Shuddering at the thought of using a mix? We don’t blame you. Like blue jeans and coffee beans, the options seem endless, and making the wrong choice invariably leads to disappointment. Some mixes result in dry or bland cakes, while others can pass pretty easily for homemade. With a team of cake-loving Taste of Home staffers, we compared five of the most popular cake mix brands in a blind taste test.
“Wow,” said Krader, biting into one of the company’s flat, square truffles. “This is definitely the chocolate with the most distinct point of view.” By that, she meant that it had perhaps the most unusual flavor of the bunch, with distinctly fruity notes. “This is from someone who’s redefining what truffles can be,” she said. “The flavorings don't punch you in the face, and it tastes like it was just made.” In other words: advanced chocolatiering. “There’s a sophistication about them,” she said. “Truffle neophytes might want something more general.”
I have liked Chuao in the past but think their products have changed, perhaps to support larger production and distribution. My 2014 order was somewhat disappointing, not up to the $84/lb. price. Ingredients seemed to be good quality, but the flavors were generally not strong, and the chocolate flavors were weak. The honey combined nicely with the nut flavors in Nut & Honeylicious. But the nut flavors, which are often my favorites, were mild in this and other pieces. Among the stronger flavors were the raspberry and strawberry in the Framboise and Strawberry Seduction, but even these were medium strength at best and without strong support from the chocolate.
Sometimes, the best chocolate shops around the country have been in business for generations, descended from old-style candy-making facilities. Sometimes they’re no more than a few years old, started by artisanal chocolatiers, some with formal training and others with little more than a love for chocolate and a desire to learn. Sometimes they’re even local branches of large chains.
The only drawback that we found is that Simply Chocolate's prices are often considerably higher than the competition. For instance, many of the chocolates made by Vosges can be purchased directly from that retailer at a significant savings, even when factoring in Vosges' higher shipping costs. You'll want to shop around a bit, especially if your chocolate purchase includes a brand that may be sold elsewhere for less.
Kate Weiser’s pieces were very attractive, the flavors wre not bad, and some of the compositions were interesting and appealing. Unfortunately, most of the flavors were too weak. I can only recommend the pieces with stronger flavors, including the Pistachio, Cookie Monster, Ninja Turtle, Key Lime Pie, Peanut Brittle, Cherry Almond, Lavender Apricot, and Salted Caramel. That is a broad enough range (fruit, nut, and other flavors) that most people would find several things to like and can craft an order likely to please themselves. The Pistachio blended its pistachio and hazelnut flavors nicely. The Cookie Monster is a novelty piece rather than traditional flavors but is well executed with its cookie base and vanilla bean ganache. In contrast, the title flavor in another novelty piece, the Sweet Potato, was very weak. Additionally, the chocolate flavor in many pieces is not well represented.
Marti Chocolatt: Chocolatier Tonet Tibay was inspired to combine her Philippine heritage with the finesse and sophistication of the French way of making chocolates and confectionery. Her surprising and unexpectedly delightful combinations are at the heart of her chocolates—consider the Kalamansi (zesty Phillipine lime and dark chocolate) is a piquant surprise with a decadent core. We also loved the silky Buko Pandan (a major award-winner) with young coconut bits with pandan leaf infusion in milk chocolate. Marti Chocolatt was awarded Best Chocolatier in America in 2012 and 2013 by International Chocolate Salon.
With colorful eye-popping displays of sumptuous chocolate truffles and confections, Sprüngli offers the traditional high-end Swiss chocolate experience. This luxury chocolate shop first opened its doors in 1836, later to build a reputation on its signature macaron, the Luxemburgerli. Chocolate-covered nuts and hot chocolate mixes are offered to take home, in addition to the ultimate grand cru truffles that would send anyone’s eyes rolling back in delight. Rub shoulders with the city’s well-to-do while enjoying a coffee and chocolate cake in the Paradeplatz flagship shop’s second-floor café. Numerous locations in Zurich.
Valrhona, the Rolls Royce of chocolate, has been crafting couvertures (chocolates with high cocoa content) since 1922. Hailing from France's Rhône Valley, Valrhona's wine country influence is unmistakable. The label on each Valrhona cru (single origin bar) bears the name of that bean's terroir, the most exclusive of these being the Vintage Single Origin bars, sold in limited quantities according to crop yield. Valrhona also suggests wine pairings designed to bring out the "notes" in each chocolate's complex flavor profile. From chocolate pearls to tasting squares, the brand's nec-plus-ultra chocolate bar selection is available at specialty grocery stores.
