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Do you use Boxed Cake Mixes?

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#31 scordelia

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 07:00 AM

Last month I did a wedding cake for a woman who wanted Duncan Hines Golden Butter cake mix.  A Big.  Fancy.  Wedding.  It was what she grew up with and what she wanted for her wedding.  She searched high and low and could not find a single baker in NYC to make it for her. 

I did. 

And she LOVED it.  Her guests LOVED it.

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That reminds me of a friend of mine who was having a big fancy wedding in Cincinnati (country club, the works), but she wanted her wedding cake to come from Kroeger's, because all her birthday cakes growing up were bought at Kroeger's. It was a sentimental thing.

Actually, it was a pretty cake (especially when considering the source), and it tasted like birthday cake and we had vanilla ice cream.
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#32 joshalow

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 10:24 AM

I make the majority of my cakes from scratch. But, recently I have tried 2-3 doctored cake mix recipes- one is a Strawberry cake and they are good. I'll use a cake mix for cupcakes unless I want chocolate cupcakes- then I just use my regular scratch chocolate cake recipe because it is soo easy and soo good.

#33 mignardise

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 10:41 AM

Karaoke of Pastry.........too funny!
I agree though.

You can taste a box from a mile way. Chocolate is hard to detect, but White/Yellow you can.

I'm all for scratch.

#34 claire797

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 11:01 AM

Maybe the answer really lies in whether or not you are a cake person or a frosting person. :hmmm: For instance, if a mediocre (not, bad -- but not great) cake has a spectacular frosting, then I'm likely to forget how mediocre the cake part was. Given that, I'm not as picky about whether a cake is scratch or box as some others might be. You'll never catch me scraping the frosting of a piece of cake or leaving it behind -- unless it was really nasty frosting. However, I could see myself eating the frosting off and leaving the cake behind.

I wish we could all get together for a big cake taste-off and see how many of use really could taste the box taste :biggrin:.

#35 hjshorter

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 02:24 PM

I use a cake mix if I need two dozen cupcakes for a preschool class, tomorrow. For family I make cakes from scratch. The texture of my homemade cakes is rarely as reliable as the box.

Even with a cake mix I always make my own frosting, because buttercream is easy and canned frosting tastes like shortening.

Edited by hjshorter, 23 April 2005 - 02:30 PM.

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#36 jgarner53

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 02:51 PM

Scratch, definitely, with one exception, and even then, one of these days, I will develop a more grown up version of the lemon jello cake my mom always made for me for my birthday that doesn't involve a box of lemon jello and a lemon cake mix.

I stopped making box cakes probably by the time I was 8 or so and ran out of the mixes from my Easy Bake Oven (their cakes were too small anyway). I loved poring through my mom's cookbooks for cake recipes (chocolate was a favorite). I did have a taste for the canned frosting, though, because I didn't like the extra work of melting squares of chocolate for the traditional American powdered sugar-based "buttercream."

I like cakes like genoise because you can control how sweet you make them by how much syrup (and how strong it is) you add. That and the versatility. Take a plain genoise, and you can transform it any number of ways depending on how you flavor the syrup and what you fill the cake with. Try that with a box mix.
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#37 andiesenji

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 02:58 PM

99% of the time I make cakes from scratch.
However I do keep a couple of boxes of pound cake mix on hand for baking something quick that is going to be used under fruit or custard or whatever, where the flavor of the cake is not so important as the stuff that will be soaking into it.

I use it for an applesauce/applebutter stack cake using very thin layers.
The point is that the flavor of the cake is completely overpowerd by the flavor of the "filling" so the pound cake mix is just fine and saves a considerable amount of time.
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#38 sheetz

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 05:31 PM

I would often bake cakes (from a mix)  and take them to functions.  People would rave and say how great they were.  Then, the compliments were always followed by "Did you bake that from scratch?"    Well, I didnt know what to say. :shock: I didnt want to lie, knowing that I didnt deserve the credit -- Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines did.  :blink: 


Actually, nowadays in the era of Semi-Homemade cuisine, many people consider boxed mixes to be made "from scratch." :blink:

#39 tejon

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 05:55 PM

Scratch. I have a Kitchenaid stand mixer, and it takes close to the same amount of time to get out the ingredients and mix them as it does to do the same with a package. I will add that I would much rather have cake made from a mix than canned frosting on anything, from scratch or not. That stuff is truly vile.
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#40 rooftop1000

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 08:13 PM

I use cake mix all the time especially the lemon .....to make cookies from the Cake DR with poppy seeds I scam from the supermarket bakery.....

open stir plop bake ...lemon poppy cookies in 12.5 min :raz:
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#41 alligande

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 05:42 AM

I only use scratch, I learned to bake from my granmother in England, I had never seen or used a box mix till I came to the states for the first time in the early eighties. Went through a period of using them for my job. I used to be a chef on private yachts and untill I started working on large power boats with "kitchens" not galleys there was no stand mixers therefore no scratch cakes.

