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Cake mix vs. scratch

While I am a pretty accomplished baker, I find that a cake mix will give me overall better results when making a frosted cake or cupcakes. I've made plenty of scratch cakes and some are a lot better than others, but for moistness and consistent results in baking times, I find myself turning to a box mix more and more. I'd rather invest the time spent in making scratch frosting, filling, decorating, etc. Opinions? Let the cake-mix bashing begin...I can take it. :)

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  1. I won't bash you, but I don't like the flavor of most cake mixes. I seem to be able to detect all those ingredients that aren't in the from scratch version, giving a cake mix cake a distinct artificial flavor. With a from scratch cake, I taste wheat, milk, eggs, sweetness, and most of all, butter. (Hounds will be aghast, but I don't bake chocolate cakes any more, due to an allergic individual in the family. No brownies either, boo hoo. Just too much of a lasting scent. Chocolate is obtained outside the home these days.)

    There is a notable exception, and I may have the spelling wrong, but Oetker cake mixes are pretty darned close to from scratch and come in different flavors. They're more expensive than Duncan Hines, but I have found them on sale, and they're worth the extra money. One other thing I'd like to mention is that if you bake regularly, it's entirely possible to make homemade cake mix. You can do it on the weekend, when you aren't pressed for time, then during the week use your homemade cake mix. It can be less expensive, too, though butter cakes will always cost more than a cake mix cake. You just have to use the homemade cake mix in a timely way, so the baking powder is fresh. I like this recipe, because it uses butter rather than shortening, but if you prefer shortening, those recipes are all over the web: http://suzannemcminn.com/blog/2009/04... Just google "from scratch" or "homemade cake mix recipe." There are even recipes to make cake mix in bulk for storage in the freezer. It helps to have a scale for portioning those. If you do want to make a foray into homemade cakes, I highly recommend recipes from Rose Levy Beranbaum and Maida Heatter, whose recipes are reliably tested. But, again, if mixes work for you, I say live and let live.

    5 Replies
    1. re: amyzan

      Thanks for the suggestions and info. Please, don't misunderstand...I have made many, many scratch cakes in my 49 years; it's just that I prefer the ease of a cake mix (and I actually like the taste, too!) so that I can spend a lot of time on the frosting and decorating part. Also, I always doctor cake mixes with milk, buttermilk, fresh juice, different pure flavorings, mix-ins, etc.. depending on what kind of cake I am aiming for.

      Thanks again for your response!

      1. re: amyzan

        All I taste in kit cakes is sugar. Blech. I'd rather risk making a cake that doesn't turn out than make a kit cake and *know* that it'll be a one-flavour sugar bomb.

        1. re: Indirect Heat

          I was at a wedding recently and the fondant covered cake was made with mix. I immediately went from excited for cake to pushing it around my plate and throwing most of it out. I know that many people either don't notice or don't mind the difference between cake mix and from scratch cakes, but i guess I'm a bit of a snob and believe that especially for special occasions, the extra effort of making a real cake is worth it.

          1. re: LaureltQ

            I'm with Laurel. I have not made a box cake in my adult life, probably not since I was a teenager.

            1. re: LaureltQ

              Could you tell from the taste that it was mix, or did someone tell you? Was this a commercially made cake or home made?

        2. I'm not going to bash you either, but I'd say it's a choice between texture and appearance (cake mix wins) vs. flavor (scratch takes it). It's harder to make a butter cake rise to a perfect even height, and the texture can turn out heavy or gummy, but like the previous commenter I can taste the fake eggs, icky shortening and the preservatives in a cake-mix cake and it just doesn't work for me.

          The one exception is angel-food cake: sometimes I crave it (in summer, with whipped cream and raspberries) and there's no way I'm going to make something with 12 egg whites from scratch. Plus, as this is a favorite holdover from childhood, I actually like the plasticky-sweet fragrance of the boxed mix in this case. And the add-ins more than make up for any off-flavors.

          5 Replies
          1. re: csdiego

            I'd like to suggest a remedy for baking a butter cake in round pans, to give more even, higher layers. You can buy magic cake strips which you soak in water and then wrap around the pans, securing with velcro, or you can make a version of them at home with newspaper folded, wetted, and paper clipped around the pan. Both of these will allow the batter to rise at the edges of the pan without getting baked quickly. You get maximum rise and a more even layer that doesn't require leveling/waste before frosting.

