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Oct 12, 2003 09:25 AM

Why do people like box cake better than homemade?

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I don't know if this has happened to anyone else, but I am going to be real honest and say that most people I know go for boxed cakes over homemade. I am an excellent baker, but there have been times when I have embellished a box cake and it one raves over my homemade cakes. Has this happened to anyone else?

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  1. l
    La Dolce Vita

    I think it has to do with the fact that many people have been raised with boxed cakes, so to their palate, the boxed product tastes "right."

    I, too, am a serious baker. I can't tell you how many times I've made a dessert that I think is just fantastic (such as a from-scratch puff pastry filled with almond custard cream and apricots), that is met with lukewarm response. The brownies-from-a-box, however, get rave reviews.(Hmm, on second thought, perhaps it is the chocolate factor that comes into play?)

    Home baking is practiced by fewer and fewer people.
    So, to satisfy their dessert craving, many (if not most) people rely on commercial products. The chemical, non-butter overtones of these commercial baked goods doesn't bother them. They become accustomed to it, and, in my opinion, can't really taste a signficant difference between a hydrogenated-shortening cake and a pure butter cake. Or, if they can taste the difference, it's not a difference that matters to them.

    I know how disheartening it can be to spend hours making a cake or pastry, just to discover that people prefer the boxed or commercial version. Or, equally disappointing, people are afraid of the real thing, such as real whipped cream (because it's "fattening") but will happily spoon Cool Whip over their pumpkin pie. AAAGGH! That drives me crazy.

    So, take heart, Dear Fellow Baker. There are those of us who sympathize, and that is why we all read the Chowhound Message Boards for consolation.

    2 Replies
    1. re: La Dolce Vita

      I so agree! and I would love to taste your baking

      1. re: La Dolce Vita

        I agree, too! I think it's impossible for a home baker to get that weird spongy texture of a box cake, and unfortunately many people seem to like it. They put all sorts of emulsifiers and junk into it to get that texture. Also with cookies some people like the gross (to me) chewiness that comes from shortening and too much sugar. My solution is simple: I just don't bake for those people!

      2. It's a Proustian moment. Whatever resembles Proust's madeleines for most people is what has the greater resonance. Nowadays, that means more people who were raised with boxed cakes as their point of reference. You cannot fight with someone else's sense memories.

        1. It's so weird, isn't it? I really like making cakes from scratch, but usually the birthday cakes I bake are, by the birthday boy or girls's request, box mixes. Recently, I offered to make a cake for my sister in law, who is quite the gourmet, and she begged for a Duncan Hines strawberry cake. Everyone loved it, and everyone said that had been their favorite cake as a kid. Box cakes just have that nostalgic appeal, I guess.

          9 Replies
          1. re: Liloo

            argh, you didnt put the jello in it too, did you? My mom (a grand prize state fair baker in her "youth")sprang that cake on me a few years back and it was pretty dreadful.

            We all owe it to our offspring and friends to bake and cook the best stuff we can - they wont grow up with box cake memories or box cake tastes. I use those cake mixes too, but they dont displace the german chocolate or other specialties in people's minds.

            I think the texture of many of the box mixes is rather good, even tho the flavor is synthetic. Unfortunately (now my theory) the recent baking revival started out with european style cakes, which are less tender, dryer and less sweet than the traditional american styles on which the mixes were based. To me, the solution is to go back to the old recipes (the best are enshrined in the Betty Crocker Cookbook from around 1950 - these are the recipes on which the mixes were originally based, the american gold standard) Cooks Mag and some other sources, even Rose Levy Berenbaum have also explored the classic cakes. I believe that if you use this type of recipe , with butter, fresh vanilla, whole eggs etc. you will not continue experience the rejection you have suffered in the past.

            At any rate, when my 17 year old daughter starts a baking project, these recipes, rather than a box mix are her choice.

            1. re: jen kalb

              The strawberry cake was sans jello (gross.) I totally agree that we "owe it to our offspring and friends to bake and cook the best stuff we can" - - but, I guess I also feel like I owe it to my friends and family to give them what they really want. So, if my (usually discriminating) full time mom/part time student overworked and overwhelmed sister wants a sickeningly sweet, artificial-strawberry-tasting, shockingly pink cake for her 36th birthday, by god she'll get one! (Their 2 year old, usually not allowed sugar in any form other than fruit, was quite tickled with it, as well.)

              My favorite cake to use for a birthday cake is an old-fashioned buttermilk cake. I have yet to suffer any rejection for this, or any other cake, for that matter. I think if anyone were to turn their nose up at something I baked, that might be the last time I baked *anything* for them!

