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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"

                      http://www.amazon.com/Crockers-Pictur...

                      http://www.thekitchn.com/cooking-vint...

                      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.

                      Duh.

                      Pat G.

                      1. re: ciaolette

                        ciaollette,
                        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) :)

                            Dave

                          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
                                c
                                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
                                    c
                                    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
                                              c
                                              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.)

                                              Link: http://www.epicurious.com/run/recipe/...

                                              1. re: Mrs. Smith
                                                c
                                                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: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cooking-Colou... 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? ;-)

                                        3. It's certainly the reason that when I'm finished with one of my weekend baking projects, the result goes to my office, rather than Azami's. My officemates gather around if I so much as utter the word "cheesecake," because they know I'd bring a homemade one. They are smug in the knowledge that occasions in our office are celebrated with homemade pastry, while the company with whom we share office space purchases bakery cakes for its employees. Azami's co-workers tend to consider the homemadeness a curiosity rather than a significant quality factor. They were just as pleased with the unadorned boxed angel food cake as with the from-scratch coffeecake. Or bakery cakes, for that matter.

                                          1. We knew someone about 15 years ago who moved to the US from France. She somehow fell in love with those awful microwave-in-the-pan cake mixes that included a cardboard pan and everything you needed in the box. She raved about them and ate them all the time. After several months in the States, she had NOTICEABLY put on weight! I could never understand why someone from France of all places would love those microwaveable cakes!

                                            1. Our mom made a banana cake that was a little bit of both and it has been a favorite of three generations in our family. Fortunately I watched her make it while she was still able and I have inherited the honor of making them for family gatherings. Mom would throw bananas in the freezer when they started getting too ripe. When she made her cake, she would start with a box of Cinch yellow cake mix (can't find any more?). To this she would add one cup of whole milk, one softened cube of butter and two defrosted bananas. She would mix then bake in two 8" round cake pans until a deep golden brown on top. For the frosting she would use a one pound box of powdered sugar, one cube of softened butter and one defrosted banana. The frosting on moms cakes was always runny and the cake was lopsided but nothing ever compared to the taste. I have shared this recipe with many of our friends and it has become a favorite of their families as well. So you see, all box cakes are not bad.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Neta

                                                I'm totally into trying your banana cake - when you say one cube of butter, is that a stick? How many tablespoons of butter makes a cube? thanks!

                                                1. re: Liloo

                                                  Yes, a cube is a quarter pound or one stick. I think I forgot to mention to let it soften to room temperature. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

                                              2. Hi!

                                                Something like they appreciate the lowest common denominator. Anyone who makes it from scratch and has a superior product makes people uncomfortable.

                                                I say this as having been accused of being a show-off by bringing homemade cakes to a weekly meeting. I did it because I worked at home and it was more convenient. It takes less than 10 minutes to make the batter, throw it in the oven and return 40 minutes later. Going to the grocery store would have cost me at least an hour because I'd probably make a trip out of it.

                                                Regards,
                                                CAthy2

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: Cathy2

                                                  Or as my father, whose main hobby is baking, would say: "They just don't know what good is."

                                                  1. re: Chorus Girl

                                                    I just love DAD bakers, they are the best

                                                  2. re: Cathy2

                                                    It's unfortunate your coworkers reacted that way. My office admittedly loves food so whenever anyone brings in anything homemade, they're all over it! Granted, they're also all over the BJ's stale cookies, but they can appreciate the difference. I had an especially proud moment when a coworker seemed to have a private moment *ahem* with himself after taking a bite of my cardamom flavored challah. :}

                                                    1. re: Cathy2

                                                      next time someone says that, offer to bake theirs for 'em, for a suitable bribe. that way everyone's happy.

                                                    2. I don't know anyone who admits prefering box cake to homemade. I know many people who prefer a box cake to a bad, cheap bakery cake. Generally they are much better.

                                                      I know many people who prefer really high quality bakery cakes of any type to homemade.

                                                      I work in Los Angeles. A local higher-end chain Gelsons supermarket gets most of its cakes from a good quaility bakery, Victor Benes.