            If you make the homemade version with newspaper, just be sure the paper is folded thickly and such that there are no single ply edges exposed or sticking out. I don't want to be responsible for anyone having a kitchen fire! (I've never heard of it happening, as butter cakes in 8, 9, or 10 inch pans don't have long baking times.) But, let's be careful.

            1. re: csdiego

              When using a cake mix, subbing melted butter for the oil improves the flavor considerably.
              The Cake Doctor books' recipes are designed to elevate cake mixes to a higher level. The author points out that the mixes are made to be very forgiving of technique, reliably turning out well-risen, even-textured cakes. And they won't turn stale as fast as scratch cakes, which in some circumstances may be a consideration.

              1. re: csdiego

                I have to disagree. Scratch cakes have a MUCH superior texture to box cakes. That is, I suppose, if you consider a fine, even grain to be the mark of superiority. If you're getting a heavy, gummy cake when you bake from scratch, try another recipe.

                And...why is baking something w/ 12 egg whites a problem? Actually, my current favortie angel food uses 16 whites...its a monster ;-) I know what you mean about that sugar-smell from bought angel food, but you don't have to abaondon eating those when you feel like to enjoy the glory of scratch angel food.

                1. re: csdiego

                  My 18-year-old son made me a from scratch angel food cake for my b-day this year. It was fantastic and not difficult at all, he said. I can't eat store bought AFCs since we started making them from scratch; the difference is remarkable.

                  1. re: Stricttime

                    Congrats to your son!!

                    I've probably told this story before....but ... My Mom refused to let me have 12 eggs to risk when i was a kid wanting to make angel food. In a weird coincidence, i won a dozen eggs in an essay contest in 7th grade. The resulting angel food turned out well, and she and I have made a WHOLE lot of angel food since then. After my dad had a heart attack 20 years ago, angel food cakes went into heavy rotation at her house.

                    Perhaps your son would enjoy the chocolate angel food from the Cake Bible for his next adventure.

                2. Why bash? If it's what you prefer, it's what you prefer. I don't like the chemical taste and gummy feel of box cakes. My kids can tell right away when they have it out and don't like it either but I've told them it's rude to ask ahead of time. But, for people who like the taste and texture of it and don't like it from scratch, why bother? I have to say 90% of the people I know like box cakes.

                  1. We..(mostly DW) are scratch bakers...I can think of only one cake that is baked at Uncle Bob's that we use a box cake as a base.. but that's us...not you. What "saddens" me sometimes is how many young (not kids) people think a "homemade" cake is one that is put together at home...out of a box, with icing coming from a can...Just the other day I heard a young mother exclaiming to her mother that she had been up and down the aisle at the grocery store...back and forth several times, and could not find cup cake mix!!! :))

                    Fun!!!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Uncle Bob

                      Oh my....(shakes head from side to side). It amazes me how little some people know about baking cupcakes or any other type of cake. Last week I was called twice by two different people asking if they needed to grease the cup cake papers after they placed them in the tin...

                      1. re: cookieluvntasha

                        In my scenario above.. after I stopped chuckling.. I couldn't decide what was worse...The fact that the daughter was looking for cup cake mix or the fact that her mother hadn't taught her diddly....then again maybe the mom tried.

                    2. I too can detect box mix the instant it hits my tongue. It has a chemical/industrial taste to me. I make some fussier cakes but generally my basic cake recipe takes about 5 minutes longer than box cake mix. Measure a couple of ingredients and use the stand mixer to speed the process. Since boxed mixes are so pervasive and set the standard for many people of what a cake tastes like, many are unnecessarily impressed with my cakes (brownies too). Maybe it is just me but I don't find it to be very hard or time consuming.

                      But hey, if you prefer the taste of the boxed stuff it's OK by me. I grew up on Duncan Hines boxed mix and frosting so when I am served the boxed stuff it is a bit of nostalgia for me.