              It does still make me shake my head, though. I mean, the people I've had request specific box cakes for their birthdays are usually pretty sophisticated eaters - I really think that for us 30-somethings, the sentimentality of a cake that tastes and looks like one from childhood is the deciding factor. Whether it's a yellow cake with chocolate frosting or the alarming strawberry cake, it's what they liked as a kid.

              1. re: Liloo

                Youre right of course, for almost everybody, that that primal taste is the one they want, especially when they are under stress. You are a thoughtful, tolerant sister!

                1. re: Liloo

                  And for a completely different 70s cake memory... I went to a party a few years ago where a whole wheat cake with orange glaze was served. I couldn't figure out why it tasted so familiar and right till the baker showed me her Recipes for a Small Planet cookbook. Then I realized my mother had made that cake. I mentionned it to her and she swore that she only made it once or twice, but it totally stuck in my head and tasted delicious. And as a child I'm sure I would have preferred the box cake!

                2. re: jen kalb

                  I totally agree, that the 50s Betty Crocker cakes are standout examples of what an American Layer Cake should be. Of my three "favorites", two of them derive at least part of their heritage from these recipes. Truly that was a golden era of American cake-baking.

                  However -- I think old cookbooks of any kind are worth a look. I've mentioned them before, but some sure winnners are:

                  Any of the pre-1970 Joys of Cooking (and even some of the good old recipes survived into the 70s additions)

                  Westinghouse (green cover) cookbooks from the 40s. Unbelievably good Hungarian plum cake, and great coffee cakes, and very respectable layer cake recipes.

                  How to Bake an American Layer Cake, by Cook's Illustrated. I wouldn't call it definitive by any means, but if anyone with little baking skill (who didn't have a mom or a grandma teach them for long years about homemade cake-baking) wants to start baking layer cakes, this is definitely the place to start. Go to this one first before proceeding to the Cake Bible. You will get great, accessible cakes quickly out of this, and hone your baking skills with very very decent results from this book.

                  For the more experience baker -- The Cake Bible of course.

                  I'd love to hear about other cake-baking books. I have a personal favorite for Scandinavian cakes (The Scandinavian Baking Book by Bea Ojakangas), but that's for pretty specialized cakes. The other cakes-only, or even baking-only books I have are pretty darn inadequate in the cake department. One notable example that I DON'T recommend for cakes is a fine fine book otherwise: Marion Cunningham's Fanny Farmer Baking book. I consider this book "the" source for many baking projects, but the cakes are woeful! I don't know if Marion just doesn't like cakes, or her idea of what a cake should be is so different from mine. After many tries, so many of her cakes came out of my oven dry, crumbly, unevenly baked, flavorless, and just plain boring. And I like simple cakes very much if they are done well. If someone has had a huge cake success from this book I would love to hear about it -- since I've given up on it for cakes since all of my efforts turned out really badly.

                  I'd love to hear about more cake-baking books!

                  1. re: Mrs. Smith

                    I totally agree about Fannie Farmer; I almost gave up ckae baking--I thought it was just me.

                    1. re: Mrs. Smith

                      Hi I was reading this post and wanted to look for the westinghouse cookbook. Amazon has a green cover listed but is dated 1954. Can you check your book for the publishing date? Thanks!

                      1. re: claudiaivonnefranco

                        claudia, that post is from 2003 and Mrs Smith hasn't contributed to CH since 2006, so i wouldn't hold your breath for an answer. based on some Google sleuthing, i assume the one you found is the Betty Furness book from 1954...and i imagine that's probably the one she meant, because the 1940 book had a red cover.

                    2. re: jen kalb

                      Jen Kalb: >>To me, the solution is to go back to the old recipes (the best are enshrined in the Betty Crocker Cookbook from around 1950 - these are the recipes on which the mixes were originally based, the american gold standard)<<

                      Hi, Jen -

                      Do you think this is the book? I googled "betty crocker cookbook cake 1950"



                      Thanks, Jay

                  2. I agree with the posts that generally people have nostaglia for the things they had in childhood. And I have yet to reproduce a chocolate pudding cake that for me equals the dense fudgy-ness of the ones my mom made from a box.
                    But I have also had some pretty rave reveiws of homemade cakes, I am trying to perfect a moist yellow cake, chocolate is of course much easier.
                    I was very proud of my nephew ( 12 years old ) last christmas when he commented on the home made ( using callebaut chocolate) buche noel I made for the family...he said
                    "this is so great, it reminds me of the cakes we had in Paris on vacation"
                    This is from a child whose mother purchases pre made grocery store cakes for her kids birthdays.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: ciaolette

                      Thanks for this reply. It answered an important question for me: what are box cakes? I had concluded, erroneously, that they were cakes purchased from a bakery in a box. So I had trouble figuring out why they were necessarily different from home made ones.