                                                      Whenever somone brings in the $34 Victor Benes cake (vs. $16 Ralphs cake) there is a rumble in the hallway and a RUSH towards the conference room.

                                                      People will go around and say, "Ohhh, her boss really likes her. She got a Victor Benes cake."

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: JudiAU

                                                        Ugh. I HATE Victor Bene's. I prefer homemade to boxed cakes, but I'll take a Duncan Hines over a Victor Bene's any day of the week. VB used to be a big deal in my old office as well - helped me keep the weight off by offering no temptation, however! LOL

                                                      2. c
                                                        Caitlin Wheeler

                                                        Maybe because most people can't bake. You probably can, but an inexperienced baker and a mediocre recipe together make a BAD scratch cake -- dry, dense, heavy. Box cakes are uniformly light and fluffy and moist. The trade off is weird chemical tastes. Some homemade cakes are light and fluffy and moist, or at least dense and moist, but a dry scratch cake can be truly awful.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: Caitlin Wheeler

                                                          I agree 100%. The absolute worst cakes (and cookies, etc) I have ever eaten were all homemade. I have seen all of the following culprits, and there are probably many more:

                                                          1. Bad recipes. Or more commonly just mediocre recipes. Really not worth the effort.
                                                          2. Bad measuring. A friend once asked if she could help me bake for a party. This is how she measured dry ingredients: she would sort of scoop a bit and shake it around, and if it was within 1/2 inch of the rim she would call it good. Liquid ingredients: she just poured until it looked about right from standing straight up, not at eye level (this was before those Oxo measuring cups you can view standing up). I suggested maybe she could try to measure a little more closely to the mark, but she assured me (with the air of someone who really knew what she was doing) that "you don't need to measure in cooking. no one in my family measures." It took every ounce of self-control I had to just let her continue on.
                                                          3. A desire to limit fat and other "bad" ingredients. For example, my MIL uses two and a half times as much flour to the same amount of butter I use in rolled christmas cookies (I use the Cook's Illustrated recipe). On the plus side, this means I never gain any weight when I visit them over the holidays because I'm never tempted to eat any more than a polite tasting.

                                                          I don't like the artificial, shallow flavor of box cakes any more than the folks on this site, but if forced, I would choose them over most homemade cakes. Of course, a GOOD homemade cake - that's just in a class all it's own.

                                                          1. re: Jujubee

                                                            Boxed cakes hold up well to inaccurate, or no, measuring. I watched an old fried of mine preparing one while doing other tasks and attending to the sporadic demands of her children. She appeared to have added the required amount of water several times, and I began to despair when I saw the extremely thin batter. It baked up a treat. Fool proof and distraction proof.

                                                            Home made cakes are divas and rather more demanding. Even with the best recipe and the greatest care in measuring, results depend on other variables such as flour quality, humidity, oven idiosyncrasies, altitude and, apparently, attitude.

                                                            1. re: Jujubee

                                                              Good points. I think there is also that people do not follow directions like maybe overmixing, dumping all things in at once, not sifting.... you know.

                                                          2. I have to tell you that there is nothing worse than a bad homemade cake.

                                                            That might be one of the reasons people prefer box cakes - an unsuccessful attempt at a made-from-scratch cake left a bad memory.

                                                            Let me assure you however that a well-made homemade cake is unbeatable. I long for my wife's homemade cheesecake, or my sister's homemade apple pie with the design of a turkey on the crust.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: bunnyr

                                                              I agree with this last point.
                                                              It's not so much as liking box cakes, as maybe prefering the fool-proof result?

                                                              I am a hopeless baker, so I have never attempted successfully anything beyond butter cookies, however, I feel comfortable with box cakes as I know they'll always come out OK.

                                                              Besides, I am more of a icing addict so for me not having the cake anxiety of "will it or will it not come out OK" thing is worth the sacrifice of using a cake-mix if I can then slabber on a fantastic butter-cream icing or whatever else strikes my imagination to bring up the appeal of the humble box-cake.