                      59 Replies
                      1. re: mels

                        I'm not getting this chemical taste so may people refer to. Again, I have baked many years and have a very discerning palette when it comes to food...especially baked goods. All I taste when I eat a cake made from a mix is sweet, cakey goodness. lol

                        1. re: ttoommyy

                          Cake mixes generally contain added gums, cornstarch, flow agents like maltodextrin, and artificial flavor and color. I can taste those ingredients, plus I don't care for the blandness that partially hydrogenated shortening lends. Butter may be full of saturated fat, but I'll take it over trans fats in the shortening, even for something that's a treat, like a cake. Then, there's the whole issue of cake mixes being overly sweet for my taste, but that's a matter of personal preference. But, seriously, ttoommyy, you don't taste the difference between a butter cake made from scratch and a cake mix cake? Well, okay then, everyone's different, and to each her own.

                          When and if I make a cake during the week, it's more often an oil based carrot or apple spice or applesauce cake. Baking with a scale makes weeknight baking and clean up faster, too.

                          1. re: amyzan

                            "But, seriously, ttoommyy, you don't taste the difference between a butter cake made from scratch and a cake mix cake?"

                            Of course I do. But I still do not really believe people can pick out the taste something like an added "gum, cornstarch or maltodextrin." These things are found in many other food products we eat every day without notice. Interesting debate. I think we could go on forever. I'm glad I posted this topic. :)

                            1. re: ttoommyy

                              i will not debate that i'm uncertain what maltodextrin tastes like, however, i don't eat processed foods. ever. so the flavor of a box-cake is to me very different than a from-scratch. and canned icing is so sweet it makes me sick.

                              i think it was ruhlman who actually did a stopwatch test to see if boxed mix was really that much of a time-saver. the difference was a minute or two.

                              this reminds me of wedding cakes--they usually look beautiful and taste terrible. i don't enter my cakes in beauty contests, lol.

                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                Point taken; but I would venture to guess that most people do indeed eat processed foods. Those who don't, like yourself, are in the minority.
                                BTW--I made a cake froms scratch a few weeks ago and by the time I creamed the butter and sugar (which I do for 2-3 minutes), alternated the wet and dry ingredients and folded in the whipped egg whites (not to metion all the measuring I had to do), there definitley was more than a 2-minute difference from making a cake-mix cake. Remember, all cakes are not created equally...even some basic yellow cakes.

                                1. re: ttoommyy

                                  I think since the Chowhound population is heavy with serious home cooks you'll find more of us (myself included) that mostly eat real food, not processed junk, as opposed to the typical person. Granted I will eat junk food from time to time but on a daily or even weekly basis? No way. This may make many of us more sensitive to that weird boxed mix taste.

                                  1. re: mels

                                    I am 49 years old and have been cooking and baking since I can remember. I have had my own baking business in the past (no, I did not use box mixes). I make a home-cooked meal at least 5 nights a week. I do not raise my own fruits and vegetables; raise my own livestock; grow my own wheat; etc. That said, it is impossible to get around using some sort of processed food product during the course of a week. Or even eating one while dining out.

                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                      i wasn't casting aspersions on your ability as baker, i do not even know you, so please do not find offense where none was intended.

                                      if you're saying that flour is a processed food, you are correct. for that matter so is butter, since i do not own a cow. however, i do not use any convenience foods, i no longer eat grains (only bake for others) or legumes and only eat in from-scratch restaurants. my lifestyle is very possible, lol.

                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                        Turning this question back to you with your home cooking since you make your own home cooked meals...this would be similar to someone telling you he/she can't tell the difference between Sara Lee frozen lasagna and something home made. Obviously people have different tastes. Why the need to defend a box cake or a frozen lasagna, if that's what a person prefers?

                                        As processed foods go, there are obviously varying degrees of it but obviously, as boxed cake, made with chemicals, is far more processed than using flour, butter and eggs to make a cake. We all choose where we draw the line whether it's using frozen dinners or boxed cakes or using flour.

                                        1. re: chowser

                                          So there are no chemicals in a home made cake?

                                          What about baking soda or baking powder? Do you stick with genoise to avoid using those? Technically salt is a chemical as well. White flour and white sugar get their share of industrial processing.

                                          A cake made with the muffin method (combine dry, combine wet, the combine together) is nearly as easy as using a mix. The cake method (creaming butter and sugar etc) produces a finer crumb, but also takes more work. I believe mixes aim to replicate that texture, using various starches and conditioners. Don't some recipes use corn starch to reduce the gluten concentration when using unbleached AP flour?