                      Pat G.

                      1. re: ciaolette

                        The chocolate pudding cake drought can be quenched by a visit to French 75 in Laguna Beach, California. Order their chocolate souffle in the middle of your dinner and you will find the same/similar chocolate pudding flavor that those pudding cakes in a box were in the 70's. Even my little brother still craves them.

                        My mom made us dessert every day after dinner (while someone else did the dishes). I remember she'd pour the powder in the pan, pour water over it, then bake it. We all watched TV for a while and then dove in to the pudding cake (our favorite). She also would make a spice cake and make a cinnamon syrup to pour over it. I also remember strawberry shortcake made by putting the berries over a sweetened Bisquick biscuit. That's about it. She only knew how to make about 3 desserts and four kinds of dinner. The rest of the time, we went out.

                      2. I'm mildly horrified by the responses you got here. I was really expecting to see people respond with "huh? I never heard of anyone preferring a box cake".

                        Most of my friends and family are unsophisticated eaters. This is a small unsophisticated southern city. YET...I don't know anyone who wouldn't prefer home made. I wonder if the very fact that people are more used to simple, "country" cooking makes them more appreciative of homemade.

                        Recently, my grandmother died(not a sad event due to the horrors of Alzheimers) and the family was assembled along with PILES of food brought over by friend, neighbors, church, etc. We had a good laugh
                        when we all decided (in jest of course) to call everyone who brought a cake and question them as to it's provenance. We agreed that we might EAT all the cakes eventually, but we wished to order them by 1) scratch-made 2) from a box 3) purchased. These were people who, by and large, would eat at the Olive Garden and Red Lobster without a gun held on them, but somehow they're cake snobs. Is it a Southern thing?

                        19 Replies
                        1. re: danna

                          I grew up in a small southern city, though I've spent most of my adulthood in the northeast. My family and friends certainly prefer homemade, and that is probably because it is what they experienced growing up. I'm not a dedicated baker but have a few good set pieces, such as a sour cream pound cake (everyone's birthday choice), and other things of that sort.
                          I really believe the folks who prefer boxed mixes are simply used to the taste as are the ones who prefer fast food to "real food". I actually know people who would rather go to McDonald's than have a good homeade meal. It's rather shocking, but I fear it is fairly widespread, too.

                          1. re: Marcia

                            I'm an Asian American from New Jersey, and I grew up helping my mom try to make all the 'traditional' American cakes: Dutch Apple Pie, NY Cheesecake, and Glazed Carrot Cake. We'd occasionally make a yellow cake from the box because it was easier, but I don't think anyone in the extended family of maybe 20 Asian immigrants ever preferred box cake. So it isn't just limited to the south.

                            My theory is that 'box cake preference' is limited to people who were abused by their parents when they were kids. (joking) :)


                          2. re: danna

                            Yes, its a Southern thing. My family is from the South and back there homemade cakes are a big deal, but here in the big city, it is not appreciated as much. I spent a lot of summers on my grandmothers farm where cakes were made with freshly churned butter, fresh eggs from the chickens, etc. I think in this era of convenience most folks simply don't care. I would imagine that if you made a homemade cake and you make a cake from the cake doctor book and didn't tell anyone which one was homemade, there is a strong possibility they would favor the boxed cake. I don't know why, but it just seems to be the case.

                            1. re: Elle

                              It's that weird mushy-moist factor that boxed cakes have that homemade cakes never do. Some people prefer this texture. You can't get that soft, moist, fat-tasting cake from a homemade recipe (except maybe in some oil cakes like carrot), but rather you get a firm cake-texture with character, light or heavy depending on how good you are at it and the quality of the recipe.

                              My husband preferred box cakes until I made him a real cake, when we were dating, from Berenbaum's Cake Bible. Now, he says he only likes cakes that I make, and doesn't like other people's homemade ("too dry") or other people's box cakes ("too mushy") or even high-end bakery products ("too sweet"). He just had never had a good homemade cake before. For many of the younger generation, and especially those raised far away from the farm or smaller, rural cities, encountering a well-made homemade cake is a new experience for them.

