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pam claughton

Do you use Boxed Cake Mixes?

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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...

:)

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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.

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carp   

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)

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Soup   

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

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Marlene   

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

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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.

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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.

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Susan G   

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).

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Dee   

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.

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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.

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glossyp   

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)

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celenes   

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.

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carp   

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.)

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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.

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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.

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We have an organic cake mix here in canada for 1.99. Its very good. Especially made with milk and butter instead of oil and water.

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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

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ellencho   

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.

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helenjp   

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?

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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!

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Jaymes   

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?

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KatieM   

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.

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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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Ling   

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)

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