Hand-dipped bonbons are a specialty for Alma, one of Portland’s standout chocolate shops, but only its toffees, molded chocolate figures, and chocolate bars are shipped nationwide. Stop in for a taste of owner Sarah Hart’s Thai peanut butter cups and rose caramels — the filling contains just the right amount of salinity to offset the drop of rosewater that’s inside each one. Or, order in advance of the holidays to snag a hazelnut or peanut butter crunch bar, caramel-pecan bar, or mocha almond nibby. Alma ships nationwide. 140 NE 28th Avenue, Portland, OR
The praline/hazelnut mix starts to emerge in the background quickly after application. Hazelnut alone is more familiar, and I like to think I would've pointed it out without knowing about it ahead of time, but the addition of praline makes for a more nuanced and alien blend, albeit very desirable and certainly not taking much away from the cocoa-dominance of the fragrance.
Anytime you walk into a chocolate shop and are immediately greeted with a sample of free, homemade fudge, you know you’re in for a good time. That’s what you will find at The Sweet Palace in Philipsburg, Montana. The customer service here is just that good. Beyond huckleberry fudge, you’ll also find homemade truffles, nut bark and creamy chocolates. If chocolate isn’t your thing, The Sweet Palace also sells a bunch of nostalgic candy you forgot existed.
This South American country may not be the first to come to mind when you think about the world's best chocolate, but it should be. Research suggests that cocoa originated in Ecuador, where it was cultivated and eaten over 5,000 years ago. The most flavorful chocolate produced today comes from aromatic "arriba cacao," from which only 5 percent of the world's chocolate is made. Sixty-three percent of that cacao is grown in Ecuador. One of the country's top three brands, Pacari, continues to collect international awards. Kallari and Republica del Cacao chocolates also have bold Ecuadorian flavors.
The Ghirardelli chocolate company, named after famous Italian Chocolatier Domingo Ghirardelli is an US division of Swiss confectiner Lindt and Sprungli and is perhaps one of the most coveted chocolate brands in the world. Incorporated in 1852, it is the third oldest chocolate company in the States and sports some of the largest variety of flavours and options in dedicated Ghirardelli shops. Sold in bar versions or miniature single squares, these varieties include milk chocolates, peanut butter chocolate and mint chocolate among many others.
I have always been on the hunt for good chocolate. I first found Legacy Chocolates when they had a shop in St. Paul on Marshall Avenue - it was hands down the best chocolate I had ever had! When they left the shop on Marshall and were in Menomonie, Wisconsin I was still able to enjoy their chocolate. I just called Legacy and placed my order and they shipped it right to my doorstep. So happy to welcome Legacy back to St. Paul - best chocolate ever!!
You will actually have to visit Amsterdam to sample what may be the best chocolates in the Netherlands. The proprietors of Puccini Bomboni, a delightful cafe and restaurant, hand-make each chocolate on the premises and do not deliver. Exotic combinations of chocolate and spices, concocted from the freshest ingredients, are a specialty. Although the variety isn’t enormous, the quality is truly amazing.
Planète Chocolat sells most of their chocolates in prepared boxes, so I could not pick out my preferences. Some pieces, mostly truffles, are available separately. The pieces in the box I got had textured tops that I could not match up with the diagram, so I could not tell what was what. Planète Chocolat’s chocolates look fancy, but that does not make them taste fancy, and I would rather pay for taste than looks.
Jacques Torres has every holiday cornered with bonbons and chocolate sculptures that boggle the mind, but it’s his caramelized macadamia nuts enrobed in milk chocolate — tasting something like a deconstructed candy bar — that regularly sell out. A wide range of chocolates are available online; shipping generally takes two to three days. 350 Hudson Street, New York, NY (multiple locations)
Garrison has other novelties, but the toffee was best. The Ultimate Nougat Bar suggested something I would like to see chocolatiers try—remaking classic candy bars with fine ingredients. Unfortunately, the Nougat Bar fell short. It felt too empty of flavor, and the first three ingredients do not impress (dried egg whites, sugar, and potato starch).
Pastry chef and chocolatier Valerie Gordon does it all, from pastries and historical cakes to petit fours dipped in white chocolate and delicate toffee coated in dark chocolate. Her almond fleur de sel toffee is a favorite. Valerie Confections ships many of its sweets anywhere within the continental U.S. 3360 West 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA (multiple locations)
NEW! Ceretto Barolo + Exotic Truffle Collection. For those who appreciate and collect Italian wines. Embark on a guided wine and chocolate tasting through the Langhe region of Piemonte home to Barolo, Barbaresco and the white truffle. Ceretto 2014 Barolo Red Wine is paired with our signature 9 piece Exotic Truffle Collection and nestled in a purple gift box. This is a classic Barolo - light garnet in color with Barolo's quintessential aromas of roses, tart cherries, and hints of truffles. Ceretto's Barolo DOCG is extraordinarily approachable, and it will continue to reward the patient wine drinker as it evolves over the course of several years. Included are guided tasting notes with which you can unlock the stories of each truffle parfum and discover the chocolate and wine pairing experience.