                              In defense, I must say that it took me about 8 years of concerted baking and learning to get a REALLY good homemade cake. It's not easy, and is different than just dumping in the ingredients and getting say, a good chocolate chip cookie to come out. Cake baking is hard, and making a good icing (like compare a real butter cream to just the butter-and-powdered-sugar "buttercream" and you'll know what I mean -- my husband will never go back) and decorating a cake in a classy, pretty-looking way are one of the more difficult things to learn in the kitchen. Many people never learn how to make a good cake, and no one (including cookbooks) ever teaches them. And cake baking is never by the numbers -- a vary of humidity or oven temperature can ruin things, and only an experienced and watchful baker learns, through bitter experience, how to fix them :)

                              My cakes, after these years of work, have become so markedly better than run-of-the mill homemade or boxed products, that at our office United Way auction last year my simple 3-layer chocolate cake with Richmond Chocolate Frosting (old recipe) sold for $312 dollars. Now, it was for charity, of course, but you should have seen the bidding wars. This was because people had finally tasted a good homemade cake after years of bad ones, from the ones I brought. Now, I'm not trying to boast -- I didn't make up these recipes or do anything that wasn't in a good cookbook -- I have no special knowledge or talent -- but the dedication and effort into making a good cake are rare in many bakers today. I've found, even among people who I'd have privately thought to be "food philistines' is that when they taste the real thing, they KNOW it's better than a box! And they don't want to go back!

                              1. re: Mrs. Smith
                                Caitlin Wheeler

                                If you have any secrets you are willing to share, Mrs. Smith, I would love to hear them.

                                1. re: Caitlin Wheeler

                                  No secrets, but here are my tenets. The rest is, honest to god, "feel", and I can't describe it. I just have made the same recipes over and over again, and have learned when exactly to stop mixing, baking, etc, for maximum quality.

                                  Do get the Cake Bible, if you don't have it. Also the earlier Joys (I have the 1933) of Cooking have EXCELLENT, simple, generally small-sized cakes that cannot be beat. I don't know why they are so much better -- the recipes are often very simple -- but the proportions of ingredients (sugar, especially -- on the lower side) seem to be exactly right. I don't tell people I'm making a cake from a recipe older than their grandparents, but they almost always like them! (with the exception of fruitcakes, sigh, which only a small few of us like). Older ladies who taste my cake look at me in surprise -- and ask me "did your grandmother give you this recipe"? And are suspicious until I show them my old-time sources :)

                                  In general, old cookbooks (pre-1970 preferably, and pre-1950 if you can get them. A favorite of mine is the Westinghouse cookbook from the 40s) have better cake recipes than newer ones.

                                  Don't make a cake with any other fat than butter. Use unsalted, and the finest quality you can afford. Break the bank on butter -- it makes all the difference in both the cake and the icing. And make sure the unsalted butter is fresh -- don't keep it in the fridge for much more than a week after you bought it. It's hard to tell when butter is rancid -- it often is without you knowing it! Exceptions are of course certain, selected oil cakes like carrot.

                                  Do sift everything. A zillion times. I sift more than the cake bible recommends, actually.

                                  Weigh your ingredients, rather than measuring. The exception, of course, if it's an old cake recipe that only comes in volumes. Then carefully read the cookbook's directions (if it has them) on the preferred method of measuring flour.

                                  Always put in a touch more vanilla than is called for (this is to my taste, perhaps not to everyone's)

                                  Make the same cake repeatedly, varying the baking and mixing (very important!) times slightly, and compare the results. Note down the differences.

                                  In cakes, I've found simple flavors and combinations are best. Learn to make a good chocolate, white, and yellow cake first -- really learn these, and then you'll be all set to go on to greater heights. But if you know how to make a simple yellow cake that's good enough to be eaten without icing -- you'll know you've mastered it.

                                  Also -- British cookbooks have fine cakes, though they are of course different than American cakes. Also, the Cook's Illustrated "How to Make an American Layer Cake" (which I do not own, but have cooked from) is an excellent starting point.

                                  Don't neglect those old-fashioned recipes! They are often gems.

                                  Don't over-ice. Also, balance the icing with the flavor of the cake -- a very sweet chocolate cake should havea bittersweet icing. A bland-ish yellowcake can have a sweeter, stronger-flavored icing.

