Let me start by saying I know how to bake. I know firsthand that baking a cake from scratch is almost as easy as using a mix. And yet I am perfectly happy to shell out $30 for a baking kit that delivers all my ingredients premeasured and ready to go.
Mind you, I could find at least half of these ingredients in my own pantry, sitting right there on the shelf, ready to be turned into cake. And yet, when I found out about Red Velvet NYC, it was like I’d discovered the Secret Land of Baking Without Stress. I wanted to go to there.
Like many of the meal kits that have sprung up everywhere recently, Red Velvet NYC lets you order a selection online and then ships the ingredients and recipe so you can make it yourself. I wanted a dessert for Thanksgiving, something other than the usual pie. So I ordered the pumpkin cake with spiced pepitas and cream cheese frosting, same as you’d order anything else online.
My package arrived in a big, happy, red and white box. There was a welcome card and a gorgeous, full-size recipe sheet showing steps with color photos along with some tips. In a nest of tissue paper, I found my ingredients, all carefully packaged in little containers. The pumpkin puree was chilled in a thermal pack. The only ingredient I had to supply myself were the eggs, which are understandably difficult to ship.
The directions were perfectly clear for an experienced but very distracted home cook. I think they’d be easy to follow for a beginner as well. Sugar for frosting and sugar for the cake are clearly marked, so there was no danger of confusing the two.
I baked the cake, I made the frosting, I candied the pumpkin seeds, I put it all together, and I served it. Everyone loved the cake. I was pleased with the spice balance, the cake’s soft texture and the cake and frosting ratio.
I’m thinking of ordering the Fancy Birthday Cake for my son’s upcoming birthday next. So here’s what I liked about the dessert kit:
1. It’s like a gentle nudge into the kitchen. The box says, “Come on, you can do this. Here, I’ll get you started.” It’s just what I need to do what I know I want to do but am feeling too busy/overwhelmed to start.
2. It’s like hiring a prep cook and a shopper, only way less expensive. I get to swan into the kitchen and take over the fun part — mixing and frosting.
3. I get to have my cake and eat it too. I want the experience of baking. I want that smell in my kitchen, to know exactly what went into that dessert, to enjoy the satisfaction that comes from making something myself. I just want it to be a wee bit easier.
4. The packaging is so pretty. It’s like a present — for me! The red bow, the tissue paper, the tiny containers to open — all of it feels like a small luxury.
5. It reduces my options. You wouldn’t think this is a good thing, but we live in an age of too many choices, and that can be overwhelming — paralyzing even. Having a smaller selection of desserts to choose from cuts my decision-making time.
6. I feel the pricing is fair. Yes, it’s an indulgence for special occasions, but the price ($25 – $36) doesn’t feel outrageous for New York City. It’s a lot less than you’d pay for a baked good of the same quality, though obviously less than the ingredients themselves cost. When you consider the time you’d spend shopping and measuring, I think it’s a pretty good deal.
7. I like knowing exactly what’s in my dessert. There are no funky chemicals or preservatives in there, only whole ingredients.
More: Help! Which pie should I bake for Christmas?
I burned out on holiday baking a few years ago. I had just finished creating a bûche de Noël when I hit a wall. What am I doing? Do I even like cake? Is anyone going to enjoy eating this? Who am I really doing this for? Is it worth the mess I just made?
So I stopped baking for a long time. And to tell you the truth, I didn’t even miss it for those years. But lately I’ve been wanting to create something for special occasions. And I wanted to recapture the pleasure I used to enjoy. That Red Velvet kit gave me back that joy.
Now if only I could order a kit that cleans up my kitchen for me after all the baking. Could someone please invent that?