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Do you use Boxed Cake Mixes?


pam claughton
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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.

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

I use the Hellman's mayo recipe when I do make cakes from the box (mayo instead of the oil). VERY moist and, somehow, they don't seem as cloyingly sweet when I do it that way. I would love to make cakes from scratch, but sometimes it's just not practicle for me. Most people are just happy to have some cake.

Edited by lesfen (log)
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I think one of the problems when you talk about mix vs. scratch is that mix cake (due to careful product testing by manufacturers) is a pretty consistent product and scratch cake can be all over the board. It would be so tempting to say "of course homemade is better" but frankly, I've had some pretty atrocious homemade desserts. Some of it is the quality of the recipes, some of it is the skills of the cook, and some of it is many people's tendency to not follow instructions exactly or make substitutions (especially in the name of health. No you cannot make baked goods without butter and expect it to taste the same!).

But beyond that, there's also a question of what is meant by something like white cake. Again, white cake from a mix is pretty consistent, even from different manufacturers. My husband once made me a cake with from-scratch white cake, raspberry almond filling, and frosting with real butter. It totally blew away any white cake I've ever had from a box. But this cake had almond extract in it. Does that still count as white cake? It does in my book. But maybe for some people white refers not only to the color, but also to an absence of flavor. So someone might put parameters around the question and say, can you make a white cake from scratch that is better than a mix cake, but with the caveat that you can't add any flavorings. That's a harder question to answer, because then you're asking a home baker to create a better recipe and yet purposely remove flavor. And don't we often cook at home because the flavors are fresher, brighter, and give some sense of the personality of the cook? For example, when we have debates about the "best" mac and cheese, strong cheeses, unusual combinations, and other signature flavors from the cook are welcome. We don't say, who's got the best mac and cheese, but using only bland cheeses and coming as close as possible to Kraft-in-the-blue-box but somehow better.

So I guess I can't really answer if I would choose mix or scratch for a "plain" white cake. I've never really had a desire to make one just for the sake of it. (A plain butter cake, sure, mmm butter. A plain chocolate cake with great quality chocolate, and plenty of it, sure. And those ARE better from scratch if you have a good recipe and good ingredients.) But to bake a cake and purposely try to remove all flavor from it, to homogenize it as much as possible? What's the point?

Obviously, this doesn't apply to professionals. It's a business, you need to make money. Give the customer what they want and expect. But the fact that the majority of people prefer cake from a mix doesn't really prove to me that it's better. (If popularity proves that something is better, then New Kids on the Block was some of the best music to come out of the last few decades. This is coming from someone who loved NKOTB in their day - go easy on me, I was in elementary school - but even I recognize that a billion screaming girls do not make their songs timeless classics.)

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As a home baker, I've never baked from a cake mix (and I probably never will).

I simply don't see the point in it and wouldn't gain any satisfaction from it. As a child, my house never saw a cake mix of any kind, since my mother was an old school baker. I can honestly say that I've never had any inclination to buy a cake mix.

Edited by sanrensho (log)
Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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I was at a wedding last weekend that reaffirmed my dislike for most boxed cake mixes. I know the woman who made the cake and she firmly believes her boxed mixes with Dream Whip added are superior to scratch cakes. She also uses a shortening only "buttercream" with about 2 tablespoons of almond extract in it and prefers its taste over any other frosting. I guess my taste buds are different than hers because I tried a piece of the lemon cake and nearly gagged. I had to spit it out because of the harsh artificial lemon taste. It was more than just the metallic leavening taste I have experienced with boxed mixes, this tasted like a chemistry experiment. It was yellow and it was tart, but it was not lemon. She (and many guests) loved it but I couldn't stand it. To each their own. However, I got a job making a wedding cake for a friend's daughter because I was the only one willing to make a cake from scratch (and apparently one of the few bakers around who likes to use rolled fondant).

Even though I like the taste of scratch cakes better, I admit to envying the consistency of the crumb in boxed mixes. Sometimes my cakes are moist and delicate and sometimes they are a bit crumbly. Guess it's just something I need to work on.

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“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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I for one would greatly appreciate it if you would post these recipes to the Best Yellow Cake/Best White Cake threads.

Let me help Ruth out:

"Yellow and white cakes, search for the perfect"

"White Cake, lets find the BEST recipe for this"

And some others:

"The Best Chocolate Cake, tweaking the recipe"

and another on Chocolate:

"Finding the best Chocolate Cake recipe, do you want to participate?"

"World's best carrot-cake recipe"

"banana cake recipe, Searching for the perfect one"

"I want a Spice Cake recipe, Show me your best!"

