My Scratch Cakes Aren't So Good...

Decorating By PeggyH Updated 18 Jun 2012 , 12:12am by dandymom

PeggyH Posted 29 Jan 2011 , 1:13am
post #1 of 61

So I'm trying to get started in the cake business and have this idea that everything I sell should be made from scratch, but my scratch cakes tend to turn out pretty bad. It seems I always do something wrong, or misinterpret a direction but the end result is always the same...my cakes stink!! No amount of pre planning seems to help...so what I really want to know is, is it wrong to just make boxed cakes?? Or do I need to throw in the towel now?? Do people expect a scratch cake??

I just don't know and it's causing me a lot of frustration and the huge feeling of inadequacy...

60 replies
sebrina Posted 29 Jan 2011 , 1:28am
post #2 of 61

I'm not a pro but I think a good rule of thumb is - what they don't know, won't hurt 'em! Besides I know for a fact that some bakery cakes are from a mix!

All4Show Posted 29 Jan 2011 , 1:53am
post #3 of 61

Check out Macsmom's thread "Help, Gourmet Flavors" under the Cake Ideas forum. She uses the WASC recipe (a doctored recipe) and does a ton of variations. You'll love the inspriation, but it will take forever to read through. So many possibilites.

PeggyH Posted 29 Jan 2011 , 2:55am
post #4 of 61

Sebrina - unfortunately it's hard for ME to stick to the motto...I know it's from a box, but I also know that I need to get over that. It kinda falls under that "I see/know all my imperfections", so this is something I am working on but I just needed to know that I'm not the only one icon_smile.gif

All4Show - I checked out the thread and it's awesome, thanks so much for the tip. One newbie questions though, what the heck does "WASC" mean???

All4Show Posted 29 Jan 2011 , 3:00am
post #5 of 61

It stands for White Almond Sour Cream. Then she just changes her liquids, mixes, flavorings and sometimes uses different flavor yogurts for sourcream.

lolobell Posted 29 Jan 2011 , 3:23am
post #6 of 61

just pulled a WASC cake out of the oven. It's my "go to" recipe. i switch it up using chocolate fudge cake mix or yellow etc.....

it never fails..
it always bakes beautifully
and people rave about the taste...

icon_smile.gif

ChunkkeeMunkkee Posted 29 Jan 2011 , 3:43am
post #7 of 61

I am with you on the scratch thing... I tried a zillion recipes and for what ever reason I couldn't quite get one I liked except for Hershey's Choc Cake. So... a friend recommended The Cake Mix Doctor (book) to me and I tried various cakes using mixes as the base. I some how managed to land a bakery job and did a few working interviews and I almost fell out of my seat when I found out a high end bakery was using mixes for some of their recipes. So my guilt vanished right then and there. WASC is an awesome recipe and you can adapt it to your liking. I never get complaints. To even out the cake not being from scratch, I try to give every one the best I have in decorating. It will work out, just don't worry on it too much and when mixes go on sale.... STOCK UP! icon_biggrin.gif

Rainyvv Posted 29 Jan 2011 , 3:55am
post #8 of 61

I'm a newbie as well and felt the same way like using a box mix was cheating. I've done just a few cakes for friends and family they haven't asked if they are from scratch. They don't even care what flavor. I thnk they are too focused on the look on the cake and probably just used to box mix taste anyway.

Chonte Posted 29 Jan 2011 , 4:58am
post #9 of 61

Thre is NOTHING wrong with using a boxed mix. you know how it's gonna turn out and you know it's gonna taste good. so professional bakeries use cake mixes. most people can not taste the difference between a box and a scratch cake any way. i use both mixes and my own recipies.

PeggyH Posted 29 Jan 2011 , 7:38pm
post #10 of 61

Thanks everyone, it's good to know that I'm not the only one and that there are others out there who use boxed mixes. I'm definitely going to try the WASC recipe next time (crossing my fingers)!! Thanks again for all the advice.