That said I went out for dessart the other night to a coffee shop where people love the cake, my companions all raved about the choclate cake, it and the frosting both came from box and can, didnt do anything for me.

I just think that boxes are an aquired taste and to many people cake is the flavour of a boxed mix, its what you get from supermarket bakerys, and many small bakeries as well. (I wish criollo was located near me ) :wink:

#42 halloweencat

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 06:03 AM

wow. i haven't realized this until now, but for years i've been avoiding eating box mix cakes.

in the back of my mind i would be wondering why i didn't like the fanciful creations made by local bakeries, why the birthday cakes catered at the office had no appeal, why someone bringing in cake or cupcakes or whatever didn't tempt me at all.

someone upthread mentioned the cloying taste of box mixes, and frequently the too-sweet taste. +never+ in my mind had i even thought about whether any of these cakes were from mixes or from scratch...i just know that they gave me no gustatory pleasure -- and that's saying a lot, since i really like baked goods.

when i was very young i baked from mixes all the time. then at some point, i discovered a chocolate cake recipie from "the joy of cooking" and without even realizing it, i was at a fork in the road (no pun intended). i haven't made a mix cake for years and years, but i don't even think about it. i have no from-scratch-snobbery. i just stopped making mix cakes because on a basic (and unconcious level) i thought they didn't taste good anymore (or, to flip this ironically...i didn't think +mixes+ were worth the effort anymore).

and i'm not going to say that i can tell a cake mix just by tasting it. i don't know if i can. just looking back at what i've been avoiding all these years...i think they've been mixes. (btw, mark me as one of those folks who does not care for buttercream icing; in general, i find most icings far too sweet.)

this thread has been un petite revelation.


cheers :)

hc

Edited by halloweencat, 24 April 2005 - 06:04 AM.


#43 CompassRose

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 07:34 AM

I've never used a boxed cake mix, ever, except for the one for No Pudge Brownies (which I like, cos I can make one, single brownie if I have a craving).

I don't like boxed mixes. That weird sweet taste, the funny kind of noncrumb dissolve-in-the-mouth quality -- bleeeyuch. I tend to like a heartier, European kind of cake, and actually really enjoy my own foolings around with whole-grain cake baking.

And I loathe that horrid "buttercream" made of white shortening and sugar more than I can even describe. I do not get the appeal of that stuff, at all.

#44 Paris M

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 08:55 AM

From scratch for me. I grew up on mixes and thought that making a cake from scratch was "too hard." Then my college roommate whipped up a sheet cake in the same time that it would take me to use a mix so I asked me to teach me and I've been doing it from scratch ever since. Plus, most mixes use partially-hydrogenated _______, something I work very hard to avoid; give me butter or give me death!
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#45 ludja

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 09:35 AM

I grew up on home made cakes, and lots of them were European in style--denser, finer crumb, ground nuts, etc. I've never really liked the taste or texture of cakes mixes; people have described the difference pretty well above. (and forget canned frostings). So it's not been something I've done. (I do think that people's taste can be affected if that's what they grew up with--i.e. to like the texture and certain *other* taste of cake mixes better).

I tend to make cakes with butter; not oil, so I'm not sure if some of what I associate with cakes mixes is the texture/flavor of using oil.

When and if I have kids maybe I could see it if as someone mentioned above I needed to whip up some cupcakes at the last minute, but probably I'd find a reliable recipe and perhaps even make up my own dry "mix" at home to have at hand. (I've done that with cornbread and it has worked out really well).

My mom did have one "doctored" cake mix recipe that she made alot and that I have continued to make--it was called "whiskey cake". Uses a plain yellow cake mix, vanilla pudding, whiskey, walnuts and butterscotch chips. It uses butter rather than oil. (It's a great long-lasting coffee cake, sturdy enough to bring along for a week at a cottage or the beach).

