• Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
pam claughton

Do you use Boxed Cake Mixes?

231 posts in this topic

I'm especially curious about this assuming that most of you enjoy baking. When it is time to make a cake, do you always do it from scratch? Or do you ever or always use a box mix, Duncan Hines, or Betty or some such instead?

I'll admit it, I like to bake just about everything except cakes. None of my made from scratch cakes have been as good as Duncan or Betty.

Which could just mean I make bad cakes...

:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I grew up eating boxed cake mix. The flavor has always reminded me of good times, birthday parties, etc. etc. etc. Over the past few years, as I've learned how to do more scratch baking and have baked for more (and pickier!) people, I've grown self-conscious about my cakes and am now one of those people who can, er, "taste the box". I own all the Cake Mix Doctor books, still recommend various cake mix recipes to friends, like the idea of cake mix and its convenience, but can't eat a cake mix cake without detecting the mix and then feeling lazy for not using a scratch recipe.

If I come upon a crazy, creative recipe using cake mix (Midori cake, for instance), I'll try it. I also like using plain white cake mix in some enhanced or doctored recipes. It's the artificially flavored butter or yellow cake mixes that I'm starting to have a problem with.

As for making scratch cakes that aren't as good as box cakes, I hear you! I've made a BUNCH of scratch cakes that just didn't cut it. To make a really good scratch yellow or white cake, you have to be fairly meticulous with ingredients, methods etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a myth, perpetuated by many including Alton Brown and armies of cake decorators, that mixes yield better cakes than from scratch.

Bullshit.

Just keep trying. Egg foams are not easy to pick up and occasionally you are going to have a dud, but keep at it.

Cake from a mix is better than my genoise?

Hell no!

Are you fucken kidding me?


Edited by carp (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The boxed cake mix definitely have a place in my pantry. When we want a quick cake fix, nothing is so easy and for me it yields a fine result.

My wife (who is the real baker) makes it from scratch and its really really good but I see the effort she puts into it. Recently she make an apple spiced cake from scratch and it was amazing.

I generally like my wifes because she put slightly less sugar in. I think the box cake mixes are too sweet.

Soup

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've used boxed cake mixes on occassion when making cupcakes for school bake sale for example.

If it's dessert for us or when we're entertaining, then I'll make the effort and go from scratch


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmmm, should I admit that I use a mix?

I prefer from scratch, but for my wedding cupcakes, I made 4 "doctored" recipes. All the frosting was from scratch. Everyone raved.

Here's a fav

Never ending chocolate cake.

1 triple chocolate mix( or devils food, or dark chocolate)

1/2 cup oil

4 eggs

1-2tbls espresso powder or instant coffee

2 tsp vanilla

1 box instant chocolate pudding mix.

1-2 cups choc. chips

1/2 cup chocolate syrup.

1 1/4 cup buttermilk.

Mix it all up. Makes a great bundt, or cupcakes or whatever. Very moist and hardly tastes like a mix.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I always bake from scratch, but I don't knock all the box mixes necessarily. Some of them are hard to beat, and of course have the advantage of being super-quick to get into the oven. I always bake from scratch because I want to have the feeling that I'm creating some alchemical magic with my ingredients, and change things up each time in order to come up with something better.


"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like the box mixes occasionally, especially for cupcakes, but my husband says he can taste the chemicals, so I don't use them anymore........I also don't bake cakes anymore.

Baking altitude is trying enough without having spent three hours preparing something that fails.

(Bitter, angry almond cake failure-maker).


I'm a canning clean freak because there's no sorry large enough to cover the, "Oops! I gave you botulism" regrets.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, back when I was just a "cake decorator" I only knew how to use cake mixes. I just didn't seem to have luck with scratch baking. Or else I just didn't have a decent repertoire of recipes to use.

But, now that I've gotten a few really good reference books on baking and some great recipes, I will never go back to mixes. Scratch cakes all the way, I'm proud to say. And I can always tell the difference too.

One book that I learned a TON about baking cakes from is The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum. That and The Wedding Cake Book, where there are some really good recipes to work with IMO. There are I'm sure lots of others, but those were the ones that showed me how easy baking scratch cakes could be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do layer cakes from scratch, but I use a mix for for this eggnog bundt cake with sherry that is my mother's recipe.


S. Cue

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I rarely make cakes as I'm always baking bread or experimenting with bread. I do use cake mixes when I need to make a cake. The cost of eggs, butter, etc. for a cake that might fail is high when you're on a budget. Bread is a cheap hobby, thank goodness!


