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Do you use Boxed Cake Mixes?


pam claughton
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This is an interesting discussion, for me. I've run an in-store bakery for a year, but I have not been in a position of needing to generate a large volume of sheet cake for my clientele (that was done for us at our sister store, and transferred over), so I've only baked cake at home. For family use, I have a handful of cakes that I can crank out just as fast as a mix, so it's not been an issue.

However, there are a whole bunch of things tied up in the "scratch vs. manufactured" debate. Obviously, on the whole we'd all prefer to wow our customers with gloriously perfect product we'd made from all-natural ingredients. There's just that little detail about making enough profit to stay in business...

For me, coming to cooking/baking at the age of 40, after a lot of years in sales, I found a lot of congruence. People complain a lot about salesmens' bulls--t, but really it's just like the kitchen; everything has its "presentation side." You don't serve your fish skin side up, and you explain your product in a way that presents it to good advantage. It's not dishonest, it's pragmatic.

Was this cake made from mix?

"Well, I use a commercially available base to ensure consistency, and I complement that with lots of fresh eggs and cream and other quality ingredients."

Is this pie made from scratch?

"We buy good-quality pie shells from a reputable supplier, because of the consistency and labour-cost issues. The fillings we make from scratch, from the best fruit available to us at this time of year."

Now, the best fruit available to us may be (and often is) Individually Quick Frozen, here in the Great White North. That changes nothing. I could respond by saying, "I use frozen fruit and frozen crust." Both statements are 100% accurate, but which would leave you with a better impression?

I can tell you that I've had scores of customers ask me the latter question, and the answer you see is the one I've given. If a customer shows any interest, I'll get into the reasons for using IQF vs. out-of-season crap, and I can tell you that they almost invariably respond well.

For any of you who are in entrepreneurial situations, you surely have a handful of questions you answer *all the time*. It is well worth your while to sit down and prepare answers for those half-dozen or so questions, and have them ready to hand when you are asked. They are part of your mise en place, just as surely as the flour and eggs.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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Boy, oh boy, this is just the BEST topic and discussion. How utterly wonderful to be able to let the hair down, 'fess up to the box/scratch dilemma, and talk about it.

Thanks a million to all ... this is a great help to me.

Theabroma

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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Years ago my father worked for a food service company and we use to have industrial sized boxes of cake mix around the house so that leads me to believe that there are probably a lot of professionals out there somewhere that use a mix. A lot more than we realize.

Pamela Wilkinson

www.portlandfood.org

Life is a rush into the unknown. You can duck down and hope nothing hits you, or you can stand tall, show it your teeth and say "Dish it up, Baby, and don't skimp on the jalapeños."

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I don't think I've ever eaten a "doctored" cake mix before. Is the crumb vastly different from a mix that's prepared according to the directions on the package? Aside from the "artificial" flavour of mixes, I dislike how "box cakes" just dissolve in my mouth. (But I'm guessing that this is attractive for some tasters--perhaps the mix feels softer and lighter in their mouth than a scratch cake.)

Edited by Ling (log)
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I believe the term comes from the book The Cake Mix Doctor in which they take box mixes and "doctor" them up. (I haven't actually read it, I've just heard a lot of talk in cake class recently.) It's this book here.

http://product.half.ebay.com/The-Cake-Mix-...infoQQprZ211183

Pamela Wilkinson

www.portlandfood.org

Life is a rush into the unknown. You can duck down and hope nothing hits you, or you can stand tall, show it your teeth and say "Dish it up, Baby, and don't skimp on the jalapeños."

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I've been using box mixes recently for dummies (stand in cakes that no one will eat since the teacher insisted on us using crisco frosting :sad: ) and I've played with them since no one would be eating them anyway. I've used them to taste flavorings and to get an idea of how much to use and a little flavoring can help to hide that chemically box mix flavor. I love the soft, fluffy, "disolve in the mouth" texture. That's what I'm actually looking for in a scratch recipe right now. (Before anyone starts posting recipes, check out the "best of" cake threads. Got a list, gonna work my way through them. :wink: )

Pamela Wilkinson

www.portlandfood.org

Life is a rush into the unknown. You can duck down and hope nothing hits you, or you can stand tall, show it your teeth and say "Dish it up, Baby, and don't skimp on the jalapeños."

