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is it common for bakeries to use cake mix?

i went to a kid birthday party yesterday. when it was cake time, the mom presented a beautifully decorated rainbow cake from a local bakery. this cake was perfection. it was perfectly moist and the texture was completely uniform. it had a slight scent of a boxed mix. i could be completely wrong but i swear it was from a mix. the flavor was flat but the texture seemed unreal. is it common for bakeries to use a mix?

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  1. WHile I have no experience with the running of bakeries my guess is that it is not common.

    What I am afraid is common is parents insisting on perfect creations for every one of juniors big days. I can see one of these parents going to a bakery and saying "Jr only likes this kind of cake. Will you make me a cake with it."

    Less pessimistically is that the child has some kind of allergy and the parents asked the bakery to make a special cake with gluten free/peanut free/egg free/whatever free mix. Until recently my "cannot bake to save her life" friend (her words) did that for her celiac daughter since none of the bakeries around did GF cakes.

    1. Not uncommon. Some do scratch and some do mixes, of which there are differing levels. The end result is all that matters.

      1. I hope not. If I get a cake from a bakery (an actual bakery, not the supermarket), I hope it's made from scratch. I can make a box cake at home. I'm spending money on something special that I can't do well at home.

        1. I may be wrong but, it seems to me that a mix is just premeasured flour to which all other ingredients are added. The difference is that bakery flour isn't premeasured.

          4 Replies
          1. re: mucho gordo

            In some cases yes but the ingredient list on the side of many boxed mixes are a lot more than that-artifical colors, flavors, anti caking agents, preservatives.

            here is a typical duncan hines ingredient list

            Sugar, Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Vegetable Oil Shortening (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Propylene Glycol Mono-and Diesters Of Fats, Monoand Diglycerides), Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Dextrose, Wheat Starch. Contains 2% Or Less Of: Salt, Polyglycerol Esters Of Fatty Acids, Maltodextrin, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Gum Arabic, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Cellulose Gum, Citric Acid, Xanthan Gum, Colored with (Yellow 5 Lake).

            1. re: foodieX2

              Aren't any of those preservatives added to bakery cakes?

              1. re: mucho gordo

                Again, some may but my local bakery doesn't. Supermarket bakery? I would think yes to both preservatives and artificial color and flavors.

                1. re: foodieX2

                  A little foodservice info for you


                  Feel free to investigate further.

          2. Cake mixes are common to chain/supermarket bakeries simply because it is the most reliable means for quality control. Many donut shops also use them. In addition to quality control, it's also an effective means of insuring against not-so-great bakers. It levels the playing field, so to speak. Count your blessings! '-)

            1. I do not know the percentages, but it is common enough for a bakery to use a mix that it would be reasonable to ask prior to placing an order, especially if it is an important issue for you. I think it is not that dissimilar from restaurants which use pre-cooked or frozen products, such as French fries, versus preparing everything from scratch.

              Somewhat related is the issue regarding creativity. I once made Halloween cupcakes for a potluck, and used an Epicurious recipe, including decorating ideas (brains, eyeballs, etc). The following week, the Redeye (scaled down paper by the Chicago Tribune) showed a photo of a new cupcake bakery's Halloween specials. They looked exactly like the website picture and my products.

              1. Depends what you mean by "bakery" and what your idea of "cake mix" is.

                But, yes, it is common.

                4 Replies
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Sorry to burst everyone's bubble, but unless your bakery's cakes are unbelievably sublime and so over the top, there's no biggie with having them use cake mix or tubs of pre-mixed, rather than flour and baking powder etc. Don't kid yourself that because it's not a chain, they won't use a mix. Keeps the price and the quality assurance down, at the very least.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    by bakery i mean a smaller mom and pop and not a bakery in a big box store like costco. obviously, some places will use mixes and others don't. but this cake had such a consistent spongy texture that i've never met in a cake from scratch. by mixes i mean pillsbury and duncan hines. i guess i'm just naive and thought most smaller places would make a cake from scratch.

                    1. re: trolley

                      Actually in foodservice, it's either General Mills (who owns Pillsbury) which is considered top of the line, or a generic type mix that originates in Pennsylvania, can't remember the name but you will never run across it anyway. The generic is for healthcare and schools mostly, unless your bakery is looking to save money. Either way, baking from scratch is more common with home cooks than commercial.

