I am and have always been an adamant scratch baker. In my time on CC, so many people have insisted that their doctored mixes are better than scratch that I decided to perform an experiment.
Twice a year at my restaurant, we invite everyone who has contacted us about planning an event ( usually a rehearsal dinner or a wedding) to a large tasting party where we make almost everything on our party menus. I always make a variety of cake flavors and icings as cupcakes and set them out on a large stand.
Sunday, we had over 60 people attend. The cakes that were set out were Vanilla Chiffon, White chocolate velvet. White Almond Sour Cream cake, Vanilla Cognac cake, Darn Good Chocolate cake and my double chocolate layer cake.
We ask them to take notes on the things they taste so they have a reference point to work from when the catering manager sits with them to choose the menu for their event.
Of the 42 people who ate the vanilla cakes, 24 chose vanilla cognac( scratch) as their favorite, 14 chose white chocolate( scratch), and 2 chose white almond sour cream cake (mix).
Of the 38 that tasted the chocolates cakes ( some people tasted everything) 30 chose the scratch double chocolate over darn good chocolate cake( doctored mix).
I'm not super surprised by the results, since I have always thought that a well made scratch cake would win, but I really did think that closer to half of the attendees would prefer the hyper sugared, fluffy-rubber texture of the mix cakes. What is really the most surprising is that no one expressed a preference for the chiffon cake, since that is the scratch cake that most resembles a mix cake in texture.
Obviously, the experiment isn't conclusive, since I didn't control for icing, and some people could just prefer the Vanilla Meringue buttercream to cream cheese icing.
Thanks for the insight. I've always done scratch cakes as well so the box phenomenon is new to me. I'm not knocking it since it tastes good too. But if you have a keen sense of taste you can detect a scratch cake from a box one. Would you mind sharing the vanilla cognac cake? Sounds interesting and I've never come across that. You can pm me if you like. Thanks! Jackie
I'll send it to you tomorrow when I get back to the restaurant. I could try it from memory, but I'd hate to botch it.
I am a scratch baker as well. I've been questioning it though lately with all the recent posts.
It sounds like no one really likes scratch cakes so i'm really glad to hear your results! Your vanilla cognac cake sounds really good!
Ok scratch ladies----help set me straight on a few things:
I've always had the belief that a scratch cake was meant to be eaten the day it is made. After that, it starts to get pretty dry and go bad. How do you get around this? (besides adding a simple syrup?)
What about the bacteria levels after day one, since there aren't any preservatives?
I like the idea of a scratch cake, I just can't seem to find one that's any good----especially a white cake. However, my scratch carrot cake is really good and lasts for many days.
I cannot stand the taste of artifically flavored cake mixes, such as strawberry, so I use a white cake mix as the base and add the fruit and flavorings.
Also, I always hear arguments here that people are used to the box mix taste and consider scratch cakes to be dry, but that doesn't seem to be reflected in your taste-test.
Does the alcohol in your cake help preserve it?
Don't get me wrong--I'm not anti-scratch at all. I just can't seem to find any good ones; even the "expert" recipes leave a bit to be desired.
Any insights you can offer would be greatly appreciated!
Honestly, most dry cakes have been either overbeaten, overbaked, or both. I do use simple syrup, but mostly because I like to add the extra flavor dimension that my cointreau vanilla bean syrup adds.
If you want to get serious about baking, you probably need to get a thermapen and pull your cakes out of the oven based on internal
temperature rather than " when a tester comes out clean". Your cake is overcooked by the time a probe is perfectly clean.
A lot of times when I have to bake a cake earlier than I'd like to, I'll add 1/4 of signature secrets http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/detail.jsp?id=2808.
It does something similar to a box of pudding but without the nasty fake flavoring. It will make the cake slightly denser and help it hold moisture for an extended period of time.
Wow, thanks for sharing this info with us.... would you share your recipes? This is making me crave chocolate and white chocolate cake! Thanks so much!
Have you tried the King Arthur's White Cake recipe? It's my favorite white cake from scratch. I always do scratch cakes and they're fine for a few days. They don't dry out (unless I stick them in the refrigerator after they've been cut) and I don't worry about the lack of preservatives because I do a lot of scratch baking (muffins, cookies, breads) and none of them have preservatives and all of them are fine for a few days after they're baked.
i'm not suprised...i *love* scratch cakes. as a matter of fact, my ultimate *favorite* is the white buttermilk from "the pastry queen" and i have you to thank as i tried that recipe after hearing your high remark on it. oh, and please share the vanilla cognac and white chocolate cake!
Thank you txkat
I too always make my cakes from scratch.
Except for maybe some of the chocolate cake mixes, I find that they all have an 'artificial' taste, even the vanilla cakes. I find that I have to add more flavoring to compensate.
Your White chocolate velvet and Vanilla Cognac cakes sound like they would be heavenly (if you are sharing, and would not mind, then please add me to the list).
lsawyer, I am surprised by your comments; a scratch cake, baked with butter, or oil, would not immediately start to dry. Even with no preservatives, a fresh scratch cake will keep for several days if stored in a cool place.
just my 2 cents...
Your cake is overcooked by the time a probe is perfectly clean.
This is what I have suspected. I know that the window for getting a cake perfectly baked and over baked is very small. What is the internal temp for a cake supposed to be? I have been seriously considering using a temperature probe. Where do you find a guidelines for proper internal temp?
txkat, I wish I was close to you so I could sample your cakes! The major reason I'm a mix-baker is because I have yet to taste a scratch cake that I didn't want to just spit out. My assumptions have been either (a) all scratch cakes taste like crap or (b) I've only met those who have no idea how to bake. Your story is giving me hope.