Edited by glossyp (log)

"Eat it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." TMJ Jr. R.I.P.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well here's my two cents, since I have become a small business cake decorator I use mixes because at the end of the day it is a lot cheaper. I mostly use Duncan Hines but I do doctor up my mixes using pudding, pure extracts, sour cream, milk etc.

I have never made a sheet cake from scratch and would not be so happy if I used a ton of ingredients and didn't get a good result.

I also own the Cake Doctor's book and the Cake Bible which unfortunately, I have not made one cake from the latter yet. But I plan on doing so in the near future.

When you are baking 7 or 10 cakes a week it's just a lot easier to use the mix in my opinion.

I go back in forth on my frosting just depends on if I have time and again the sheer volume of what I am using, I am better off buying a huge 25lb pail and doctoring it up.


Believe, Laugh, Love

Lydia (aka celenes)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You’re already breaking eggs open, busting out the measuring cups, and pulling out the mixer… so just go ahead and make the cake from scratch already… C’mon! You know you want to… Don’t be scared. It’s only a cake.

My main problem with the mixes, is that no matter what you do, they all taste just about the same and have the same strangely “moist,” “fudgy” flavor. Sure the box says, Devil’s Food, or Triple Chocolate, etc… but the cake has the same cloying flavor and weirdly “fudgy” texture. The butter cakes and yellow cakes pretty much have the same problem and although some “doctoring” or “Sandra Lee-ing” can change the flavor a little, the cake is still a fudgy mess with a weird crumb. Have some respect for yourself and don’t mess with the mixes.

It’s the karaoke of pastry. Don’t go there.

Who decided all cakes needed fudge anyway?

It’s not necessarily the chemicals I want to avoid. I recently saw a brand of “organic,” “all-natural” cake mixes. The chocolate version contained flour, sugar, dutch-process cocoa, baking powder, and salt… The instructions required separated eggs, butter (or oil), and milk. What is the price? …you might ask… an alarming $6.99 for just enough mix to fill a couple of 9” pans. (For those who took the short bus I’ll explain why I think $7 is too much: YOU ARE MAKING AN “ORGANIC” CAKE FROM SCRATCH, BUT PAYING THROUGH THE NOSE FOR THE INGREDIENTS AND THE PRIVILEDGE OF HAVING SOMEONE MEASURE THEM OUT FOR YOU.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You’re already breaking eggs open, busting out the measuring cups, and pulling out the mixer… so just go ahead and make the cake from scratch already… C’mon! You know you want to… Don’t be scared. It’s only a cake.

Honestly, I really don't think its a matter of 'fear' as much as it is a matter of getting a fair-to-good cake (depending on the type) in the oven in a couple of minutes with a minimal amount of clean-up. I agree that in general scratch is superior, but boxes definitely have their place, certainly when convenience is a priority.

My main problem with the mixes, is that no matter what you do, they all taste just about the same and have the same strangely “moist,” “fudgy” flavor.

Right, and that's exactly what a lot of people want in a cake.


"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It’s not necessarily the chemicals I want to avoid. I recently saw a brand of “organic,” “all-natural” cake mixes. The chocolate version contained flour, sugar, dutch-process cocoa, baking powder, and salt…

All of which are chemicals or groups of chemicals. All cakes are made out of chemicals.

The instructions required separated eggs, butter (or oil), and milk. What is the price? …you might ask… an alarming $6.99 for just enough mix to fill a couple of 9” pans.

Definitely, $6.99 is ridiculous for a box of cake mix. But then, I think most "organic" products are ridiculously overpriced as well.


"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I confess that, when I had two to four baseball games a week in the summer and was responsible for bringing "snack" to many of them, I made cupcakes from mixes (please God, don't let my German grandma see this from heaven :unsure: ). However, I too am from the camp that feels scratch cakes are worth the effort. The same flavor and richness just aren't available from a mix.

I grew up on my parents' big horse and wheat farm, cooking for work crews and making everything from scratch. I use my Grandma's recipes and, with a little planning, I think scratch cakes can get to the oven pretty quickly, too (except for the Burnt Sugar Cake; that takes more time).

I am also a firm believer, however, in doing what works. If time or ingredient availability is an issue and mixes fit the bill, hey. I WOULD also add that, if you have a free afternoon and want to do something special, bake a cake from scratch! The opportunities for embellishment are endless (frosting, filling, pairing with fruit, whipped cream or ice cream, etc.) and a scratch cake with a fine, moist crumb and a handsome profile can be sheer paradise! :rolleyes:

Catherine

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Perhaps it's because I've never had a good yellow cake or maybe because I've grown used to it, but I actually prefer yellow cake mix to making my own from scratch.

However, when it comes to chocolate cakes I won't hesitate to make my own chocolate cake from scratch. The mixes oftentimes don't taste anything remotely of chocolate, and are just sweet and fluffy and are just lacking all around.