"The World's Best Coconut Cake, Gimme"

"Looking for good flourless choc cake recipe, Whose got the best?"

"Strawberry cake recipe?, Like the box kind, only not from a box"

There was also this discussion about Yellow Cakes:

"Need Tried And True Yellow Cake, Preferably moist (duh)"

And these aren't cakes, but were under "the best" category:

"Lemon Bars -- best recipe, anyone interested?"

"Best pecan pie recipes, looking for some buttery goodness"

Thanks for posting the links, Toliver. Maybe we could pin a list of "best of . . ." threads to the top of the forum, so that when new people come to the forum, and they have what they think is the best recipe for X, Y or Z, they would be encouraged to post it. Or maybe not.

"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
 

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I for one would greatly appreciate it if you would post these recipes to the Best Yellow Cake/Best White Cake threads.

Let me help Ruth out:

"Yellow and white cakes, search for the perfect"

"White Cake, lets find the BEST recipe for this"

And some others:

"The Best Chocolate Cake, tweaking the recipe"

and another on Chocolate:

"Finding the best Chocolate Cake recipe, do you want to participate?"

"World's best carrot-cake recipe"

"banana cake recipe, Searching for the perfect one"

"I want a Spice Cake recipe, Show me your best!"

"The World's Best Coconut Cake, Gimme"

"Looking for good flourless choc cake recipe, Whose got the best?"

"Strawberry cake recipe?, Like the box kind, only not from a box"

There was also this discussion about Yellow Cakes:

"Need Tried And True Yellow Cake, Preferably moist (duh)"

And these aren't cakes, but were under "the best" category:

"Lemon Bars -- best recipe, anyone interested?"

"Best pecan pie recipes, looking for some buttery goodness"

ROLF, Toliver! You're fueling my insanity! :wink: I know how I'm spending all my free time for the next several weeks....... (Seriously, thanks for the white and yellow cake links!)

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Thanks for posting the links, Toliver. Maybe we could pin a list of "best of . . ." threads to the top of the forum, so that when new people come to the forum, and they have what they think is the best recipe for X, Y or Z, they would be encouraged to post it. Or maybe not.

I think that's a terrific idea, Patrick. It took me 2 whole weeks to find the best white cake thread.......

:wink:

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I'm not about trying to create more work for myself, but mixes just have a funky metallic aftertaste to me that I can't get over.

Not just cake mixes, but other baking mixes like Bisquick (sp?) and pancake mixes.

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I have never used a cake mix. My mom used them when I was a child. She didn't like to bake. I certainly have tasted them (and shortening buttercream)In my opinion, they taste terrible. No one has ever asked me to use a cake mix. I don't believe in that kind of food. I have spent over 20 years baking- and went to extremes to further my pastry skills.

But I wouldn't eat at McDonalds, Jack in the Box, Burger king etc... too!

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Thanks for posting the links, Toliver. Maybe we could pin a list of "best of . . ." threads to the top of the forum, so that when new people come to the forum, and they have what they think is the best recipe for X, Y or Z, they would be encouraged to post it. Or maybe not.

I agree with Ruth...that's a great idea. The only problem I can think of is that you never know if you've got "the best" until the discussion has reached a couple pages and people have had time to experiment (and taste!).

As for mixes vs. scratch, I was raised on mixes. My mom got married in the '50's and was a product of the well-marketed "save time...use a box mix or a can of something" generation. Bisquick, condensed soup, canned bread crumbs...that was what we ate and all we knew.

Today, I don't eat that way very often but don't look my way and expect me to disparage it. I think it's a valid cuisine and I have no problem with people who cook and bake that way. I will even admit to being the proud owner of a copy of the "Cake Mix Doctor" which I will recommend to anyone who won't walk away from me when I start blathering on about how good the recipes are in it. :wink:

It's fine to draw the line and say "I have never used a mix and never will" but where are the shades of gray? I have a good friend who was raised by her grandmother and has always made everything from scratch using her grandmother's recipe book. But even she will use a mix if she doesn't have the time to make something from scratch inbetween taking her kids to school, doing the laundry, paying the bills, etc.

If you have the time to make it from scratch, good for you. But there's no shame in using a mix.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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I only use boxed if I'm making something for someone else, and I know they're used to things like boxed cake mixes. I'm one of those who can "taste the box"--at least for white and yellow cake mixes. I'm not sure if my taste buds can detect chocolate boxes...

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I only use boxed if I'm making something for someone else, and I know they're used to things like boxed cake mixes.  I'm one of those who can "taste the box"--at least for white and yellow cake mixes.  I'm not sure if my taste buds can detect chocolate boxes...