                                                              --Maria

                                                              1. re: Maria

                                                                "It's not so much as liking box cakes, as maybe prefering the fool-proof result"

                                                                Exactly! Very rarely can I make a perfect homemade cake, they always fall. However with box cakes, I can make the adjustments for high altitude and they almost always turn out. I don't neccessarily like them better, but when I need a cake to look good, I turn to box cake mixes.

                                                            2. I get so tired of food snobs who prefer homemade simply because it's homemade, regardless of the taste. And then they call everyone else unrefined. I like boxed cakes. In fact, many times I prefer boxed cakes. They're easy to make, they taste good, they're crowd pleasers... why should anyone be ashamed to like boxed cakes? "From scratch" is not always the same thing as "better."

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: bugmenot

                                                                There is nothing snobbish or refined about cakes made from scratch. They are simply home made. A handy skill like knitting or growing tomatoes or carpentry or even knowing how to keep your car well maintained.

                                                                Some people can prepare a really gourmet cake and all credit to them.

                                                              2. I live in England now. They used to have terrible cake and brownie mixes here. Now you can get the American ones. I would always bring back boxes back from the US, especially brownie mixes. One day I made a lemon cake, either Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker mix and used a box frosting and took it to a friend's house for dinner. There were about 8 people there and they all asked me for the recipe. It was in the days of 'pudding in the mix'. I do like to home bake a lot but sometimes it is easier to open a box. My mother never baked but used to ask me to do it. Her idea of baking was to buy a mix. I then became interested in home made cookies and muffins in particular. I used to have tea parties instead of drinks parties and supplied lots of different baked goods.

                                                                Cupcakes and brownies are now extremely popular here. There is even a thread on my local neighbourhood forum about which cafe or shop has the best brownies.

                                                                1. Oh you poor thing.
                                                                  I like it when sponge cakes have a crispy crust on them. don't get that from factory cakes!

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Soop

                                                                    This thread is about cakes made from a mix, not store bought cakes, which is what I think you mean by "factory." A cake made from a mix, at home, by hand, can certainly have a crispy crust.

                                                                    1. re: small h

                                                                      Oh sorry -___- My American has failed me again.

                                                                      1. re: Soop

                                                                        Don't feel bad. I wasn't 100% sure, myself (and I speak American almost exclusively) until I saw the words "Duncan Hines."

                                                                  2. I've had QUITE a few bakery cakes that were supposed to be "from scratch" thagt were dry and lifeless. Box cakes would have been far, far superior, and 90 to 96% cheaper. I've had fabuluos cake from scratch, that a box couldn't touch, but sadly, 99% of bakery cakes I've had in my lifetime are horrible, just horrible. I far prefer the few great "from scratch" cakes that I've had, but box cakes are more reliable imo. If I am making a cake fromm scratch at home, then you can bet you'r a** it's gonna be an all butter revelation, but other ppl's cakes have been pretty bad imo.

                                                                    1. Boxed cakes can be really good and nowadays are the definitive cake.

                                                                      This year for a Thanksgiving Day shared brunch with neighbours I made a dark chocolate cake with 60% chocolate ganache icing. The cake was delicious, moist , light, with a fine crumb. A nineteen year old proclaimed that it was really good and tasted like brownies. I love brownies, but they are sugary, dense and totally different to cake. Perhaps her experience has been with boxed and other commercial cakes, and brownies to her are the nearest match to a homemade cake.

                                                                      I don't make boxed cakes because I enjoy the entire process of making caked from scratch, and am quite delighted when they come out just right. It's a personal indulgence, because boxed cakes are cheaper and easier to make, and as Elle mentions, well appreciated.

                                                                      1. For a while I was wondering what was meant by "box cake." First I was thinking that bakery cakes come from boxes and that was it; and people said "box cake" tastes better because they were, and the home baker was biased.