                                          Genoise predate all of these, since they don't rely on chemical leveners. But they also are a lot more work, especially if you don't cheat and use modern technology (like electricity).

                                          I rarely use mixes, not because I object to 'chemicals', but because my tastes lean toward the less sweet and hearty cakes and quick breads.

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            Thank you so much paulj for saying what I have been thinking.

                                            1. re: paulj

                                              this is becoming a hilarious splitting of hairs, i'm sorry. when is the last time you put dicalcium phosphate, sodium stearoyl lactylate or partially hydrogenated soy or cottonseed oil in your cake? all of which are in a box of betty crocker.

                                              salt, btw, is a mineral.

                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                I use monocalcium phosphate all the time - it's the acid in Rumford baking powder. However the dicalcium version is mainly a calcium supplement (according to the Wiki article).

                                                Another chemical acid on my spice shelf if potassium hydrogen tartrate.

                                                Sodium stearoyl lactylate is an emulsifier, apparently a quite effective one.
                                                http://sci-toys.com/ingredients/sodiu...
                                                Lecithin, found in egg yolks (or derived from soy beans) is another emulsifier.

                                                Some people still use Crisco in the baked goods. I don't.

                                                How is a mineral different from a chemical?

                                                1. re: paulj

                                                  I remember years ago going through the list of ingredients with my Dad who is a dairy chemist (now retired) - most of them were natural food compounds or the chemical name of common ingredients. I think many of the cake mixes produce quite acceptable products (the butter recipe yellows for example) when used for simple recipes like sheet cake with broiled icing, however much depends on the frosting - the commercial stuff is hideous. For a serious cake I much prefer the best scratch recipes (for example from the old Betty Crocker baking book etc. for American recipes, which are the recipes the box cakes were formulated to replicate.

                                                  1. re: jen kalb

                                                    Thanks for a very diplomatic and educated reply jen. it's just what this ungodly thread that I started needed! lol ;)

                                                2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                  Here are the ingredients in Calumet baking powder, which I am sure many people use: baking soda, cornstarch, sodium aluminum sulfate, calcium sulfate, monocalcium phosphate. Some of these are the dreaded chemicals that so many people swear they can taste in a box mix. We could go back and forth all day. But let's not...haha. :)

                                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                                    After my nephew started eating solid food, my sister once told me how she had spent all afternoon driving from store to store to find babyfood (pears, to be specific) that didn't have dreaded ascorbic acid in it. She didn't want "a chemical" in her son's food.

                                                    Ascorbic acid is added to preserve the colour in the pears. It is also commonly known as vitamin C.

                                                    1. re: Indirect Heat

                                                      um... I don't mean to be a smart-ass but why did she not poach fresh pears for him????

                                                    2. re: ttoommyy

                                                      It's not he leavening agents that I object to - it's the icky chemical taste most on this thread have cited plus the hydrogenated oils (implicated in both heart disease and cancer) the BLEACHED flour (has been exposed to a number of hazardous/carcinogenic chemicals and is in fact inherently oxidized; on the other hand, one could argue bleached flour goes "bad" less quickly; one could also argue it can't "go bad" because is is ALREADY BAD, i.e., oxidized). I lso don't like the various emulisfiers- PROPYLENE GLYCOL MONOESTERS cited by chowser (below), for one, or the artificial flavors, which are generally chemical products of a wildly unregulated industry. Also, in addition to ll the various chemicals cited on ingredient labels, "processing agents" in packaged foods are not required to be divulged- ammonia, for instance, in pink slime. HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE!

                                                      1. re: demitasse04

                                                        @demitasse04
                                                        Do you use sugar in your "from scratch" cakes? Isn't sugar linked to a host of health problems as well? White flour? That too. Maybe we should just not eat cake at all.

                                                        No one is suggesting we make and eat boxed-mix cakes every day. Once in a while is harmless, in my opinion, and I will continue to do it. People love my "from scratch" baking and they love my "boxed mix" baked goods as well. They know the difference and judge each on their own.

                                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                                          So, your logic is that if sugar and white flour are already bad for you, it's O.K. to add a whole bunch more bad stuff and make it even worse? Plus, demitasse04 is right about the icky chemical tastes and textures of box mix cakes. It is very sad that the current and previous generations have come to accept these mouthfeels and flavors as good food.

