Since even pastry chefs like a good shortcut, Michael Laiskonis, creative director at the Institute of Culinary Education, tried out some next-gen baking mixes to see if they stack up. He found a few sweet surprises!
Michael Laiskonis was executive pastry chef at Le Bernardin.
| Credit: Photography by: Aaron Dyer (baking mixes); Getty Images (headshot)

A Cake to Celebrate

Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Premium Cake Mix ($2.89)

"Even I'm tempted to ditch my favorite recipe for this moist and flavorful chocolate cake mix! The perfect balance of density, lightness and rich cocoa notes make it ideal for layered cakes, but it also tastes great on its own."

Dress it up: Stir chopped toffee bars into the batter. 

Scones Fit for a Queen

Stonewall Kitchen Organic Scone Mix ($8.95)

"For most budding bakers, making perfect scones can be intimidating, but this mix, which requires just butter and water to get going, produced light and tender results. While great on their own, they're a perfect vehicle for add-ins."

Dress it up: Mix shelled chopped pistachios and dried cherries into the dough. 

Solid Gold Lemon Bars

King Arthur Flour Essential Goodness Lemon Bar Mix ($4.95)

"Unlike the other mixes, these lemon bars require a two-step process, but they're well worth the effort. The crust offers the perfect foil for the tart and creamy lemon filling." 

Dress it up: Sprinkle chopped candied ginger onto the crust before adding the filling. 

A Cookie for Everyone!

Breads from Anna Cookie Mix ($7.99)

"By now, most serious bakers have learned to work with gluten-free recipes, which often call for specialized ingredients. This mix uses an inventive blend of grains and legumes, and just makes a great cookie." 

Dress it up: Sandwich a scoop of vanilla ice cream between two cooled cookies.