I recently had the opportunity to try products from Naturally Nora, a line of all-natural cake and frosting mixes. Always on the lookout for healthier alternatives to mainstream grocery items loaded with artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, I was excited to come across Naturally Nora. I contacted creator Nora Schultz (yes, there really is a Nora!) and was pleasantly surprised to find a case full of her entire product line on my doorstep a few days later.
Schultz, a Michigan native and former Campbell Soup Company employee, realized that there was a need for convenient natural desserts. She began developing her own cake, brownie and frosting mixes and testing them on her own family.
Naturally Nora boasts a full line of cake, brownie and frosting mixes with kid-friendly names such as Cheerful Chocolate, A Lot'a Dots and Surprising Stars, which can be found at your local Meijer, HyVee or Whole Foods. The products can also be purchased online at Amazon.com.
I assembled a panel consisting of my own kids (the toughest critics there are!) along with several adults and other kids to taste Naturally Nora's products. We tried both the regular and chocolate chunk fudge brownie mixes, the Sunny Yellow cake, the Cheerful Chocolate cake with Cheerful Chocolate frosting, the Surprising Stars cake mix with Surprising Stars frosting and the Alot'a Dots Cake with Alot'a Dots frosting.
The first products we tried were the Surprising stars mixes and the Fantastic fudgy brownies. The brownies were every bit as delicious as their homemade counterparts, but much easier to make. They had a rich chocolate flavor and fudgy texture, and were a hit with all the taste testers. I would make these again in a heartbeat!
The Surprising Stars cake mix was baked into a cupcake and frosted. The vanilla flavor of the cake was pleasant and the kids especially enjoyed finding the little chocolate stars in every bite. The frosting had a pleasant flavor as well, but we had to work to get the desired consistency. The frosting instructions state to use melted butter and milk with the package contents. We found that softened butter was a better choice in order to achieve that homemade whipped consistency. Melted butter produced a much runnier frosting.
Two more batches of cupcakes were made out of the Cheerful Chocolate and Alot'a Dots mixes. The chocolate cupcakes were a huge hit with adults and children alike! I bake quite often, usually from scratch, and even I was impressed. They did not have that slightly "off" flavor you find with many boxed mixes. They were moist and chocolaty, and the frosting was the closest to homemade I've ever tasted from a mix.
The one and only disappointment we experienced was with the Alot'a Dots mixes, which were the most anticipated by my kids. Given the fact that we do not eat any artificial colors in our home, sprinkles only rarely make an appearance here. These mixes are best described as the all-natural version of Pillsbury's FunFetti line. The biggest complaint my kids had was that they didn't look like "they should." The "bits of color" described and pictured on the box didn't quite match the finished product. Instead of being colorful red, blue, green and yellow, they looked more like dehydrated vegetable bits from a dip mix, more orange, yellow, green and reddish. The bits are baked into the cake mix as well as being sprinkled on the vanilla frosting. The kids in our group were hesitant to eat them because they looked like veggies! The taste was not bad, but not great either. I found them to brown very fast in the oven, and they turned out a bit dry, though that could have easily been my own error versus the product itself.
Not only are Naturally Nora products convenient and delicious, they are also great as a base for recipes. I used the Sunny Yellow cake mix to make a "Honey Bun" cake for a holiday brunch and it turned out wonderfully. Also, we added crushed Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joe's (think peppermint oreo's) to the Doubly Fudgy brownie mix, which met with rave reviews.
I can't say enough good things about Naturally Nora. I received such fantastic customer service from Nora herself and the products were easy to use, requiring minimal added ingredients. Most importantly, almost all the products we tried were truly delicious!
In my opinion, Naturally Nora products are a pantry staple for anyone looking for an easy, all-natural choice for their baking needs.