                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                            "the icky chemical tastes and textures of box mix cakes"

                                                            I don't taste or feel these. Many people do not.

                                                            That said...As I have tried to explain countless times in this thread since I started it over 2 years ago, a boxed mix once in a while is not the end of the world. It has its place and will not kill you. I know full well how to bake a cake from scratch and have done so countless times in my over 40 years of baking. I never once said a boxed mix replaces a "from scratch" cake. I have eaten in Michelin star restaurants on 2 continents; make a home cooked meal on average of 5 nights a week; and I know more about food than all of my friends and family put together. I know "good food." But, I don't live in a world that is beyond eating a boxed cake, a McDonald's hamburger or canned soup. Once in a while a convenience food is just that: convenient. And to me, it can taste pretty darn good.

                                                            1. re: ttoommyy

                                                              It may sound a little snobby but I honestly believe that people who do not taste/recognize the chemical tastes/weird textures of things like boxed cake mixes... just haven't experienced enough scratch baking.

                                                              I have had to stop buying so many common processed foods once I made/tasted the homemade version. I just can't tolerate the low quality alternative anymore. Things like: cake mix, canned frosting, whipped cream, chicken stock, pizza dough, rolls, biscuits, pie crust, American cheese, etc.

                                                              I didn't realize they were bad until I realized they were bad. ;)

                                                              1. re: Becca Porter

                                                                most of the products you mention are being made with the crappiest of craptastic seed oils, making them even worse, in flavor and in health dangers. most use hfcs or something other than cane sugar for sweetness.

                                                                it's not your imagination -- these products have gotten worse.

                                                                1. re: Becca Porter

                                                                  @Becca Porter
                                                                  Have you not read anything I have written? I've been baking from scratch for over 40 years. I had my own custom cookie business where I made hand decorated from-scratch cookies to order. I have certainly experienced scratch baking. I cannot taste "chemicals" in a cake baked from a cake mix. Yes, it tastes different, but I do not detect a chemical taste. Sweeter, yes. Overly moist, yes. Too much vanilla, yes. But the taste is not horrible to me. Just different.

                                                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                      There is NO vanilla in a standard cake mix. Zero. None.

                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                        Of course there is no true vanilla extract in a cake mix. I should have said "too much vanilla flavor.' There certainly is imitation vanilla flavoring in a cake mix. I stand corrected.

                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                    I grew up listening to my grandmother complaining about the lack of flavor in American produce and thinking she was just terribly old fashioned (and everything else a dumb kid assumes about his grandparents) while blissfully eating mountains of Cheetos and Big Macs. It's interesting to think about he number of factors- sensory, economic, cultural, educational, political and more-- that play into the development of a person's tolerance for processed foods...

                                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                                      The thing about dessert is that it used to be a special-occasion, even "HOLY DAY"-only food. It's only in the past several decades that TV started enjoining us to indulge ourselves because we're worth it EVERY DAY and because Nestlé and Hershey need to make fortunes while the county wallows in obesity. Though I maintain my college weight I do indulge in giant slices or three of cheesecake or a vat of ultra-rich ice cream but I do this as a once-every-couple-of months type event. Given this, I have no interest in anything but the best and that jes don't includes xanthan gum, bromated flour or partially hydrogenated fats. It is of course everyone's personal decision- and the original posted invited bashing but it seems he actually can't take anyone else's personal preference. Protest much?

                                                                      1. re: demitasse04

                                                                        Of course I can demi; but I like sticking up for my own preferences as well. It's called good old fashioned conversation. No animosity on this side whatsoever,

                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                          >>> It is very sad that the current and previous generations have come to accept these mouthfeels and flavors as good food.<<<

                                                                          I have two friends, maybe more, who prefer box/supermarket chemical cakes to the point where they actively dislike scratch cake, which they invariably describe as "too dry."

                                                                          1. re: Jay F

                                                                            I grew up with church potluck scratch cakes, and got in the habit of eating most of the cake first, so I could enjoy the frosting without all that dry cake (save the best for last philosophy).

                                                                            One of the few times when I made a genoise, the ultimate no-chemical cake (no sodium bicarbonate), I was disappointed in how dry it was. There's a limit as to how much butter you can add to the beaten eggs without deflating them. I also learned why genoise is often served in triffle - to moisten it.