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This is has been an interesting read. I'm not a baker. I grew up with DH mixes used at home and really liked the ones where you added a 1/4 pound of butter. The pudding mixes were good because they were moist. When I go to a bakery I want a nice looking cake that tastes great. I'm happy not to bake it myself and I don't really care how you make it. That said, I wouldn't want to find Costco style goods in my local bakery. I want it to look special and made with love. :smile: I wouldn't be surprised to learn that any baker uses a mix that works for them. If that's how they make wonderful cakes and goodies, they're really smart cookies. :wink:

KathyM

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  • 3 months later...

This is an interesting discussion.

I started out my baking career using Duncan Hines mixes but I always felt a little smidgen of deceit inside. I wasn't entirely proud of the fact that I used cake mixes for my customers' cakes.

So I embarked on a mission to find some really good scratch cake recipes. I really wanted to be known as a baker as well as a decorator so on the quest I went....

I found good recipes for most of the cakes I make. However, I'm still searching for a good white cake recipe. I haven't found one yet that hasn't been dry and crumbly.

I do get more personal satisfaction baking from scratch and I prefer the taste, crumb and texture of a scratch cake. I find the texture of cake mix cakes too "smooth" and the consistency too fluffy and airy - like there's no real substance in my mouth. I also don't like the smell of artificial chemicals when I open the cake mix box.

But many, many people out there grew up on cake mixes and love the texture of them. So I guess everyone has to do what works for them and their clientele.

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Just my quick .02 here. I, too, "do cakes" (don't they all? LOL). I mostly use doctored mixes. My main reasoning for this is twofold: 1.) I want to offer a consistent product each & every time I bake for someone. For some reason, I can't do that from scratch. Scratch cakes seem more fickle to me, and while *sometimes* I can get something I'm happy with, other times I can't. (Er, maybe it's just a me thing...) 2.) Most of my clientele seems to be "used to" the texture/feel of a box mix. I've had a lot of my clients come to me and say that another local baker's scratch cakes are dry. Which, is always a possiblity, but I've had them and know it's just a finer crumb...which can appear dry to those who are used to boxed/grocery store stuff. So....I say give 'em what they like. I have clients who rave over my cakes - doctored or straight-boxed. If they like it, they'll come back. That's what matters, isn't it? When asked, I just simply say that it's my own recipe. It is, isn't it, when it's doctored? ;) Good to see you here, K8 and Dailey! I've been here for awhile, just hard to find time to post very often...and, I'm in a sea of pros here, so I often just observe!

~Lisa

www.TheCakeAndTheCaterer.com

Bloomington, IN

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Hi, Lisa!

Yeah, cake mix versus 'scratch' is a great discussion that anthropologists will have fun with someday. And there's an egulleter who's signature here online has a quote that says something to the effect that if you want to make something from scratch you have to create the universe. Ugh, yes I guess so. Kinda divides the itches from the scratches, huh?

If memory serves that's a paraphrase of a Stephen Hawking quote.

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If memory serves that's a paraphrase of a Stephen Hawking quote.

Actually that was Carl "billions and billions" Sagan:

“If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.”

Edited by Patrick S (log)

"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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hi lisa!

i started this thread awhile ago and must say i still am torn about offering either scratch or mix. i usually bake from scratch but have had such postive reviews from customers who have tried the "white almond sour cream" doctored cake that i'm still offering it. i mean, its impossible to know what a customer is used to, its not like i can say "do you want scratch or a box"? i know once i made a cake for a shower and one of the ladies said "this came from a box". :unsure: while other guests gushed over it, sooooo, i guess what i'm saying is you can't please everyone! :wacko:

kris,

i wish you lived close to me cause i would personally make you a white cake that is perfectly moist and delicious from scratch! :wink: i know you've been searching for one for awhile now, are you making your white cakes from a mix for your customers? if so, which recipe are you using? thanks! :biggrin:

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hi lisa!

i started this thread awhile ago and must say i still am torn about offering either scratch or mix.  i usually bake from scratch but have had such postive reviews from customers who have tried the "white almond sour cream" doctored cake that i'm still offering it.  i mean, its impossible to know what a customer is used to, its not like i can say "do you want scratch or a box"?  i know once i made a cake for a shower and one of the ladies said "this came from a box". :unsure:    while other guests gushed over it, sooooo, i guess what i'm saying is you can't please everyone! :wacko: 

Dailey....i have been seriously thinking these days if i should offer box cakes.