I'll share a story that made me react with "Ohhhhhh! THAT'S what the scratch bakers are talking about!" My 4 yr old granddaughter was spending the night and at the grocery, I picked up a pack of the Nestle's toll house squares (break apart, bake). I knew she'd want cookies and I just didn't feel like making a batch from scratch. I grew up on Nestle Toll House from the tube and I LUV'D these cookies. Well, I baked these things up and took a bite and choked and spit it out. I told my husband, "If some mom buys these things and claims that she baked "homemade" cookies for her kids, then she should be shot!" After living on my scratch choc chip cookies, these "mix" cookies were down right nasty!!
Ohhhhhhhh! THAT'S what the scratch bakers see as the difference!
So after that experience, I'm a bit more open on "trying" to find something that is just as good as the cakes that have gotten me this far.
Believe me, I would not have been unhappy if I had found a mix-based recipe that people would pay for. I spend a fairly decent amount of hours every week measuring, sifting, and folding in ingredients. Dump and go would be great!
I recommend Rebecca Rather's book to anyone that wants to bake from scratch. Her recipes are almost universally wonderful.
I would love to be able to bake from scratch. I know that a good scratch cake is better than a box, but then you have to be good at it LOL. Box mixes are just a little more fool proof. I've baked the same scratch cake and have had it turn out both great and bad. What I need to work on is how to have a consistently good scratch cake. I can turn out a consistenly good box cake so that's what I normally stick with.
Indydebi, I cooked and ate those cookies only once - yech. But, they are REALLY good for eating raw LOL. That's right, I buy it just to eat raw with a glass of milk.
Please, please, please - If you're willing to share your recipes, I'd love to have them. I, too, have had a very hard time finding a really good "scratch" cake. One of the best bakers I ever knew lived by my grandmother's grocery store. She was the little German lady that did all of the scratch baking for The Kopper Kettle in Morristown, IN. I always wanted to be like her, but then the teen years hit, grandmother passed, and later, so did the wonderful baking lady. I never got to ask her for her recipes. This makes me realize that my collecting skills are really necessary! LOL Thanks for this thread. I think I'll try to contact some of her relatives to see if anyone kept her recipes and would be willing to share them.
What a cool way to get honest results on your cakes!
I love that you did it, and I love the results you posted. I've always been a scratch baker, and I always will be, but it's nice to see some good results from a basically blind unbiased taste test like that! Way to go!
Ladymike,if you find a good recipe, you letme know and I'll bring the coffee! I'm on the east side of Indy .... outside of 465 and north of 70! We're not that far!
It's a date! I'm in Shelbyville. Do you ever go to Ms. B's in Speedway for supplies?
Heck yeah! Since she's the only game in town! (I hate shopping at Michael's or Hobby Lobby for stuff!). I thought you were in Morristown .. you're closer than I thought! PM me anytime you're in the area and we can meet!
Great! Will definitely be in touch!
Please add me to list of beggers for your reciepes...I am starting a home based business and would love to switch to scratch baking. I think I would feel more justified in saying my cakes aren't cakes you can find everywhere else. Thanx !
For me scratch cakes take a long time. Most of the time I get requests at the last minute so I don't have time to look for a good one so i just stick to the box and pudding mix and it usually works like a charm. The one cake i did from scratch--banana spice cake was easier than i thought and it did get a ton of raves, HOWEVER, box is just more convenient for me right now. It's kind of like MMF--the one time i tried it took forever, whereas wilton's is easy accssible-however the taste is aweful!! i guess it all comes down to TIME and PATIENCE
Ok I am just going to put in my two cents here.
I grew up baking from scratch and really dont like doing it any other way. I find scratch cakes are sightly denser and more flavourful. In my experience my chocolate cake lasts longer than a box mix.
Anyways this is my familys chocolate cake recipe and it gets nothing but rave reviews.
3/4 cup butter
3 cups white sugar
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup cocao powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 tsp Baking powder
3 cups AP flour
1 1/2 cups boiling water
Preheat oven to 350 F
Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, sour cream and vanilla.
Carefully mix in cocao powder. Stir in salt and baking powder. Mix in flour one cup at a time.
Carefully beat in boiling water. Once this is incorperated beat the batter for 2 minutes on medium speed.
Pour in to prepared cake pans and bake.
Makes 1 9x13 pan
2 8 inch rounds
or tons of cup cakes
Oh my that vanilla cognac cake sounds wonderful. Would you be willing to share that recipe? I would love to have it.
My Father was a baker and he taught me how to bake from scratch and how to use cake mixes (DUNCAN HINES). I do not know about Betty Crocker or Pillsbury so I can't comment about those.
I have success using both scratch and mixes.
I remember my Father ( he passed in 198 telling me not to rush and do not beat it to death ( the batter).
He taught me how to guage the oven temperature (calibrate the oven using an oven themometer).
Using the correct pan size. A tomato paste can is a perfect heat conducter for sizes- 10, 12, and 14 inch pan. The baking core is okay but I prefer using the tomato paste can for the center.
I had angst about freezing cakes until I had no choice because I had 12 cakes to get ready for the same day and did not have any problems.
Happy Baking and Decorating
txkat--Please add me to the list of bakers who would like your recipes. I,too, use box mixes and add my own "extras" to jazz them up. I would love to be able to offer a couple of good scratch flavors of cake.
Where is your restaurant? I am in Central Texas area? TIA.
Your recipe sounds awesome & easy to make,
I almost always use the Hershey Deep Dark Chocolate Recipe, but now I think I will try your recipe for an anniversary cake I need to make.
My many Thanks for the scratch cake I am trying to go back to my grandma's way of baking and she never used a box for any thing. And her cakes were awsome.
txkat- please include me in the recipe list. I usually use box, but would love to try scratch
peachshortcake, will be trying yours this weekend.
What a great test! I would love to try your recipies also. They must be fabulous!