                      1. re: coll

                        i learn so much from chowhound and this is certainly one of them. how dense was i to think all cute mom and pop cake shops bake from scratch. i do think some places bake from scratch but maybe those are really high end places (12" for $100+) at least in my area. the decoration on the birthday cake i just ate was fantastic (it was a rainbow cake with cookies spelling out the name of the child in bold colors). the frosting was definitely not a mix or if it was then real butter was probably used as a base bc it tasted decent. i think you end up paying for the decoration more so than the cake ingredients on many occasions like this instance.

                  2. Way back when, I used to work the counter at a mom-and-pop bakery owned by a German family. While they did a lot of their pastries -hammentaschen, danishes, donuts (these were KILLER!) and the best ruggelah- their other cookies and their cakes were from mixes. The worst was the frosting, which was called "buttercreme" and came in huge, plastic tubs which didn't need any refrigeration (red flag, that).
                    They've long since vanished along with the 3rd Street street in Santa Monica (it's now a promenade), and despite the from-the-mix cakes, it is a pity; the things they made from scratch were wonderful.
                    I guess you have to scope out the bakeries in your area and do some asking. Some people really don't care about what the origin of the cake is as long as it has Spiderman on the top (and frankly, that is the mindset of most children, too). I would personally avoid all major chain places...although I would suspect that Whole Foods would be pretty free of all those additives that you would normally find.
                    Then there are some places you go for specific things, like M Street in Santa Monica makes a morning bun that makes breaking your diet worth it (all their stuff is baked fresh, including the English muffins, and their head baker should win some sort of award, IMHO).
                    But I agree with Hobbert; if I pay for a cake from a bakery, I'd be doing it because I want something I can't do at home. (My family sat down at a Mexican restaurant in San Antonio, and when they gave us a basket of tortilla chips that were obviously from a bag, we got up and left. After all, what would the rest of the meal be; Stouffer's enchiladas?)
                    And for the record: I bake my own cakes from scratch.
                    ......now if I can just get the sourdough bread thing down :\

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Michelly

                      "Some people really don't care about what the origin of the cake is as long as it has Spiderman on the top (and frankly, that is the mindset of most children, too)"

                      that's funny you mention that bc i agree with you for the most part. however, the two kids i was sitting with on a picnic blanket both took a few bites then dumped their cakes on their parents plates due to the cake tasting "yucky". both their parents thought that was unusual since each child is usually fond of cakes.

                      if i were buying a cake from a bakery i'd want it to be both quality in decoration AND ingredients. yes, i too bake my own cake from scratch.


                    2. I worked in many professional bakery's I have 12 years experience plus some time spent as a bakery manager.

                      So I speak from experience. Sadly some bakery's use pre-made mixes, some do all from scratch, and some do a little of both. One place I worked at claimed in their ad's on TV or even in store, that everything was made from scratch. Yet most of the things were what I call, fake and bake. Cake mixes, pie fillings out of a bucket, frozen bread dough thawed and then used for caramel rolls, and they even advertised that for their caramel rolls they were using margarine and milk, but claimed it was real butter and heavy cream.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: RickDavidBeaudin

                        my question is for those cakes made from scratch, how do they get it so perfect? specifically the vanilla cakes. i make a chiffon cake that's pretty perfect but it's chiffon. it doesn't have the structure that egg/butter cakes have.

                        1. re: trolley


                          It's also why those cakes (7" or less) can sometimes cost $50 or more.

                      2. I've found that often when you get a cake that's amazingly decorated for a kid's birthday party (or a wedding for that matter) the actual quality of the cake is secondary to the decorations.

                        And that makes a certain amount of business sense. If people are buying it for the decoration, then it doesn't make financial sense to put the extra effort and cost for home-made from scratch, particularly if that means raising the price on the final cake. And often people are used to the absolute uniform texture and taste of mix based cakes, and may not even want a from scratch cake.

                        It may be an issue with decorating too - you need a good, reliable base cake for the fancy decorating, and mixes may give the right type of texture and consistency for this - moist, with a uniform texture, even size, without crumbling or compressing while being decorated.

                          1. re: bakerhope

                            You do know this is not the Cake Boss from TLC, Buddy Valastro of Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken (and now other places), right?

                            1. re: ttoommyy

                              And yet the Cake Boss of Hoboken does use Dawn Foods as a supplier - it's anyone's guess which of these products he's using. It's a definite, based on statements from his website, that the made cakes available nationwide using the "Cake Boss" label are produced by Dawn Foods.

                          2. It is not uncommon at all.