I did not realize how many people are actually selling cakes made using box mix.....even most of the bakeries...i could not believe it.

Know i am building a clientele and even though i am known for scratch cakes lately i have been thinking i wish i could ask them...Scratch or box!!?????

If i would open a bakery i know i would offer only scratch cakes because of my passion for baking.

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  • 9 months later...
...

kris,

  i wish you lived close to me cause i would personally make you a white cake that is perfectly moist and delicious from scratch! :wink:    i know you've been searching for one for awhile now, are you making your white cakes from a mix for your customers?  if so, which recipe are you using?  thanks! :biggrin:

I haven't checked back on this thread in a good while (as you can see). But it's still a topic of interest to me.

I would love to taste a scratch white cake that was moist and delicious. :) Too bad you live so far away. :smile:

I took white cake off my menu and I don't even offer it to my customers any more. In all the years I've been baking, I've only gotten one request for "white cake." I offered up my yellow cake instead and she was happy.

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...

kris,

  i wish you lived close to me cause i would personally make you a white cake that is perfectly moist and delicious from scratch! :wink:    i know you've been searching for one for awhile now, are you making your white cakes from a mix for your customers?  if so, which recipe are you using?  thanks! :biggrin:

I haven't checked back on this thread in a good while (as you can see). But it's still a topic of interest to me.

I would love to taste a scratch white cake that was moist and delicious. :) Too bad you live so far away. :smile:

I took white cake off my menu and I don't even offer it to my customers any more. In all the years I've been baking, I've only gotten one request for "white cake." I offered up my yellow cake instead and she was happy.

Try the white cake recipe from Whimiscal Bakehouse -- it's delicious, nice and moist. I think I posted the formula in the thread "seeking the best white cake", but PM me if you can't find it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

www.topsecretrecipes.com has a clone this week for Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Yellow Cake Mix http://www.topsecretrecipes.com/recipedeta...ogin=yes&id=476 . (Sorry the egullet link feature doesn't seem to be working at the moment) I haven't tried it yet but thought some may be interested in it as an alternative.

Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Orison Swett Marden

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I've always baked with cake mixes shortly after I married my hubby. Then 3 years later when we moved to this remote village south of Seoul, there are no cake mixes available. I made my first chocolate cake from scratch and found it tasted so chocolatey and so pure. Hmm, how can I described it... no metallic aftertaste like from a cake mix. Hubby has preferred my scratch cakes from then on.

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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I went through the first 2 pages of this thread only, so pardon the repeat if someone's already said this. I bake wedding cakes. I do so mostly with "doctored" cake mixes. However, my preference in doing so it twofold: I like to provide a consistant product every single time. I can't always do that with scratch. (maybe I just suck. ya never know...), and I want to give my client something that they're familiar with....which is, mostly, mixes. Now, my mixes aren't "typical" in that I add all kinds of crap to them, but they start with mixes, regardless. However, I know plenty of folks who will tell you that scratch cakes are "dry". Not really the case, but a substantially different crumb. So, I want to give the vast majority of people what they're used to. Does that make me wrong? I don't think so....plus, even my least...bright...employee can make them w/out messing them up....the "screw up factor" is pretty high.

~Lisa

www.TheCakeAndTheCaterer.com

Bloomington, IN

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Heather said=--

"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."

this made me laugh as the only mix I use is Duncan Hines Brownie Mix--this, if you make sure you underbake it, is a pretty good emergency dessert (people dropping in and staying for dinner, or kids wanting to take something to school the next day) with good vanilla or coffee ice cream on top.

I grew up on mix cakes--my mother was never into baking--and i don't often make cakes, so didn't have a whole lot of luck getting a light cake until I tried the Cooks Illustrated yellow cake recipe--that makes a wonderful cake.

And I just made the Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake from the Williams Sonoma website based on a Gulleter's recommendation--also very good.

I had always had problems getting the layers out of the pans in one piece, but when I finally decided that doing the waxed paper lining thing might be worth a try my cake making just got a little less fearful.

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This makes me laugh because until a few years ago, I used Duncan Hines brownie mix.

Then I discovered Nick Malgieri's Supernatural Brownies. This is the only recipe I have memorized and I can make it nearly as fast as a box.

You could not make me eat a boxed brownie again.

I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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