                                  Bake often -- and get good-quality pans. I love the ones from Bridge Kitchenware (aluminum), and the break-the-bank All-Clad Gold Standard (I was skeptical at first but it's true) pans (very very expensive, on the level of copper or French blue steel pans, we're talking 100$ for a set of 2 9-inch rounds ) are worth it -- but only if you're going to bake a lot. But the more baking I did (like anything, I guess) the better and better my cakes got!

                                  Sorry -- I wish I had the secret formula -- it appears to be nothing more than practice, care, and patience!

                                  1. re: Mrs. Smith
                                    Caitlin Wheeler

                                    Thanks Mrs. Smith, those are all great tips. I love cake baking (and baked my own wedding cake) but I haven't really mastered the old fashioned layer cake yet. And add me to the list of those who LOVE fruitcake. I should get around to making this years!

                                    1. re: Caitlin Wheeler

                                      I tell you we have to join a union. A legion. A support group?

                                      Fruitcake fans unite!

                                      WARNING; The first 7 (seven, yes, that's seven) fruitcakes I made were AWFUL. The first was such a promising recipe -- the 1950s Betty Crocker -- paint with orange juice twice weekly for a month, yadda yadda. It was like chewing rancid tar, I kid you not!

                                      Then the fancy and nearly inscrutable British cakes came. I tried 3 recipes, some involving expensive, hard to find 'black sugar" and egregious amounts of brandy. All were horrific.

                                      Then I tried "white" fruitcake. Hah! I won't say anymore about this. White fruitcake is either a) not actually possible or b) an offense against Nature or c) both.

                                      Then there were a couple of forays into "Quick and Easy" fruitcakes which are just better not discussed.

                                      I finally landed on the 1933 Joy fruitcake, with several changes. I use Gentleman Jack (from a tip on Chowhound!) and I use no citron. I buy incredibly expensive preserved amarena cherries from Italy, and use my own candied lemon and lime peel. I use blanched almonds and English black walnuts in a small fraction in comparison to whole pecans (what is better than pecan in a fruitcake). I abhor candied pineapple, nor do I ever use a green cherry. In addition to the amarenas I use regular red candied cherries (which I put in everything at Christmastime -- I love them so!). Unlike most people I never use black raisins (though I have nothing against them, they are just not my fave) but I use golden raisins (sultanas) in quantity.

                                      My mother does something similar but she uses a combination of Gentleman Jack and some Maker's Mark. This is also very very good, but I prefer straight Gentleman Jack. She also cuts up marrons glaces with a scissors and adds them in. This is not my favorite, but most people love it in her fruitcake (those few among us still who come to her house at Christmas JUST to eat the fruitcake!:)

                                      Aging is one month minimum. I've eaten them up to 10 months of age and they only get yummier after about 3-4 months, and after that they seem to just stay delicious.

                                      What's your fruitcake recipe?

                                      1. re: Mrs. Smith

                                        Mrs. Smith,

                                        I would love to have a recipe for a moist yellow cake. It is so hard to make them moist and I have not been able to get my hands on any old cookbooks. Do you have a good recipe? And if you don't mind sharing, I would love the recipe for your chocolate cake. It must be divine:-)

                                        1. re: Mrs. Smith

                                          Mrs. Smith,

                                          I would love to have a recipe for a moist yellow cake. It is so hard to make them moist and I have not been able to get my hands on any old cookbooks. Do you have a good recipe? And if you don't mind sharing, I would love the recipe for your chocolate cake. It must be divine:-)

                                          1. re: Elle

                                            Certainly, Elle. I'll pull out my cookbooks this weekend and give you the lowdown.

                                            My chocolate cake is the Betty Crocker 1950s recipe for "Black Midnight Cake". Made the first time it's very very good, but with practice (and serious sifting) it gets better, (you learn to read the subtle changes in raw batter and how it looks and feels to the touch in the oven) so don't expect it to be fabulous and perfect the first time you make it. It's darn good, but the cook's skill is what puts it over the top. I think I probably made this layer cake at least 10, maybe more times, before I got to to perfection. You have to know your oven very very well.

                                            I'll also post my favorite white and yellow cake recipes. The yellow cake is actually my absolute favorite, a combination of two recipes (channeling Rose Levy Berenbaum into an old Betty Crocker "Dinette Cake" recipe and increasing the volumes).

                                            Also, I can't stress enough -- if you have any old recipes or old cookbooks for cake, those are your goldmines for cake recipes. I compared a 1980s Good Housekeeping recipe for yellow cake once to my own yellow cake recipe, and I learned somthing shocking. The 80s recipe had 1) Half again as much sugar 2) about 1/4 less butter and 3) Fewer eggs for the same size cake. No wonder it wasn't any good!