Tracy7953 Posted 29 Jan 2011 , 7:53pm
post #11 of 61

I am a WASC girl too - cant beat it!

BecuzImAGurl Posted 29 Jan 2011 , 7:59pm
post #12 of 61

i've been wondering...is there a doctored cake mix recipe for Red Velvet Cake?

i somehow cant get any scratch recipes right except this Devils Food Cake recipe I have.

BlakesCakes Posted 30 Jan 2011 , 12:13am
post #13 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by BecuzImAGurl

i've been wondering...is there a doctored cake mix recipe for Red Velvet Cake?

i somehow cant get any scratch recipes right except this Devils Food Cake recipe I have.




This is my recipe and it gets great reviews:

http://cakecentral.com/recipes/7573/red-velvet-redux-easy-durable

HTH
Rae

ThreeLittleBlackbirds Posted 30 Jan 2011 , 1:12am
post #14 of 61

I have a real hard time with this as I am one of those believers that if you're everything should be scratch - especially if you are going to sell the cake. Box cakes are full of chemicals and preservatives and because of this they aren't good for carving or stacking, plus they taste...well..artificial, and thats just not my thing. I realize that some people actually like that artificial flavor, so to each his own.

Making scratch cakes is not that hard it just takes practice and lots of recipe testing to find what works for you. The key to an incredible scratch cake is quality ingredients. Don't use old butter or imitation vanilla or cheap cocoa powder.

Remember, any one can go to the store and buy a box cake mix and make a cake, and I mean anyone..even young kids! Pride yourself in knowing that you are providing something that the average person cant just whip up - a delicious scratch cake made from quality ingredients. If you're in business, you can charge more for your cakes this way.

Start with your basic cake flavors and build from there. A white vanilla cake, a yellow butter cake, a chocolate cake, red velvet, etc.

A white Vanilla cake can become a delicious lemon cake in the Spring with the addition of some fresh lemon zest and lemon juice. A yellow butter cake can become a pistachio cake by adding some chopped pistachios and a drop of natural green food coloring, a red velvet cake can become a moist and flavorful banana cake by omitting the red food coloring, adding bananas and a touch of cinnamon and using brown sugar instead of white. You get the idea...

Be creative, and test test test recipes. Im sure your friends and family will be happy to be your cake guinea pigs! icon_smile.gif

BlakesCakes Posted 30 Jan 2011 , 1:39am
post #15 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThreeLittleBlackbirds

Box cakes are full of chemicals and preservatives and because of this they aren't good for carving or stacking, plus they taste...well..artificial




Of course you're entitled to your opinion, but some of what reads like "facts" isn't on target.

True, a straight up box cake made with water & eggs & no other additions isn't good for carving, but you can stack jello if you use the right supports........

If you add more things to a box mix--sour cream, an extra egg, less oil, less water, additional sugar & flour (a WASC cake)--then it's ideal for carving and it won't taste "artificial".......

Those preservatives and additives make for a moist cake that can be "mistreated" a bit by the slow decorator or the customer who forgets to cover and/or refigerate leftovers.............

Everything has it's place..............

Rae

Kiddiekakes Posted 30 Jan 2011 , 1:59am
post #16 of 61

Yes..I agree with Blakescakes..Threelittleblackbirds...I would be careful how much you bash the cake mix vs scratch cake as it always causes a very HEATED debate here..To each there own icon_wink.gif ..Whatever works for you but don't knock the ones who decide to use a box mix instead and it doesn't make them any less a baker in my eyes...

cakeandpartygirl Posted 30 Jan 2011 , 2:13am
post #17 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeggyH

So I'm trying to get started in the cake business and have this idea that everything I sell should be made from scratch, but my scratch cakes tend to turn out pretty bad. It seems I always do something wrong, or misinterpret a direction but the end result is always the same...my cakes stink!! No amount of pre planning seems to help...so what I really want to know is, is it wrong to just make boxed cakes?? Or do I need to throw in the towel now?? Do people expect a scratch cake??