Edited by ludja, 25 April 2005 - 09:00 AM.

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#46 andiesenji

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 09:58 AM

When and if I have kids maybe I could see it if as someone mentioned above I needed to whip up some cupcakes at the last minute, but probably I'd find a reliable recipe and perhaps even make up my own dry "mix" at home to have at hand.  (I've done that with cornbread and it has worked out really well).

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I have a basic cookie mix I make up in 10 quart batches, however it has to be kept refrigerated.
It does make it easier to scoop out the number of cups I require and add the "wet" ingredients.
I can put together a batch of cookie dough in a tenth of the time and can have them baking in the time that usually would be spent just gathering the ingredients.
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#47 lancastermike

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 10:29 AM

Cakes from scratch are all I make. I like watching people eat it when I take one someplace. They know it is different, and some are not sure if it is better or worse. My scratch layer cakes are lighter and have a more open crumb than box mixes. I think beating the egg whites and folding them into batter at the last makes a differnce, though I have read cake books that claim no benefit is derived by this method

#48 claire797

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 10:55 AM

Cakes from scratch are all I make.  I like watching people eat it when I take one someplace.  They know it is different, and some are not sure if it is better or worse.  My scratch layer cakes are lighter and have a more open crumb than box mixes.  I think beating the egg whites and folding them into batter at the last makes a differnce, though I have read cake books that claim no benefit is derived by this method

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Guess it depends on what recipe, right? I have a scratch recipe that involves folding in beaten egg whites, and it's definitely one of my best scratch white cakes. I'm surprised a cake book would say it "makes no difference" whether you fold in whites, because adding egg whites to a batter (you'd think, right?) would make a cake lighter and airier. My best scratch cake recipes involve 3 things.

1) bringing all ingredients to room temperature (something I must plan ahead of time)
2) sifting, sifting sifting (something messy, which I don't enjoy, which leads to more cleaning)
3) and using beaten egg whites, which leads to more appliances and more cleaning

Doing those 3 steps gets me the results I'm looking for, but including those 3 things is NOT *as* or even close to as convenient as dumping a box of cake mix in a bowl and beating it up with oil, eggs and water.

#49 hjshorter

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 02:42 PM

I tend to make cakes with butter; not oil, so I'm not sure if some of what I associate with cakes mixes is the texture/flavor of using oil.

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There are several cake mixes now that call for butter instead of oil.
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#50 arbuclo

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 04:24 AM

I don't bake a lot of cakes but when I do it's from scratch. I love the experience of making from scratch and I know what's in it. I'd lose out on the experience of it if I used a mix. The only exception is angel food cake. I can't be bothered breaking all those eggs and then trying to figure out what to do with all the left over yolks, so I use a box. (Not that I do that very often since I can only find angel food cake mix in the US and don't get back that often.)
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#51 CurlySue

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 06:43 AM

I don't have a preference.  My thinking is, as long as the person eating the cake is happy and gets what they want, then who cares whether it came from a box or from scratch?

Last month I did a wedding cake for a woman who wanted Duncan Hines Golden Butter cake mix.  A Big.  Fancy.  Wedding.  It was what she grew up with and what she wanted for her wedding.  She searched high and low and could not find a single baker in NYC to make it for her. 

I did. 

And she LOVED it.  Her guests LOVED it.  It was what she wanted, and that's what is important to me -- giving the customer what they want.  I think all the bakers out there who "refuse to compromise their reputations" by making a cake with a mix are...well...compromising their reputations.  They're not serving their customers.

If someone wants a cake mix, I'll make it.  If someone want a labor-intensive genoise that tastes like crap, I'll make it.  If it's what they want, I'll be proud to give it to them. 

While I enjoy the idea of and work involved in making things from scratch, I'm not too shy to say that I, personally, think a lot of scratch cakes out there taste like crap (even 60% of the cakes we made in pastry school).  Is it a good cake when you have to disguise with syrups, fillings and flavors?  I could probably dress up a kitchen sponge in much the same way and have at least a dozen people tell me it's the best cake they've ever had.  Heh.  A preference is a prefence and if you prefer mix cakes, it doesn't mean your pallete is any more or less refined than that of a person who enjoys scratch cakes.  One isn't inherently better than the other.