Are you sure that others would not like the scratch cakes? (Even if they are different than the mixss they are used to?)

This isn't an accusation or even a suggestion! :smile: I guess it's curiosity that makes me wonder if perhaps they would enjoy a scratch cake. Their opportunities for having one may be limited and having a friend like you that bakes could open up a new experience for them.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Are you sure that others would not like the scratch cakes?  (Even if they are different than the mixss they are used to?) 

This isn't an accusation or even a suggestion!  :smile:  I guess it's curiosity that makes me wonder if perhaps they would enjoy a scratch cake.  Their opportunities for having one may be limited and having a friend like you that bakes could open up a new experience for them.

Sorry! I should have clarified a bit more. I only use them when I'm pressed for time, and I know the people I'm baking for won't mind them. Otherwise I bake from scratch no matter who the cake is for.

I've actually only used a boxed cake mix once in the last 5 years (possibly longer, but I only know for certain the last time was about 5 years ago)--to make one of those pseudo-baba au rhum-type cakes. It was pretty horrible, I thought, but as I had predicted, the people I made it for liked it.

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Thanks for posting the links, Toliver. Maybe we could pin a list of "best of . . ." threads to the top of the forum, so that when new people come to the forum, and they have what they think is the best recipe for X, Y or Z, they would be encouraged to post it. Or maybe not.

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Just wanted to drop in and mention a couple things. First, we are working on an index (it takes time to undertake such a huge task). Second, ideas like this should be sent to hosts thru our private messaging system, please. We are always open to ideas, but work very hard to keep threads on topic. Changes or suggestions for change are not topics open for forum wide discussion.

Thanks.

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  • 4 months later...

i feel a bit hesitant posting about cake mixes on a site where there are so many professional pastry chefs! :unsure: actually, i love baking from scratch and never use cake mixes for my family, however, i sell cakes and have noticed many times that my friends (my official taste-testers) will pick out the cakes i make from a mix over my scratch ones. :wacko: i know its probably because they all grew up on mixes.

at any rate, i tried a new recipe yesterday that starts with a mix but had a really good flavor, unlike many cakes i have tasted that were from a mix . its basically a cake mix with 1 cup of flour and sugar added, dash of salt, 3 eggs, 1/3 cup water, 1/4 heavy cream, 1 cup of sour cream, 1 cup of butter and 1 T. vanilla. has anyone tried this recipe before? if so, what was your opinion of it? i'm kinda torn at this point, i'm not sure if i should offer scratch or cake mixes to my customers. i want to do scratch but i also want my customers to be happy. anyone else in this situation?

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I'm not a pastry chef but I am a professional baker and professional cake decorator/sugar artist. Umm, the debate about mixes can get so emotional--it's so very interesting.

Y'know some people use purchased phyllo leaves, some people make da schtrrooodel from 'scratch'.

Although not too many of us actually plant and harvest the grain for the flour y'know??? I mean there's that other debate about how much itch makes it scratch? :biggrin:

So all that said, I do employ pre-measured ingredients in my widening repetoire. Why should I limit myself to satisfy someone else's religious belief? :rolleyes:

That is a nice formula you posted. That cake is user friendly for decorated cakes in a lot of ways. It slices and serves without an over abundance of cake scrabbles that reduce your servings and so caterers and cake severs everywhere appreciate that not to mention the brides. It makes a nice secure tasty tangy serving. It's a beautiful canvas too--you can paint a lot of different flavors with it from fillings & stuff.

However, I use self-rising flour in that one because I feel that the additional flour would make it too heavy. It's a nice formula though.

I hope you hear from a lot of people who have tried it. :wink:

edited to say: In particular, for the wedding & celebration cake makers of the world who need a product like I said, that serves beautifuly and expeditiously to possibly hundreds of quests, that needs to stack up securely in that engineering feat of magic that is a wedding cake. Plu-us, you need a product that will survive the distance albeit with pinpoint freshness accuracy. The distance of from oven to forkful having endured the filling, stacking, storing, decorating and delivery. And if you have four or five events to celebrate per weekend...come on, having a stable secure reliable formula to use is freaking invaluable. There's so much more to a wedding cake, celebration cake than a tossing a few ingredients in the oven y'know?

Ain't no time to plant wheat, render the fat, cut cane and gather the eggs.... :laugh:

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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with all the added ingredients, it sounds more like "scratch" to me!

i recently made two wedding cakes (for my own wedding!) from "scratch"...but to be honest, they tasted like "mix" cakes to me. not in the the wierd chemically way, but in the pleasant bring back the memories kind of way.

i guess what i'm trying to say is that if you feel the recipe tastes good, then go ahead and do it. that's ultimately what it comes down to, right?