                                                                        I haven't had cake from a boxed cake mix in a long time, but from what I remember they had a firmer texture and sweeter flavor that most recipes. If someone likes them, there's nothing wrong with that, since it's a preference for that type of cake. The fault seems to be in just not sampling enough types of cakes/desserts, and with them the potentials and faults of a cake.

                                                                        1. Back when I moved to the Netherlands, box mixes of any kind were simply not to be found. I quickly learned to bake (fairly well, if I do say so myself) - but when it comes down to it, if there's a box mix available, I'll take it. Less mess (tornado in the kitchen), don't have to worry about the wonky oven door springing open in the middle of baking, convenience, uniformity, prep time, the people who are eating it don't care or can't tell the difference - so many different reasons for me to pick a mix.

                                                                          I'd personally rate most cake mixes at around a 6.5 on the cake scale (with 10 being the most amazing one I've ever had, and 1 being the densest, brickiest 99 cent cakes collecting dust on the bottom shelf at the supermarket).

                                                                          Have to say, I've never had an actual horrible cake though!

                                                                          1. It's funny that I recall loving twinkies as a child- LOVED them! I got nostalgic for them a few years ago and when I took a bite I felt like my memories had betrayed me- they tasted full of chemicals and nothing like I remembered. I've tasted a box mix cake recently at work and I must say, it did not taste like a chemical twinky. Rather, it was YUMMERS!!! The ironic thing is that I am not a big fan of most bakery cakes with the exception of Asian bakeries. Perhaps it's because I'm not a huge fan of butter, and most American style bakeries add copious amounts of butter to the batter and the icing. I think it comes down to personal tastes. If a homemade cake tastes yummy to me, I'll eat it. If it tastes buttery or has a cheesecream frosting, goodbye! (Yes, I'm the cheese hater of these boards:} )

                                                                            1. My great aunt makes the gold standards chocolate iced layer cake in my family. Honestly the best cake I've ever had, and the cake by which all other cakes are measured. I had her dictate the icing recipe for me a few years ago, then at Thanksgiving asked if she could give me the cake recipe. It's Duncan Hines! Of course, it makes sense now. As a kid, my mom always used cake mixes but made icing for scratch. I use mix and make from scratch, depending on the taste/texture I'm going for and any time constraints I'm working with.

                                                                              1. Not sure - but I bet it's because they're used to it. Before I learned to bake, I always used box mixed. Ghirardelli's brownie mix was awesome.

                                                                                After baking a couple cakes from scratch, I baked a rum cake with a yellow box cake mix I had and I felt I could tell the difference.

                                                                                I ended up giving away the few cake mixes I had left. Box mixes have this weird pasty taste to it - even the top-rated ones. At work, a guy's wive made a cake that everyone raved about. The minute I tasted it, I knew it was a cake mix. It wasn't that bad, but it seemed kind of off to me. Of course, I did not say anything.

                                                                                I guess people like what the like and what they're used to.

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                    I have been baking from scratch since i was 10 years old, but when i was in my early 20's I started using a box mix. The best white cake is Pillsbury, ether way you prepare it is ok, I
                                                                                    prefer the whole egg recipe myself. Chocolate, Duncan Hines , but I add some real cocoa to
                                                                                    it and it taste like homemade. Yellow, I use Duncan Hines but over the last couple of years
                                                                                    they have changed something and I not quite fond of the mix anymore. I have been working
                                                                                    as cake decorator for over 25 years and the cake shops i have worked at, all, use some kind of cake mix only one place made her chocolate cake from scratch. Mixes do seem to bake better with less crumbs and more moistness , but that's just my opinion. I have never
                                                                                    had anyone say that cake was awful, I have had more compliments on my cake but
                                                                                    i actually think it is the frosting!!! Always use butter, ratio of half butter and half shorting and real vanilla extract, no one has ever complained only compliments. Good Luck to all
                                                                                    PS I've worked in grocery stores all I can say is FROZEN!!!! and for how long, too long!!