It's all about the final outcome and whether people really enjoy eating it.  That's what makes a cake a GOOD cake.  Mix or not.

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sherri, thank you SO MUCH for posting that.

I have a custom cake business. I've been in business 5 years. I'm very successful, if I do say so myself. All of my cakes start with a box.

I'm so tired of feeling embarrassed for being one of "those" bakers. You know, the kind of baker the "Real" bakers look down on because I use a MIX <gasp>! I'll tell you what though, I spent TWO YEARS doing taste tests with all kinds of scratch cake recipes and never once did someone prefer the scratch cake over my doctored mix recipes. Were my scratch cakes bad? No. Well, maybe a few of the first ones :raz: but I improved and the scratch cakes were great. Why weren't they as popular as the mix cakes? Because *my* clientele likes mix cakes. The people who pay my bills, who order my products WANT box mix cakes.

Yes, I know there are people out there who can sniff out a box mix a mile away and wouldn't dare eat one, but those are not the people paying my bills. Those people are few and far between compared to the people who like and pay for my measely box mix recipes. I give the customers what they want, and frankly the cakes are darn good. Mixes are reliable and far easier than scratch baking. And after putting in a 40 hour day at my "real" job, I hardly have the time or desire to fight with scratch recipes all night long, especially when my customers don't even like them!

Do I enjoy scratch baking? Sure, when I have tons of time and I'm baking something special for me, I love to pull out a recipe book and give a scratch cake a try. Can I taste a difference? Yes, I can. And sometimes it's not good! Like sherri, I think lots of scratch cakes just suck. Do I appreciate what it takes to make a good scratch cake? I sure do. I also appreciate what it takes to run a business and to make my clientele happy.

For me it's all about the money and keeping the customers happy.

#52 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 07:19 AM

There is no right or wrong on baking all from scratch or using mixes. I've personally been very upfront about my use of and experiences with mixes. Inexperience and or prejudices effect what we personally like, many people have never really been exposed to a good scratch cake or a good box mix. Both can be equally good/great or equally bad.

I believe the only way to really determine what's best is to do a blind taste test using multiple people comparing multiple cakes. Theres tons of misconceptions about both scratch cakes and mixes and people claiming they can taste or detect things that most people simply can't.

I've done fairly extensive taste testings to find out what people in my area like and want. In many cases the boxed mix won over my best scratch cakes. The reasons sited had to do with texture and moisture. I think people expect all cakes to be light, open crumbed, moist and spongie like a box mix. That seemed to be the most important factor. Taste which you'd think would be the most important factor really wasn't a huge issue, BECAUSE people thought all of them tasted good........they thought the hallmark to judge all cakes against is the texture you get with a box mix, which is the dominate cake people are exposed to.

Anyway, that we get people baking is a good thing as far as I'm concerned. The more you know the more you might want to know.

We've done some "best of" recipe testing here and I'm not so sure some of the testing has been completed. Have you all read this thread: here. I still don't own a perfect yellow cake recipe. I've got a darn good white cake (look here).........but in blind taste tests I can't win over a mix. Anyone who claims they their scratch cake is better then a mix, I challenge you to post your recipe in the appropriate "best of" thread and offer it up to everyone to test bake. Prove to everyone that your cake is the best, better then any mix. If not...........I think your posting based on prejudices's more then fact.

#53 Patrick S

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 07:34 AM

I'd like to hear more about this. Does anyone know exactly what chemicals do exactly what to cakes that makes AB say that boxed is superior?

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I don't know all the magic ingredients that cake mixes can include, but I think some of the most important ones are the emulsifiers like soy lechithin, polysorbate 60, propylene glycol monoesters, polyglycerol esters, etc. I think that it is compounds like these that give the mix cakes that texture qualities that a lot of people like. It would be really interesting to get some of these compounds to experiment with, see how they affect texture, perception of moistness and so on.

EDIT to add link to overview of the use of emulsifiers and stabilizers in food products.

Edited by Patrick S, 25 April 2005 - 07:51 AM.

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#54 Rhea_S

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 08:16 AM

A big part of the choice between using a mix or starting from scratch is your goal. If your goal is simply to bake something in order to serve or eat some cake, then I suppose using a mix would be fine. However, if you're more like me, who takes pleasure in the process and not so much with the end result, then it has to be from scratch. I don't use mixes, but I have enjoyed eating cakes made from mixes. I'm usually the first one to slice into a pistachio cake (yellow cake mix + pistachio pudding mix?) and I go back for seconds. Same for a Kahlua cake made from a mix a co-worker brought one day.

