I'm Tormenting Myself...your Insight Is Greatly Appreciated.

Decorating By ChefDebby Updated 6 Jul 2010 , 12:53pm by Loucinda

ChefDebby Posted 5 Jul 2010 , 7:11pm
post #1 of 23

Hi CC!

Where do I start? I went to and completed culinary school and have my own home based cake business. Having said that, I have developed an issue with using box cake mixes. My philosophy was that since I went to culinary school I know how to bake a delicious, moist cake from scratch. I mean no offense to those of you who use mixes, it just wasn't my style. I charge a lot and felt a cake made from scratch somewhat justified my pricing.

Well, lately, my cakes just haven't been turning out very moist. They've been very dry and crumbly and I've had to resort to using mixes. I've used the WASC recipe here with much success. But, I just did a guitar shaped cake using mixes and the cake didn't hold up to the sculpting and I had a very hard time with it. I'm really torn on using mixes vs. scratch because they're much cheaper and less labor intensive, yet I can hear my professors at school brow beating me for using mixes.

This is a multi-part post. First of all, Should I beat myself up for resorting to mixes? Second, does anyone have any fool-proof from scratch recipes they can recommend? Third, does anyone think I'm totally crazy (I think I know the answer to this one. icon_wink.gif ) and lastly, does anyone have any doctored mix recipes they can share?

Thanks again....CC has been wonderful to me. I would be so much less of a decorator if it wasn't for you!

Much love and gratitude,

Debby

22 replies
iamcakin Posted 5 Jul 2010 , 7:26pm
post #2 of 23

First of all, STOP beating yourself up icon_razz.gif , you haven't done anything illegal or immoral!

Decide if it's worth the aggravation for you to always wonder how your cakes will turn out.

I use an enhanced box recipe. It is always, (I mean ALWAYS) moist, flavorful, and holds up well for stacking and carving. Here is the recipe should you care to try it.

Duncan Hines (only, for me) box mix
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 stick butter, melted
1 Tablespoon vanilla (I make my own)

Have your ingredients at room temp., add the eggs, milk, and butter to your mixing bowl then sift the mix and add. Beat at slow speed about 30 seconds or until all ingredients are moist, scrape down the batter, mix on medium high for 3 and a half minutes.

HTH, and remember, you are the boss of your cakes, they are not the boss of you. icon_biggrin.gif

Lcubed82 Posted 5 Jul 2010 , 7:27pm
post #3 of 23

I feel like someone went to a lot of work to develop cake mixes, which obviously the world-over love, at least given the inventory at my grocery store! I prefer to decorate. People have gushed over my delicious cakes.

Thank you, Duncan Hines, etc, for having teams of top notch cake researchers that have done this part of my work for me!

I do, of course, respect each person's decision to make from scratch or mix.

Add- I like the recipe on CC for the 3D durable doctored cake mix for shaped cakes.

vagostino Posted 5 Jul 2010 , 7:33pm
post #4 of 23

You need to do what works for you and what your customers want. If they are happy with doctored cake mixes AND you find them reliable, cheaper, and easier than from scratch then there's your answer. Forget the school professors, you can bake form scratch for your family but this is a business so if your customers like your cakes and you find them profitable from a mix then go with it. You can still say that you make your cakes fresh, etc etc...
I too went to culinary school and love to bake from scratch and I do that most of the time, but my carrot cake starts from a spice cake mix and it's the best!
Also, I love swiss meringue buttercream personally but people here want good old american buttercream so that's what I make.
You are not cheating anyone, just carry on and be proud of your cakes.

Lcubed82 Posted 5 Jul 2010 , 7:41pm
post #5 of 23
Quote:
Quote:

my carrot cake starts from a spice cake mix and it's the best!




Will you share?!!! sounds great!

leah_s Posted 5 Jul 2010 , 7:42pm
post #6 of 23

I only bake from scratch.

Check your veg shortening to see if it has transfats. Everyone knows how much the non-trans fat shortenings DON'T work so well in icings. It's the same for cakes. My tried and true recipes from culinary school went south when I tried to switch to a trans fat free shortening. I now go to my supplier and loudly proclaim, "Don't bring me any of the trans fat free crap!"

ChefDebby Posted 5 Jul 2010 , 7:43pm
post #7 of 23

I too use SMBC as a standard unless otherwise requested. I love it and use it as a selling point. My customers love it so I'm ok as far as the BC goes.