                                                                                1. I have been baking every cake in the 1961 Betty Crocker cookbook as a project and I have to say, they are definitely not what we are used to in this day and age. They are all much fluffier and sweeter, very light. But, for all that, they are also dry and lacking in the sort of richness we expect from cake. I've done a lot to try to get them more moist, without altering the recipes (which is against my project rules), but to no avail. I think 'my goodness Betty, your cake is as light as a feather' was more important than a cake being decadent and rich. Even the "rich" chocolate recipe is fluffy...and dry.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: packplayfair

                                                                                    I wonder if recipes in Joy of Cooking have shifted in the same way. Maybe I'll compare my mid 60s edition with the 1996 one.

                                                                                  2. I make my own bread, have a sourdough starter, bake my own pizza, make cookies, cakes an all that stuff, but one of my most requested items is a chocolate cake made from a box, some chocolate pudding mix, veggie oil, sour cream and chocolate chips. I don't get it, but it does taste great, so there's that...

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: MonMauler

                                                                                      Right there with you on the cake mix / pudding / sour cream. Also works well with yellow cake and vanilla pudding mix.

                                                                                    2. On thanksgiving I made a homemade chocolate ganache cake and someone said "Wow! This is amazing, it's just like the Dunken Heins cake!" I know she meant it as a compliment, but I kind of groaned inside. :-/

                                                                                      1. Trader Joe's sells an honest cake mix, with butter as an ingredient, and -real cake flour-. Outside of the south, you don't see cake flour at the grocery anymore... (maybe at costco)

                                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                          I can get cake flour at my supermarket now. It's the "super" version of the Giant Eagle in Pittsburgh, PA, the Market District. Before this, I used to order Swans Down by the case.

                                                                                          http://reilyproducts.com/products?mod...

                                                                                          Aren't you from Pittsburgh, Chowrin?

                                                                                          1. re: Jay F

                                                                                            Ayup. Time was, though, cake flour was a staple in every grocery store.
                                                                                            And thanks for the heads up.

                                                                                          2. re: Chowrin

                                                                                            That is simply not true. here in New England cake flour is very available. And anyway, you can easily make cake flour: 2T cornstarch per cup of flour, sift twice, measure from this mixture.

                                                                                            1. re: magiesmom

                                                                                              Cornstarch does jack-all to remove gluten, my dear. Not that you're likely to know whether you've got flint corn, less you can find the mill.

                                                                                              1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                Cornstarch doesn't remove gluten, but it does dilute it. The idea is to reduce the gluten proportion in the flour by just a percent or two . Cornstarch is pure starch.

                                                                                                I don't know what flint corn has to do with the mater. Neither dent nor flint has gluten. Even wheat starch could be used to lower the overall gluten ratio.

                                                                                            2. re: Chowrin

                                                                                              I buy cake flour here in NY all the time, there is Swans Down and another that the name escapes me. At the regular supermarket, not costco.

                                                                                              1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                I went to TJ's today, and they no longer have the cake or frosting mixes. How annoying.

                                                                                                They did have some sort of cinnamon streusel mix, so I bought that. I guess I can still say I've never made a box cake.

                                                                                                1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                  that's what I would call a cinnamon cake. (poor man's spice cake).
                                                                                                  they had vanilla cake as well, when I was last there.

                                                                                                  A 3 mile walk (each way) in this cold? brrr!

                                                                                                  1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                    So I made the cinnamon cake today. It is cool now, and it's what I think could be called "moist" -- a quality I don't value the way some do -- and the main taste sensations are "sweet" and "cinnamon-y." It's very sweet, actually, maybe too sweet.

                                                                                                    And there's something about the cinnamon flavor I'm not crazy about. It's not as good as the taste of the stuff I get at Penzey's.

                                                                                                    There's guar gum in the cake. Would that be what provides the moist quality?

                                                                                                    I won't know until tomorrow whether I'd make this cake again. I actually prefer cake the day after it's made.

                                                                                                    1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                      I finished eating TJ's cinnamon crumb cake today (I gave half away). I can definitely see why people like to make box cakes. There's almost no measuring, and mixing ingredients is so much simpler.

