the recipe of the month, you can switch to the default: cinnamon buns. I don’t judge a cake by its wrapper, but I thought it looked a lot like a Pillsbury cinnamon roll, so I opted for the Frosted Sugar Cookie option instead.

It’s worth noting that Mixbox also offers a monthly bread box, which comes with ingredients and recipes for specialty breads like focaccia, brioche, challah, baguette, pizza dough, and garlic knots.

Too bad I didn’t notice the bread option earlier, because my bread baking skills don’t always rise (heh heh) to the occasion. But I suspect they’ll also need to ship my mom in the box, as her years of dough-making experience seem to be the real secret to blue-ribbon baking.

it costs: At just $31.95 per month, the Mix Box is one of the best bread box deals for your money (say that five times fast!) It’s available in one-month, three-month, six-month, and 12-month subscriptions, with the year costing $1. $359.40. Shipping is free.

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The Mix Box was compact and carefully packaged with instructions, a recipe card, and non-perishable ingredients.
Tammy Swift / Forum

measuring: The Mix Box was smaller than a shoebox but packed efficiently with an instruction booklet, recipe card, four numbered plastic bags filled with a mixture of ingredients, a generous box of sprinkles, and a resealable bag containing small packets of vanilla and red food coloring. There were even two sheets of parchment paper to line the cookie sheets!

What I had to offer: Butter, 1 egg, sour cream, milk, cookie sheets and other standard kitchen utensils and tools. I also couldn’t resist customizing the recipe a bit (this is for Mother’s Day, after all), so I added a dash of almond flavoring from my own pantry and upped my frosting game with a pastry bag and my own candy decorations.

Ease of use: The instructions were clear and detailed. Two small pictures helped show the size of the cookies or how to use food coloring sparingly (apparently I didn’t care, because my frosting turned Pepto-Bismol pink.) The booklet included a link to an online tutorial for people who prefer the excitement of live-action folding and decorating. .
Another feature I really liked was the “remake” recipe card. Give this the exact amounts of flour, baking soda, or other ingredients that are included in the pre-measured bags—just in case you like the recipe so much that you want to repeat it from scratch.
I found a small glitch in the packaging. While all of the items in the Mix Box were carefully wrapped, a bottle of red food coloring leaked inside its plastic bag, thus coating the vanilla bottles—and my hand—in red. Red food coloring is similar to DNA. It ends up everywhere, and once you put it on the carpet, it’ll still be there in 25 years. So I hope they find a more fail-safe way to package things up.

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Although the liquids were packed in resealable plastic bags, the red food coloring leaked during shipment.
Tammy Swift / Forum

My baked goods results:

Two crumbs! The cookies were soft, crunchy and delicious, and the American Buttercream frosting was buttery, fluffy, and rich—if only Scotch.

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Tammy Swift used her monthly baking Mixbox to make her own frozen sugar cookies.
Michael Vosberg/Forum

A good Mother’s Day gift? Sure, especially because the recipes seem easy enough for moms (or dads) to bake with their kids.

If these boxes of candy don’t tickle your taste buds, check out the additional “make your own” subscription boxes below, curated by the experts at Food and Wine magazine.

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