#55 Jaymes

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 08:41 AM

A big part of the choice between using a mix or starting from scratch is your goal. If your goal is simply to bake something in order to serve or eat some cake, then I suppose using a mix would be fine. However, if you're more like me, who takes pleasure in the process and not so much with the end result, then it has to be from scratch. I don't use mixes, but I have enjoyed eating cakes made from mixes. I'm usually the first one to slice into a pistachio cake (yellow cake mix + pistachio pudding mix?) and I go back for seconds. Same for a Kahlua cake made from a mix a co-worker brought one day.


That is absolutely the truth. If I were standing in my kitchen at 10pm, after a day at the office, shopping on my way home, fixing dinner and then cleaning up the kitchen, helping with homework, giving three kids a round of baths and getting them into bed, and I still had to make cupcakes to take to my daughter's 1st grade class, or my son's cub scout troop, which I often had to do, boxed cake mixes were a godsend. My "goal," as Rhea says, was to mix up something the kids would eat, and then get off of my tired feet and get into bed.

As I've often said here on eG, in my opinion, different circumstances call for different solutions. I'm not one to turn up my nose and declare...."Well, I would NEVER..." :cool:

Edited by Jaymes, 25 April 2005 - 08:44 AM.


#56 Ling

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 08:43 AM

That weird sweet taste, the funny kind of noncrumb dissolve-in-the-mouth quality -- bleeeyuch.

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This is the reason I don't like boxed mixes too. :smile:

#57 tanabutler

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 08:47 AM

I can taste the artificial ingredients in cake mixes and frosting in a can, so I don't like them at all. (I will use a pre-made pie crust, though, if it has quality ingredients in it.)

As for cakes, it's scratch, and only scratch, for me. Once I learned how easy (and enjoyable) baking cakes are, I've never gone back. (If I were on a budget, I just wouldn't make cake. There have to be other, better ways to conserve money than by buying fake cake.)

But I guess if you can't tell the diff, what's the diff? I'll have some pie, please. :smile:

EDIT: here is a cake recipe I made week in and week out, when I catered ("Beauty and the Feast"). We had the food concession at Kuumbwa Jazz Club in town, and I made this recipe for three chocolate cakes (with minimal flour) every week, until I got tired of chocolate. Yes, that is English: I got tired of chocolate. I used to have it on a daily basis, and now, only rarely. The honeymoon of 30 years ended when I catered.

Chocolate Gratification Cakes

Edited by tanabutler, 25 April 2005 - 09:01 AM.


#58 Toliver

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 08:50 AM

I make the majority of my cakes from scratch. But, recently I have tried 2-3 doctored cake mix recipes- one is a Strawberry cake and they are good...

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I've made the strawberry, the lemon and the orange cakes from "The Cake Mix Doctor" and they were all winners. Guess I'm in the "Mix" category when it comes to cakes. "Scratch" for brownies, though.

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#59 hjshorter

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 08:57 AM

As I've often said here on eG, in my opinion, different circumstances call for different solutions.  I'm not one to turn up my nose and declare...."Well, I would NEVER..."  :cool:

Jaymes, you're the coolest.

As I noted above, there are quite a few mixes that call for butter instead of oil. Much better texture, not that 3-year-olds I'm serving it to care much about anything but the frosting.

And I too always make brownies from scratch. I've got a killer recipe and get more consistent results with brownies than with scratch cakes.
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#60 Patrick S

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 09:45 AM

We've done some "best of" recipe testing here and I'm not so sure some of the testing has been completed. Have you all read this thread: here. I still don't own a perfect yellow cake recipe. I've got a darn good white cake (look here).........but in blind taste tests I can't win over a mix. Anyone who claims they their scratch cake is better then a mix, I challenge you to post your recipe in the appropriate "best of" thread and offer it up to everyone to test bake. Prove to everyone that your cake is the best, better then any mix. If not...........I think your posting based on prejudices's more then fact.

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I really hope someone takes up the challenge for the white cake. I'll try out the recipe, do a blind test with 10 or so people at work against Betty Crocker supermoist white cake mix, and post the results on the white cake thread.
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