                                                                                                      However, and this was important too, in terms of non-flavor-related issues, I still had a lot of stuff to wash afterwards, probably no less than if I'd made a regular cake.

                                                                                                      As for flavor, either there was too much cinnamon, or they used a poor grade of it. And overall, the cake was much sweeter than any cake I have eaten before, besides brownies. Truly, totally the sweetest yellow cake (maybe from the crumb topping).

                                                                                                      The cake was too moist for my taste. I guess "moist" is something you look for if you make box cakes or buy cakes in grocery stores, and that becomes your standard for cake texture.

                                                                                                      I will probably try TJ's vanilla box cake. The reason I'm trying box cakes this late in life is that I moved from a full-sized, fully-applianced kitchen to one in an apartment that has little counter space. Being able to just whisk ingredients together has definite appeal for me now.

                                                                                              2. I haven't noticed this so much with cake specificaly - but I've definitely noticed this with brownies. My mom would go through the effort of making homemade cheese cake and then supplement that with boxed brownies (not doctored in any way) - and both would get equal amounts of praise. Ultimately over the years the cheesecake went away and she'd just make brownies.

                                                                                                1. Maybe the homemade cakes they've had are dry. It's easy for an unseasoned baker to make bad cakes. If you know what you are doing, you can look for recipes that will be more moist and flavorful. I hate boxed cake. A good home made cake is divine.

                                                                                                  1. It seems I've tried every known famous retail cupcake I can get my hands on....in every city I've been.
                                                                                                    I've yet to find one, that's 'made from scratch', that I want to purchase a second time.
                                                                                                    They're either too rough in texture or not enough and taste wise I can't believe they're selling them and people are waiting in line to purchase them.
                                                                                                    Not every homemade cake I've tasted is excellent, as it should be.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                      I find that nearly ALL purchased cake/cupcakes/etc. are dry. I'm a "box-cake-maker" and fear that anything other than box will either seem dry to start or go stale before we eat the whole thing.

                                                                                                    2. It's really due to what you are accustomed to and what you grew up eating. This reminds me of a funny story to illustrate:

                                                                                                      I needed to bring a dessert to a dinner party and the hosts were Glatt Kosher. The meal was meat, so the dessert needed to be pareve (meaning no dairy products). I found a recipe for a cake that didn't use milk in the batter, but it called for a buttercream frosting.

                                                                                                      My wife, who grew up in a kosher home, told me to substitute margarine and it would be fine. So, I made the cake and started the frosting. I tasted the frosting from the mixer bowl and it was nasty. I added some more sugar and more vanilla, trying to make it taste better, but nothing helped. I called my wife over to tell her that I didn't feel right serving that nasty frosting on the cake. She tasted it, and told me that it was perfect, it tasted exactly as it should and they would all love it.

                                                                                                      Darned if she wasn't right on...they wolfed down the cake and told me that it was delicious, especially the frosting...

                                                                                                      It's all what you are used to eating...

                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: mwk

                                                                                                        They kept glatt kosher but they were willing to eat a cake that come out of a non-kosher kitchen?

                                                                                                        1. re: Exy00

                                                                                                          Well, everyone is different in how they interpret it. As long as all the ingredients in the cake were Pareve, it was OK with them. They would eat at our house as well, as long as we served only Dairy or Pareve on paper plates. Go figure.

                                                                                                      2. I don't know anyone that does like boxed over homemade, but then my mom was a good baker and I'm pretty good at it too. Boxed cake mixes just come out like air IMO.

                                                                                                        1. I think it has to do with a combination of consistency plus what you were raised on.

                                                                                                          My mom (& dad) were unbelievably talented cooks, & made things that back in the 60's thru the 90's weren't even mainstream. Fabulous stuff - & I LOVE the fact that they gave their love of cooking to me.

                                                                                                          That said, apart from some Czech pastries, they really didn't bake much, & thus neither do I. Mom made box cakes, & we loved them as much as we loved the "from scratch" Czech pastries. Now if we'd been brought up on "from scratch" cakes, maybe I'd feel differently. But alas, I don't. Perhaps because I'm not a fan of sweets to begin with.