                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                              The high-quality pastry shop trick is to always soak each cake layer with a flavored sugar syrup before frosting. Usually with something like rum in it.

                                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                                It's a really hard cake to get right.

                                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                                  Yes, genoise can be very difficult and can take practice to get right. The other difficult cake to make is a cake with dacquoise layers. I'm currently being challenged by my husband to make one. He claims that it's his most notable failure in cooking/baking.

                                                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                                                    Speaking of sponge cakes, I should try a chiffon. That was my mom's favorite special occasion cake (as opposed to the potluck sheetcakes). I don't have a tube pan, but apparently it can be baked in a half sheet pan, and rolled. It's more moist than other sponge cakes because it uses oil, and not as tricky because it uses baking powder (a dreaded chemical).

                                                                                    1. re: roxlet

                                                                                      I think a dacquoise is among the easiest cakes to make, it's very odd that he of all people would find it a challenge. Not big on egg white whipping? Please tell me he didn't try to do it by hand.

                                                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                                                        I'm sure he didn't since he was the one who owned the Kitchen Aid, not me. I used to say that I married him for his KA!

                                                                                        1. re: roxlet

                                                                                          Hell, I would marry him for his Kitchen Aid!!

                                                                                2. re: paulj

                                                                                  scratch cakes that are dry could simply be over-baked. just because people bake doesn't necessarily mean they are good at it. there are plenty of serviceable home bakers and cooks out there.

                                                                                  i have overbaked a cake more than once -- i moved almost 2 years ago and had a dickens of a time with my new oven. we finally have achieved detente and now all is well, lol. :)

                                                                                  eta: those misbegotten cakes and cookies went in the trash, btw. i wouldn't think of serving them.

                                                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                    Box cakes are meant to be fool proof, hence the addition of all the things that give it a moist/gummy texture. I watched a show about box cakes and the scientist working on it said they have to cater to the person who will do almost everything wrong. A scratch cake isn't nearly the same--think paint by numbers vs an artistic painting. Most people can paint by numbers and get something identifiable.

                                                                    2. re: paulj

                                                                      Yes, there are chemicals is everything we cook with but, as I was saying, there are varying degrees of it and we decide what we like or want to use. I've said all along that we do what we find most pleasing and if that means box cakes, that means box cakes and you don't need to apologize for it. But, in my mind, and you may feel differently, there is a big difference in a cake that has: flour, eggs, butter, sugar, vanilla, baking soda/powder, salt compared to a cake that has: Sugar, Enriched Flour Bleached (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, Modified Corn Starch, Propylene Glycol Monoesters of Fatty Acids, Baking Soda, Salt, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Dextrose, Monocalcium Phosphate, Distilled Monoglycerides, Dicalcium Phosphate, Maltodextrin, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Datem, Monoglycerides, Xanthan Gum, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Aluminum Sulfate, Yellow 5&6, Nonfat Milk.

                                                                      But, why start a thread on Home Cooking, where people like to cook about the beauty of it? As I was saying, someone could easily start a thread about how frozen meals are far superior to home made ones but why? They are all made of chemicals, all processed, hence it seems to some, they're all the same. I think some of us just feel differently.

                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                        Do your two ingredients lists use the same standards? For example, by weight, which is greater, the flour or the sugar?

                                                                        "flour, eggs, butter, sugar, vanilla, baking soda/powder, salt"
                                                                        could be expanded to read:
                                                                        sugar
                                                                        Enriched Flour Bleached (bleached wheat flour, malted balrey flour, niacin, iron etc (taken from a package of Pillsbury AP)
                                                                        butter
                                                                        monocalcium phosphate (from Rumford can)
                                                                        bicarbonate of soda
                                                                        cornstarch
                                                                        salt
                                                                        vanilla (natural flavor? alcohol?)
                                                                        milk?

                                                                        The Home Cooking section is not exclusively about cooking from scratch.

                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                          RIght--as I've said, even from my first post, it's a matter of preference. I see a difference between the chemicals in a scratch cake and box cake and you see them as the same. Similarly, I guess a Twinkie is also no different from home made cake or a box cake. The Home Cooking board isn't really the place, and I regret my contribution to this, for a debate about home cooking and prepared foods. Had the OP started w/ her method to make a great box cake (and there are many threads for that), instead of a challenge, this whole discussion would probably not have happened.