                                            I don't like angel food cake, so I don't make it. I find it almost universally difficult to make good angel food and genoise (yes, even the French way, and even with soaking syrup, etc), and since they are not to my taste anyway I don't make them.

                                            That said, fantastic genoise with creative full-flavored fillings can be very delicious. I just find it such a pain in the neck to bake for such a low probability of deliciousness that I skip most of the fat-free types of cakes (angel, genoise, sponge). I figure if I'm going to go to the trouble of making a cake myself, it had better be darn delicious.

                                            Stay tuned -- I'll paraphrase the recipes in a non-copyright-violation way. But be warned -- these are not 'magic bullet" recipes. You can still mess them up -- very very easily. Not enough sifting, a big bang in the kitchen while baking, or slightly rancid butter can lower these cakes to the level of dry, weird-textured, and yucky. The thing is skill -- practice and time -- I can't think of another baked product (except perhaps the more difficult types of sugar candy) that depends MORE on the skill of the cook and LESS on the recipe for it's quality.

                                            Good luck -- isn't cake baking fun indeed?

                                            1. re: Mrs Smith

                                              I'm really looking forward to your recipe posts!!!

                                            2. re: Mrs. Smith
                                              Caitlin McGrath

                                              I think there is definitely a higher ratio of fruitcake fans on this board than you'd find in any given cross-section of the country, judging from past threads. Perhaps people who seek out and make good food and try and appreciate all kinds of things also apply this logic to fruitcake?

                                              My mother used to do fruitcake (she stopped because she felt not enough people appreciated it as gifts - not enough chowhounds in her life) using a JOC recipe from a 1960's edition, I believe. She abhors candied fruit, so she used a mix of dried fruits and nuts, and her liquor bath of choice was dark rum. She usually started around Thanksgiving. Mmm.

                                              I haven't done fruitcake, but last year I made chocolate panforte for gifts, to rave reviews (I can't deal with candied citron either - though it's traditional in panforte - so I used good dried cherries). Caitlin Wheeler said her mother has used the same recipe (linked below).

                                              P.S. Mrs. Smith, you aksed Sharuf what old fashioned doughnuts are like in "[her] part of the world." Well, she lives in Marin County, so go to a recommended local doughnut shop and try one! I think you'll find some relation to what you described from your childhood. If you like it, consider yourself lucky; they, and the related buttermilk bar, are my favorite type of doughnut, and they don't exist in the Northeast, along with French crullers and maple bars. (Since maple bars are just an oblong raised doughnut with maple icing, you'd think they'd be made in the Northeast, but I've never seen anything but cake, raised, and filled raised here, save the occasional apple fritter.)


                                              1. re: Mrs. Smith
                                                Caitlin Wheeler

                                                Last year I made the fruitcake from Delia Smith's website, doused in brandy, which was just currants, raisins, and candied peel, and I ate it before Christmas. So I also made Nigella Lawson's easy quick fruitcake, which had chestnut paste for added moistness and raisins soaked in rum. It was good, but not as good as the aged Delia's cake. I also topped it with marzipan, which is one of my FAVORITE things. Also made the excellent panforte from Gourmet last year -- I've linked to the recipe below. I think it was better than the Chocolate Panforte recipe -- more Sienese.

                                                This year I think I'm going to try the Maida Heatter recipe that was reprinted in Saveur, except leave out the candied pineapple and candied cherries (gak) in favor of more dried fruit and peel (I love candied peel -- usually buy it at Kalustyan's in NYC.) I was thinking of dousing it in scotch whisky this year -- I prefer it for drinking, why not for fruitcake? I would use a sweetish blended scotch though, not one with any peat at all. Also thinking of trying the Golden Fruitcake from Epicurious that Caitlin McGrath posted once, but that might be too ambitious.

                                            3. re: Mrs. Smith

                                              Mrs Smith, you sound like a cake lover's trip to heaven!

                                              1. re: EWSflash

                                                Indeed, I'm anticipating the recipes too.
                                                My all-time favorite cake was fairly simple, it was chocolate and vanilla marble cake, from (I can't believe I can remember this) "cooking in colour".
                                                I think this is it, can't be sure: ours had no cover.

                                                But yeah, it always came out great as far as I was concerned. A lovely creamy taste to it, though I daresay I could make it better now than I could when I was 10.

                                              2. re: Mrs. Smith

                                                Thank-you for that advice Mrs. Smith!

                                        2. re: danna

                                          have you ever had a northern style cake? ;-)