I will try your suggestions and try to ease up. I am my worst critic. Very rarely am I ever completely satisfied with my work...but that's my issue. icon_wink.gif

Vkandis Posted 5 Jul 2010 , 7:45pm
post #8 of 23

Rather than ask should I beat myself up about using doctored mixes, the question that maybe worth considering is what steps have you taken to address why your cakes have recently come out dry and crumbly.

I ask because you state that you know how to make moist cakes and that this is a recent situation. To me this says you were able to produce consistently moist cakes. Yes yes it may be more difficult to produce consistent results from scratch, but you seem to indicate you were able to do this. So have you changed ingredients? Have you changed recipes? Did you move from a more humid to a drier climate? Did you get a new oven such that your cakes are cooking faster than the previous oven and thus overbaking?

Other than being brow beaten by your instructors your post seemed to indicate a preference for scratch (or maybe this is simply because of being brow beaten by your instructors). So have you attempted to ascertain what things may have changed recently that may explain why your cakes are now coming out dry?

vagostino Posted 5 Jul 2010 , 7:45pm
post #9 of 23

Here's the carrot cake recipe, I'm sure that there are better ones out there but people go crazy over this one. Moist, yummy and soo easy!

1 pkg. (2-layer size) spice cake mix
2 cups shredded carrots (about 3 large)
1 can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple, drained
3/4 cup chopped Pecans

PREPARE cake batter as directed on package; stir in carrots, pineapple and 3/4 cup nuts. Pour into 2 (9-inch) square pans sprayed with cooking spray. Bake 25 to 30 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 min.; invert onto wire racks. Remove pans. Turn cakes over; cool completely.

ChefDebby Posted 5 Jul 2010 , 7:47pm
post #10 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by leah_s

Check your veg shortening to see if it has transfats.




I don't use shortening. I try to only use butter. Thanks again to my instructors. icon_razz.gif

ChefDebby Posted 5 Jul 2010 , 7:53pm
post #11 of 23

Vkandis, I don't think I've changed ingredients. I live in Chicago where the humidity can change from day to day. It' 100% one day and 50% the next and 25% the day after that. I don't know if I'm just not scaling correctly anymore or if I'm over filling my pans, or if I'm just plain over baking my cakes. I have asked myself these questions and have yet to find an answer. icon_sad.gif

ChefDebby Posted 5 Jul 2010 , 8:02pm
post #12 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by iamcakin


Duncan Hines (only, for me) box mix
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 stick butter, melted
1 Tablespoon vanilla (I make my own)

Have your ingredients at room temp., add the eggs, milk, and butter to your mixing bowl then sift the mix and add. Beat at slow speed about 30 seconds or until all ingredients are moist, scrape down the batter, mix on medium high for 3 and a half minutes.




Thanks, iamckain.

Does this recipe work for all DH mixes or just yellow cake, etc.?

iamcakin Posted 5 Jul 2010 , 8:31pm
post #13 of 23

All - however, I do not use the butter recipe or strawberry mixes.

My carrot cake recipe is the same one vagostino uses ( thumbs_up.gif ) except I use the enhanced recipe and toast my pecans. I use a strawberry cake recipe from the recipe section here, I'll post it if you want it when I can get to my "cake-book".

Loucinda Posted 6 Jul 2010 , 1:41am
post #14 of 23

I think you have already gotten great advice, I just wanted to tell you that there is nothing wrong with doctored mixes too, do what works consistently and be happy! icon_smile.gif

I use the WASC cake and it works perfectly for about anything I need to do. (and I prefer DH mixes) It is also my most best selling cake.

ChefDebby Posted 6 Jul 2010 , 2:05am
post #15 of 23

I think I'm going to experiment with doctored mixes. I just want my cakes to be original and unique. Anyone can use a mix. I want my customers to come back to me because my cakes are something they can't do for themselves. My scratch cakes just aren't consistent and given my prices, I can't risk losing money or future business on a bad cake.

You're right, I have gotten some very good advice which I will take with me and and run...not literally, of course.

Thanks again everyone for your advice and support. I can't tell you how grateful I am!