Believe me, I tied my shoes once, and it was an overrated experience - King Jaffe Joffer, ruler of Zamunda

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've never lived where cake mixes are that common, and after you bake a few cakes, it's no more hassle to bake from scratch and have one more bowl to clean up than it is to bake from a mix and end up with a pile of floury, sticky sachets and boxes.

BUT. I did use a sponge-cake mix a few years ago to show my kids how to beat eggs and mix/bake, because it allowed them to concentrate on the process, not the ingredients. Next time round, they bought and measured the ingredients themselves.

As luck would have it, I had to rush back to NZ over their birthdays, :sad: , but the boys and my husband were able to bake the birthday cakes themselves using the mix :smile: . That's who and what mixes are for, right?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Honestly, I really don't think its a matter of 'fear' as much as it is a matter of getting a fair-to-good cake (depending on the type) in the oven in a couple of minutes with a minimal amount of clean-up.  I agree that in general scratch is superior, but boxes definitely have their place, certainly when convenience is a priority.

It's called a stand mixer. I have a couple of cake recipes that I love (one is a French sponge that requires the eggs to be beaten for 20 min) that I would rarely make becuase I had better things to than stand over the bowl for 25+ min holding a hand mixer.

But my husband gave me a KitchenAid stand mixer. It has set me free! I make all these impossible recipes that need to be whipped and beaten for hours and hours, and simply turn on the machine and....walk away. Do some laundry, or weed my garden, play with the kids. It's a whole new world. If I was not already married to the sweetest man that ever lived, I would marry my stand mixer!


S. Cue

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll admit that one problem I have is that several of my favorite-flavored cakes start with mixes. I have always thought that I'd take the time to figure out how to convert those particular recipes to scratch. I know that as good as they are from mixes, they'd be truly awesome from scratch.

But then, the time comes, and I feel that craving for sherry cake, or chocolate flan cake, and the thought process goes something like this:

"Boy, am I in the mood for sherry cake. And I need to make a chocolate flan cake for the party tomorrow night. I really need to sit down and figure out how to make them from scratch. I know they'd be so much better. At first, I'll probably have a few failures, sure, but it'll be worth it in the long run. Of course I've got tons of errands to run today and a deadline to meet and then shopping to do and the house to clean and....oh what the hell....I'll pick up the box mixes just one more time."

Perhaps I should enlist a baker friend to do the conversions for me, eh?


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here are my thoughts on this. I have a small cake business, and I only bake from scratch. However, has taken me two years to develop the recipes that I use on a regular basis. There ARE quality yellow/white cakes from scratch out there. You just have to have the patience to test various recipes and find the method that works best for you. Because I've made my standard yellow cake so many times, I promise you I can make it as quickly as any box cake. But here's why:

I make my own mixes.

Whenever I have a little extra time (like on a Sunday) I will do all the measuring of dry ingredients for several basic yellow, chocolate, white (and banana ever since I discovered Wendy's banana cake) cakes. I use a scale, so I basically sift everything into a bowl on top of my scale. I seal them up in ziplocks and label them with the flavor and date. Then, when I need to bake, all I have to do is throw the dry ingredients in the mixer, nuke the butter to soften, and I'm pretty much there. Of course, I also use the hi-ratio mixing method, so there's no creaming of the butter/sugar.

I would never chastise someone for using a boxed mix, though. I think it's a great way to start learning to bake, and to get over the fear that many people have regarding cake. I would recommend for those of you who are serious about the results you produce, that you start with a book like The Cake Bible, and when you see the success you have, I guarantee you'll never want to use a boxed mix again.


"First rule in roadside beet sales, put the most attractive beets on top. The ones that make you pull the car over and go 'wow, I need this beet right now'. Those are the money beets." Dwight Schrute, The Office, Season 3, Product Recall

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.


Sherri A. Jackson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The last time I made a boxed cake mix was in grade 6, when I was making cupcakes for a class bake sale. I started doing them from scratch by the time I was 12 years old, and haven't gone back to mixes since. I think there's a real difference in flavour, and even though everyone may not be able to detect the difference between a boxed mix and a from-scratch cake, I can taste the difference. And that's what ultimately what matters to me, because I always want to give the best to the people I care about. :smile:


Edited by Ling (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Similar Content

    • By Kasia
      Afternoon tea with finger biscuits.
       
      With my children in mind I prepared an extremely simple dessert using natural yoghurt and biscuits as basic ingredients. It was supposed to be for children. By default, though, I prepared a bit more and we were all able to relish it.