                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                            this tangent of this thread is surreal.

                                                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                              Yes, the idea that everything is equally processed because everything can be broken down to the elemental periodic table is a stretch. I can't tell if I'm tasting propylene glycol of mono esters, xanthum gum or what, but cake mixes just don't taste the same to me, just as a Twinkie does.

                                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                                I just googled up the ingredient list for Duncan Hines yellow cake mix. Here's my theory on why most of us taste something in box cake we don't care for: "artificial flavor" I think they add flavorings to try to make up for the things that aren't in the cake ...mainly butter....and they use artificial vanilla flavor. I'm not turned off by "chemicals" in the cake mix, just the unsuccessful attempt to make it taste like what it's not.

                                                                                BUT...I think if I had good associations with that flavor (particularly childhood associations) , then I might prefer it.

                                                                                I have a bottle of bubble bath at home called "cupcake" it smells exactly like cake mix cake.

                                                                2. re: ttoommyy

                                                                  i'm quite sure the test was between 2 basic yellow cakes. no whipped egg whites, etc. the type of cake most frequently made from a box. some folks also move more quickly in the kitchen than others. my go-to brownie recipe takes 5 minutes to get in the oven. same with the crazy chocolate cake that is my old reliable. both of which beat the pants off anything out of betty crocker's lab.

                                                                  ever do a search on the web for cake recipes? 90% of them start with box mix. no wonder people think making a cake from scratch is too hard or "fancy".

                                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                    I've been baking since I was 8 and I am 49 this month. I know my way around a kitchen. I can make a cake from scratch "with my eyes closed." I can bake scratch cookies and custom deorate them. That said, I still like the convenience (and yes, the tatse) of a box mix. Not all the time; but if it's just a yellow or basic chocolate cake, sure. I'm no food snob by far. I like eating at Eleven Madison Park just as much as I like a Sabrett hot dog from the corner cart once in a while. Variety is the spice of life! :)

                                                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                      I can make cookies and cakes like these (see attached), so I do know how to bake from scratch. But I still like a cake mix when the job calls for it! lol :)

                                                                       
                                                                       
                                                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                        On the point about processed food, I should say that like some of the other respondees, I don't eat much processed food. Of course, this is a matter of degree. I do eat rolled oats, whole wheat pasta, and don't grind my own flour unless it's unavailable, like say, millet, but I'm not eating cheetos or drinking soda, and certainly not fast food on any regular basis. I'd say the most processed food I get is probably dim sum--with the white rice flour wrappers and noodles. So, yeah, ttoommyy, my palate may be quite, I don't know, a bit more particular than your average duck? But, this IS Chowhound, so you're not quite preaching to the choir on boxed cake mixes here. Which, all of this, sounds like you realized before starting this thread.

                                                                        I'm still not bashing you, but I have to say that I can tell the difference. I daresay I could tell the difference blindfolded. If you don't, heck, don't concern yourself on our account. Life is short. Enjoy your cake mix. The cake and cookies in the photos are gorgeous!

                                                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                          I know this is not relevant to the post, but would you mind telling me what kind of icing you use for those cookies in the picture? They look lovely!

                                                                          1. re: eviemichael

                                                                            I use a rolled fondant to cover the whole cookie and royal icing for piping. Thanks!

                                                                            1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                              Thank you. Everyone always says fondant does not taste good. Do you feel like it affects the flavor of the cookie? (Although it looks beautiful)

                                                                              1. re: eviemichael

                                                                                Eaten by itself, I do not like fondant (but you're not supposed to eat it by itself. lol). When it is on the cookie, you really don't notice it; it blends in with the flavor of the royal icing. I use the Rich Rolled Sugar Cookie recipe from the Joy of Cooking for my cookies. They have such a great taste that really comes through even though there is fondant on them.

                                                                                1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                  eviemichael, there's an easy marshmallow fondant recipe on allrecipes that works great for cookies. I use it for christmas cookies and they turn out (and taste) fantastic. Cheaper, too!

                                                                3. re: ttoommyy

                                                                  Water, milk, eggs, sugar, flour, salt, baking soda, butter, oil, chocolate, vanilla, rice, beans, cows, chickens, lettuce, uranium, wood, iron, hydrogen, pizza, rats, lizards, humans, universe... All made from 100% chemicals.