This question is frequently asked on all of the Cake forums I belong to. While most bakers bake from scratch, I was surprised at how many professional cake decorators and bakery owners are using a boxed mix. The mix from a box is quick, easy, convenient and tastes pretty good so I can see why a busy baker would resort to using boxed mix. Also, professional bakers use professional brand cake mixes.
Because I’m not a professional baker and make cakes when I feel like it or as a favor to family and friends, I almost always start from scratch. As a matter of fact, the only time I use a boxed mix is when I’m teaching decorating workshops where the emphasis is on the decorating technique and not the cake itself. Or, if I’m practicing a new technique and I don’t want to waste good ingredients on something I might throw out anyway.
There’s no doubt cakes baked from scratch are far better and healthier than boxed mix. Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker, and Pillsbury all have chemicals in them linked to diseases and dyes that are banned as toxic in some countries. They are made to have a very long shelf life.
Here are the ingredients in Duncan Hines Yellow cake mix. Can you even pronounce half of these ingredients? If you can’t pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t be making cake with it.
Enriched Flour Bleached (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Sugar, Corn Syrup, Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, Modified Corn Starch, Corn Starch, Contains 1% or Less of: Salt, Propylene Glycol Mono and Diesters of Fatty Acids, Distilled Monoglycerides, Dextrose, Dicalcium Phosphate, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Xanthan Gum, Yellows 5 & 6, Nonfat Milk.
And if you think this sounds bad, the generic store brand had animal fat in it as well.
So, rather than eat the crap above, you can easily bake from scratch your own cake or cupcakes. The recipe below makes 24 cupcakes and if you want to make them healthier, try using raw sugar (see http://cinnamonsweetshoppe.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/sugar-refined-or-unrefined/), unbleached flour, and organic ingredients.
NOTE: I would like to point out that some bakers and cake decorators will tell their customers when asked, that they bake from scratch even when they use cake mix. They are not trying to be deceptive or lie. Many bakers consider using a cake mix and adding other ingredients such as eggs, oil or water baking from scratch as opposed to buying pre-made batter or pre-baked cakes.
2 cups of sugar
1 cup of butter
4 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
3 ½ tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Add to butter mixture. Mix well. Stir in milk until smooth. Bake 20-25 minutes.
Look for my next post on why NOT to use canned frosting.