Karen421 Posted 6 Jul 2010 , 2:10am
post #16 of 23

I bake what people like, whether that is from scratch or boxed or "doctored". I let the people who are going to eat the cake decide. The way I look at the "doctored" recipes are the box mixes are my flour for the recipe. Ok - so some may not see it that way but it's ok - it doesn't bother me. For carving, try the Durable cake for 3d or wedding. Lately more people have chosen that one over the WASC cake. (but that one is good also)

http://cakecentral.com/recipes/1972/durable-cake-for-3d-and-wedding-cakes

Loucinda Posted 6 Jul 2010 , 3:36am
post #17 of 23

Here is a good starting point for you to check out for doctored recipes:

http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=df4f9hbq_46cs9f28fs

ChefDebby Posted 6 Jul 2010 , 3:48am
post #18 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Loucinda

Here is a good starting point for you to check out for doctored recipes:

http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=df4f9hbq_46cs9f28fs




I <3 you! icon_biggrin.gif This website is amazing!!!! Thank you.

step0nmi Posted 6 Jul 2010 , 4:12am
post #19 of 23

ahhhh! I've never seen that cake website! Thank you Loucinda icon_wink.gif

ChefDebby...as someone in your area..literally living right above you icon_lol.gif I know exactly what you're going through. The humidity here is horrendous and I don't know how anyone does it here...let alone myself lol

First off...I noticed you said you were trying out a sculpted cake. Normally, for sculpted cakes you need a much more dense texture. I know that a lot of bakeries on tv talk about using sponge cake...I haven't gotten to go that far, but I do add in one box of instant pudding and add an extra egg to help dense up my cake for sculpted cakes. This has worked for me as well as freezing my cakes and sculpting them while frozen.

As far as mixes go....don't beat yourself up. I use mixes as well and they are some of the moist and great tastings cakes I've ever made. There are many ways to doctor them up. I also recommend the Cake Mix Dr. book. I use that religiously! icon_lol.gif

Hope this helps! You can PM me any time...I have HUNDREDS of issues with decorating in this area icon_lol.gif but I can't help but do it! icon_biggrin.gif

Katiebelle74 Posted 6 Jul 2010 , 4:12am
post #20 of 23

ChefDebby, I too have gone through the same battle! I graduated from culinary college with my degree in baking and pastry. Trained with some awesome pastry chefs had a great but exhausting career as a pastry chef before opting toward a cake biz. At first I would not dream of using a doctored mix. Then I was finding it hard to be price competitive. So at a couple tastings I threw in one cake made from a doctor mix among all my from scratch cakes and waited to see what would happen. Certain clients love it and some hate it. For the most part I find older generations do not choose it (like say mom of the bride) but the younger generations say "oh yes this is what I am used to cake tasting like!" and really go for it. Then the second thing that happened to me that blew me out of the water on the whole mindset was that the French pastry chef I worked with for many years who is amazing and does EVERYTHING from scratch started a chocolatier shop where he also sells cakes and would you believe it is using a MIX! It is not the betty crocker variety it is the Dawn vanilla creme cake base.... but still! There is still a part of me that hears Chef Bandula screaming and cringing at a mix, but for now the one renegade doctored mix cake is among the cakes at the tasting and I let the customer (unknowingly) decide on scratch or doctored mix.

ChefDebby Posted 6 Jul 2010 , 4:42am
post #21 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiebelle74

Then the second thing that happened to me that blew me out of the water on the whole mindset was that the French pastry chef I worked with for many years who is amazing and does EVERYTHING from scratch started a chocolatier shop where he also sells cakes and would you believe it is using a MIX!


[url]

Well, whaddya know? That makes me feel so much better! Given the website Lucinda put up, I will definitely be experimenting with some doctored cake mixes. I'll keep my scratch tried and true recipes, but if these others turn out as good as I hope, I'll be sure to include them in my repertoire. icon_razz.gif [/url]

4realLaLa Posted 6 Jul 2010 , 5:20am
post #22 of 23

Please don't beat yourself up. Scratch or doctored box, it's up to you to use what you feel comfortable using. If your scratch cakes are dry you can A.) bake at a lower temp (try 325 instead of 350). B.) use a simple syrup on your cakes or C.) continue to use the box. Whatever you decide, good luck.

Loucinda Posted 6 Jul 2010 , 12:53pm
post #23 of 23

I have yet to try a bad one on that site. There are some I prefer over others, but they are all great recipes! Have fun experimenting! thumbs_up.gif

And I agree, don't beat yourself up, do what works, and makes you and your clients happy. icon_smile.gif

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