      Ingredients (for 4 people)
      400g of natural yoghurt
      200g of finger biscuit
      200g of raspberries
      2 teaspoons of caster sugar

      Put aside a few nice raspberries and four finger biscuits. Crush the rest of the raspberries with a fork and mix them with the caster sugar. Crush the finger biscuits and blend them with the natural yoghurt. Put the raspberry mousse and then the biscuit mixture into a cup. Decorate the top of the dessert with the raspberries and peppermint leaves.
       
       

    • By Kasia
      Small stracciatella cheesecake with fruit.
       
      Today I would like to share with you the recipe for a dessert which I prepared for the beginning of the holiday. The last school tests are behind us, the school reports received, the suitcases almost packed, so now it is time for a reward. My little stracciatella cheesecake isn't that healthy, but sometimes we can overlook one small culinary peccadillo. After all, it is supposed to be a reward. For sure it was light as air, fluffy and melted in the mouth. And the pieces of the dark chocolate were so nice and crunchy. Try it yourself and like me you will fall in love with this dessert.

      Ingredients (17cm cake tin)
      100g of oatcakes
      50g of butter
      250g of mascarpone cheese
      200g of 30% sweet cream
      100g of white chocolate
      100g of dark chocolate
      fruit for decoration

      Put the cookies in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin, and then put them into a small bowl and mix them with the melted butter. Cover a cake tin with the dough. Leave it in the fridge for an hour. Melt the white chocolate in a bain-marie and leave to cool down. Break the dark chocolate into small pieces. Whisk the cream and then add the mascarpone cheese. Add the white and dark chocolate and stir it gingerly and thoroughly. Put the mixture on the bottom with the oatcakes and leave in the fridge overnight. Decorate with your favourite fruit.

      Enjoy your meal!
       
       

    • By Kasia
      Cheesecake muffins
       
      Ingredients (6 muffins)
      1 lemon jelly
      10 big strawberries
      200g of vanilla fromage frais
      grated skin from half a lemon

      Dissolve the jelly in 250ml of hot water. Leave to cool down (not to set). Wash the strawberries, remove the shanks and blend them. Mix half of the jelly with the strawberries. Put it into the silicon pastry cases. Leave it to set in the fridge. Mix the rest of the jelly with the vanilla fromage frais. Put it on the strawberry jelly. Leave it to set in the fridge. Immerse the silicon pastry case in hot water for a while to get the dessert out of the dish.

      Enjoy your meal!

    • By MelissaH
      I was catching up on my blog reading, and hit a post about icebox cakes. I've only ever made one icebox cake in my life, and it was delicious, using the classic chocolate wafers and whipped cream but flavored with Red Bird peppermint puffs. (I got the recipe from an article about the company that makes the candy.) Anyway, while the blog post itself was interesting, the first comment (at least as I currently see it) caught my attention, because it described a Mexican icebox cake that looked very different to me because it didn't use whipped cream. The commenter called this icebox cake a carlota de limón, and described it as being made from maria cookies, lime juice, and sweetened condensed milk. I adore limes!
       
      So...I can find recipes on line, but has anyone made this cake before? Do you have a tried-and-true recipe that you'd be willing to share? Please?
       
      Thanks!
    • By Kasia
      As usual during the weekend I prepared a cake. This time it was a strawberry shortbread cake with blancmange and crumble topping. Everything fit together nicely. I think that this cake could be excellent with more sour fruit. Cherries, redcurrants or plums come to mind. I have to realize this idea.

      The idea for this cake comes from www.moniamieszaigotuje.blogspot.com.

      Ingredients:
      dough
      0.5 kg of flour
      1 teaspoon of baking powder
      200g of sugar
      200g of butter
      1 egg
      1 egg yolk
      3 tablespoons of cream
      blancmange
      2 packets of powdered blancmange
      0.75 ml of milk
      3 tablespoons of sugar
      additional ingredients
      strawberries

      Heat the oven up to 180 degrees C.
      Put the flour on a baking board, make a large dimple in the flour and put the other ingredients of the dough inside it. Chop it all up with a knife. When you have the consistency of crumble topping, you have to knead the dough quickly. Divide the dough into two parts – 2/3 and 1/3. Cover the pieces of the dough with plastic wrap and put them into the freezer. Prepare the thick blancmange. Stir the blancmange powder in 250ml of milk and the sugar. Cook the rest of the milk. Take the milk off the heat and pour the blancmange mixture into it. Boil for a while, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat. Clean the strawberries and remove the shanks. Cut the bigger strawberries in half. Grate the bigger part of the dough onto a baking sheet. Put the hot blancmange onto it. Arrange the strawberries on the blancmange and grate the rest of the dough onto the top. Bake for 50 minutes.

      Enjoy your meal!

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.