The Good & Evil bar is made with 72 percent Peruvian Nacional Cacao, allegedly the rarest cocoa bean in existence. Master chocolatier Christopher Curtin of Éclat Chocolate chose only the Premier Cru Superieur beans from the first harvest on a remote farm in Peru. Next, the organic Fair Trade beans traveled to Switzerland, where they were processed in an antique conching machine. We enjoyed its rich taste, cocoa nib-crunch and sophisticated aftertaste. Just be warned that the Good & Evil bar is available in very limited quantities, so score some while you can.
Review: When we first saw this box we didn't really have high expectations but considering this was the only chocolate assortment that was nearly wiped out by our testers, it's safe to say it's a true contender. Like the other Russell Stover on the list, this heart has a lot of variety but unlike its counterpart the chocolates seem to have a little more inspiration and flavor behind them. Overall reactions boiled down to head nods of approval from our tasters so if you're looking for something good that isn't wildly expensive, this is a great way to go.
French Broad Chocolate is a must-try shop located in Asheville, North Carolina. It has chocolates that have won numerous awards at the International Chocolate Awards and Good Food Awards. The confections, which range from single-source bars to vegan lemongrass and ginger truffles, are made with local ingredients and sustainable, wholesome cacao beans.
Most chocolate makers know nothing about where their cacao comes from. A former consultant for a well-regarded European chocolate maker told me that until last year, the firm’s cacao buyer had never been to a plantation. Farmers sell to brokers who sell to bigger brokers; by the time the cacao reaches the factory, nobody knows its story. Sometimes this arrangement allows growers to mistreat workers without accountability. It also can allow them to get the same price for unripe, rotting or generally trashy beans—at their worst, these are known as "dogs and cats"—that they get for the good stuff.
Our top pick for cake mix comes with a catch. Williams-Sonoma’s devil’s food costs a whopping $15 per box. (Plus you can only buy it online or in-store.) Don’t get me wrong, this chocolate cake was really, really tasty, but is it worth the money and a trip to the mall? That’s for you to decide. If you’ve got a budding baker in your life or want to put together a nice housewarming gift, we recommend this product 110 percent. But if you’re just looking to make a quick, tasty cake, there are other, more accessible brands that fit the bill…or you could always make something from scratch.
Owned by a couple for 30+ years, this beloved shop focuses on both chocolates and pastries. The confectionery menu features a plethora of truffles, fondants, and marzipans, as well as specialty treats such as marzipan critters, florentines, and meringue balls. Pâtisseries also make for good eye candy, from chocolate cakes to fruit tartelettes and French macarons.
Richart’s Intense Valentine Gourmet Chocolates are $77 for a box of 49 chocolates. The real frustration here is that it's 49, not 50, so those of us with a strong sense of symmetry will have to eat them quickly just to cope. However, they are legitimate French Chocolates, each one having one of seven fancy flavors / aromas - floral, spicy, citrus, balsm, roasted, fruity, or herbal. The box also comes with a dark chocolate plaque for your valentine, so maybe that's piece 50.
creations impress both the palate and the eye. As Val, one of the panelists, said: "It's more than candy -- it's art." Thomas was more enamored of the taste, writing, "Who knew it was possible for chocolate to be both bold and delicate at the same time?" For Valentine's Day, Shotts makes a limited collection called Legendary Lovers. With chocolates named after star-crossed lovers like Roman mythology's Dido and Aeneas (strawberry basil and raspberry verbena), the collection is bound to get you in the mood. ($20 for the 12-piece box; garrisonconfections.com, 401-490-2740)
Guests of The Hotel Hershey who arrive via the registration lobby need to know that a more exotic space resides just one floor above. The hotel’s Fountain Lobby is an eye-grabbing, Mediterranean-themed gathering spot. It looks much like it did when it opened in the 1930s, based on a hotel Milton Hershey had visited in the Mediterranean. Wendy Pramik for USA TODAY
Simran Sethi is a journalist who believes food is always part of a bigger story. Named one of the “50 Most Influential Global Indians” by Vogue India and the environmental “messenger” by Vanity Fair, Simran has travelled to six continents for stories that have appeared in Smithsonian, The Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, National Geographic Traveler, The Washington Post and The Guardian. Her book–Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love–was named one of the best food books of 2016 by Smithsonian. Her chocolate podcast–The Slow Melt–was named Best Food Podcast of 2017 by Saveur.
If you are looking for something premium in Belgium’s chocolate market, Godiva can be your pick. Delicious, hygienic and high-quality preservatives added for a great longevity. If you can eat the chocolate recipes at Godiva fresh inside the store, nothing can happen better to you in Belgium. The chocolatier is many years old located in Brussels, Belgium. The chocolate producer supplies its premium quality chocolate recipes to various parts of the world. Godiva is a familiar name in the global chocolate arena. The journey started in 1920, over a century back and its unique recipes and world-class service added thousands of customers to its list and made it one of the top 10 best chocolatiers in the world. You may have to pay a bit higher price for the chocolates but you won’t come out of the store with regret in your heart.