                                                                                                          1. I'm sorry if I'm about to yuck somebody's yum, but we were asked our opinions, so here's mine....

                                                                                                            Because we have evolved into such a crap eating, pre-processed loving, fast food gorging society that most have no taste whatsoever for real food.

                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                                                              Does any cake qualify as 'real food'? Harold McGee writes (in Keys to good cooking) 'cakes challenge with plentitude, by loading the flour with as much sugar and fat as it can support'. p413

                                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                Good cake, e.g., a 1-2-3-4 cake or Maida Heatter's Queen Mother's Cake or a nice flourless chocolate torte sure counts as real to me.

                                                                                                                It's better than a lot of "real" food, in fact.

                                                                                                              2. Growing up, my mother always made napoleons from scratch, or purchased cakes from the local Japanese-French bakery for birthdays - so we have always had a whipped cream or pastry/creme diplomat kind of palate. So I was in shock when I went to a birthday party and ate those box cakes. (the crumbs, it's sticky! And the butter cream! Gross! What, no fruit!?)

                                                                                                                HOWEVER, I am always disappointed when I get a brownie hankering, make it from scratch, and it turns out nothing like the box mix ones... Sometimes I just want the junky crap, you know?

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: nomnomnoms

                                                                                                                  A problem with brownies is that some want them to be cake like, and others want something bordering on fudge.

                                                                                                                2. I generally make my own homemade cakes, but I have found that yellow cake mix for pineapple upside down cake actually is better than my homemade. I have tried several different recipes and the box always wins.

                                                                                                                  I have never seen a decent carrot cake made from a box. I am also dubious of the lemon varieties.

                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                                                    What brand pineapple upside down cake, Sal?

                                                                                                                    1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                                      Oh I just use Duncan Hines yellow cake mix and make the other part (sugar/butter goodness and the pineapple part that you put down first) out of the pantry goods. The sugar seeps in nicely to the pores of their cake and leaves some crunchy goodness at the edges. We fight and wheel & deal over the corners of the cake (I make a 12x9).

                                                                                                                  2. responding to a thread which is 10 yrs old but i guess some problems are timeless. I think the OP has moved on to greener pastures but i get what she's saying.

                                                                                                                    I think it's a combination of what people are used to and texture, especially with vanilla or yellow cakes. I'm able to make a better crumb with chocolate than I can with vanilla cake.

                                                                                                                    i do find that many people i know crave junk food. people say they have to hold out on McDonalds or taco bell is their weakness. as a teen i went thru a junk food phase but as an adult can't understand it anymore. we eat McDonalds if its the only thing around on a road trip only and even then it tastes pretty lame.

                                                                                                                    so that said, i can see why people enjoy box cake or supermarket cakes with very bad frosting.

                                                                                                                    1. I bake from scratch often often weekly. My husband was about 10 when he realized that cakes can come from the store or bakery. That being said, while travelling some friends and I made cupcakes from a mix, and as disgusting as it was, it also hit that magical proustian memory of PTA bakesales and sugar highs that my homemade stuff misses.

                                                                                                                      1. I absolutely refuse to use box mixes - except for the occasional emergency pan of ghiradelli brownies. I bake fairly regularly and my family absolutely prefers the from-scratch versions. I didn't grow up with box cakes etc. and no one in my extended family did either.

                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                          I think those Ghirardelli brownies are pretty darned good. I normally doctor mine up with a peanut butter swirl or some kind of mix-in, but it's my go-to brownie.

                                                                                                                        2. Sort of off-topic but related... the first year that my husband and I were dating, I offered to bake him his favorite cake (German Chocolate) for his birthday. So we go to the grocery store to get ingredients and he grabs a box of cake mix and canned icing while I'm looking for a bar of German Chocolate and some flaked coconut. We both looked at each other like the other was crazy. He has since learned that I do almost everything from scratch and will even ask if I'm feeling okay if I do grab a boxed cake mix. :)