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Cast my vote for "semi" scratch as well. That's a lot of basic ingredients to add to a mix!

I confess to being a scratch snob, but after some totally memorable Pyrrhic victories in that department, including a notable one involving 3 full-sized sheet pans of pistachio baklava, where I made ALL of the bleedin' phyllo from scratch, and since I couldn't find shelled pistachios at that time, I shelled the suckers by hand (blisters for weeks), I have had to get real about some things pertaining to the juncture of scratch, clients, and a food business.

The comment about clients loving the mix cakes was interesting and telling, and a great point for recovering scratch snobs like me to contemplate: so many people are so used to eating "x" made either ready made or from a box, that when they do eat the "real" from scratch item, they don't identify it as being "x", or if they do, they don't think its that good. I do a lot of traditional regional foods of Mexico and fight the "it ain't enchiladas unless it's got yellow cheese" belief all the time.

The ongoing engineering of ingredients (high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated lipids, weird flaked fats in biscuit mixes)and from the laboratory taste profiles are creating a palate which a chef has to deal with. And this is especially so I find for caterers, or "hit and run" chefs where you have only the one event or especially so, cake, to put out there as your calling card.

What to do? Go over to the Dark Side and sully your hands w/mixes? Be a culinary Luddite, and just pray that the scratch cake behaves and is consistent? It's a tough choice, and a good topic for discussion.

It is especially pertinent to cake decorators - whose task is to dazzle with the cake's external presence and not with the cake's innards. It is difficult for those with bakery/pastry shops or businesses. And for those from the hot side who might feel the urge to tsk-tsk: how many establishments out there make a full complement of stocks from scratch, along with a true demi, and glace de viande? I ask you, would we find no Haco or Hero products on your shelves? No pre-made praline paste?

I have never tried that particular cake, and I like the idea of using self-rising flour. I want to give it a test run ... it sounds like a winner for a durable layer which will be handled, decked out, stacked, and schlepped, and still be expected to taste just from the oven fresh.

Theabroma

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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I'm a professional pastry chef and I use cake mixes.

I hate to get into the debate making it a "snob' type issue or not. I just don't see it that way at all.

I've been searching my whole life for the perfect white cake and the perfect yellow cake and haven't found them yet. I've got many 'close to' cakes, like great pound cakes, butter cakes, genoise, etc.... but nothing that matches what consumers like/want in white and yellow cake mixes. The day I have recipes for the perfect white and yellow cakes, I'll be thrilled. I'll use them as much as I can, just as I currently make every other cake then white and yellow from scratch.

But that leads me into a current issue I deal with.

I do make a damn good chocolate cake from scratch. But sometimes my job is so over whelmingly hard to keep up with the demand placed upon me, that I still have to resort to using a chocolate cake mix from time to time. This past week prepping for Thanksgiving has me turning to a mix for corn bread. It's not that I can't make a darn good one from scratch. It's about doing what one has to do to survive. In a perfect world I wouldn't choose to work for an employer that forces me to make that decision, but I don't have that option either.

Your never going to please all the people all the time. Theres tons of aruguments one can make with people who act like snobs about using convience products. I'm not going to go there, it's a rediculous argument......some are good some are bad, it's a really long winded discussion that will end up with no real answer. I think it's safe to assume your not intentionally looking to do something less then your best and if your best involves a mix, it's your business not anyone elses.

That topic aside. I've tested many many cakes. Mixes aren't any different in that some are better then others. I'm not crazy about the recipe you mentioned, just my personal take on it. I was raised on the following doctored mix and like it alot:

1 DH cake mix

1 pkg instant pudding

4 whole eggs

1 c. water

1/2 c. oil

But now as I've had the chance to work for others (in a bakery settings) there are commercial cake mixes you can buy that are just as good or if not better then the type of mixes you get in your grocery stores. So I think you'd be wise to test out as many recipes/mixes as possible before you settle on one.

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thanks for the input everyone! i guess since i've been a "scratch" baker for so long, i feel guilty for using a mix. :unsure: i don't know why i'm having such a hard time getting over that. my husband loved, loved, loved the doctored mix, he said it tasted so good that it didn't need frosting, and he never would eat one of my scratch cakes w/o icing! i guess what it all boils down to is i consider myself a "baker" as well as a "cake decorator". can i really call myself a "baker" if its not from scratch? :blink:

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   i guess what it all boils down to is i consider myself a "baker" as well as a "cake decorator".   can i really call myself a "baker" if its not from scratch? :blink:

Yes, if you want to.

You can do anything you want to do.

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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