I just don't know and it's causing me a lot of frustration and the huge feeling of inadequacy...




When you say that they turn out pretty bad, what do you mean? Are they dry? Does it have alot of tunneling? Is it tough?
Are your ingredients room temperature?
Are you using a recipe that calls for butter and substituting it with margarine?

Cakes from scratch are a total different beast. They take a little bit more care. the first time I made a cake from scratch it was...well let's just say not too good. I though when you creamed the sugar and butter it was just a few second process. My problem was my approach. it takes longer to preparethem. If you could tell us what recipe you are using maybe that would help?

cakeandpartygirl Posted 30 Jan 2011 , 2:14am
post #18 of 61

Oh yeah one more question do you read through the recipe before starting?

laural124 Posted 30 Jan 2011 , 2:33am
post #19 of 61

I'm a newbie as well and always wondered the same question. I've tried a few cakes from scratch and keep playing with them, but it definately takes time and patience! icon_smile.gif

cabecakes Posted 30 Jan 2011 , 2:35am
post #20 of 61

I think to make a "standardized" statement that you should only use one or the other "because you are selling it" is a little on the moot side. I try to make the best cake I can whether it is for sell or not and whether it comes from scratch or a box. I have Alton Brown with me on this one. He made the statement that when it came to box mixes..."some box mixes contain quality ingredients that the average user doesn't have access to". I believe everything has its place. There are good box mixes and there are bad box mixes. You have to try them and find the one that you prefer. You may find one that you can "doctor". I have recipes from scratch that I wouldn't trade for a box mix, but I also have box mix recipes I wouldn't trade for a scratch anyday. It goes both ways.

Evoir Posted 30 Jan 2011 , 2:42am
post #21 of 61

Just a quick tip for the newbs out there...if you are unsure of an abbreviation used here on CC, try hovering your mouse over it and a yellow box will appear with the definition.


HTH!

FromScratchSF Posted 30 Jan 2011 , 2:46am
post #22 of 61

I'm not going to say which IS better, scratch vs. boxed... it's a personal choice AND I think area specific. I am a 100% scratch baker (and 90% organic)... everything from the cake to the fondant. I live in the People's Republic of San Francisco where Wal Mart=Devil, Happy Meal Toys=Bad Parenting, Plastic Bags=Dolphin Murder, Cars=Mother Earth killer... you get the point (not my opinion, I'm just telling you how it is where I live ). icon_lol.gif So geographically I'm set because I have a built in market where income levels are higher, there is a demand for scratch baked goods as well as organic. This is important is because you have to know your market, and I am totally aware that it's not like this in 90% of the county. You are, after all, attempting to be a business person, which comes 1st. If there is no market for what you want to sell, you either have to have a solid product and be prepared to create your market or you need to re-examine your business plan.

Baking from scratch is hard. Like, really hard. You can't google a cake recipe and have it turn out so perfect you can base a business off of it, especially if you haven't learned the basics of baking science and the chemistry behind every ingredient that goes in the cake. Heck, I've been at this for over a year and my R&D is a daily pursuit! icon_biggrin.gif I am confident in my scratch cakes vs. boxed mix at this point because I'm OCD, I've done my homework, done hundreds of test batches, and worked super hard at making my cake just as good or better then the other stuff.

So if this is something you want to commit to, then awesomesauce! I recommend getting some books, roll up your sleeves and start learning the science part. Once you do you'll be surprised at how easy things get. But If you decide to go the other route and use box mixes, then this site has some super great recipes to get you going pretty much right out of the gates.

Best of luck! thumbs_up.gif

Jen

Sangriacupcake Posted 30 Jan 2011 , 4:07am
post #23 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by BlakesCakes

Quote:
Originally Posted by BecuzImAGurl

i've been wondering...is there a doctored cake mix recipe for Red Velvet Cake?

i somehow cant get any scratch recipes right except this Devils Food Cake recipe I have.



This is my recipe and it gets great reviews:

http://cakecentral.com/recipes/7573/red-velvet-redux-easy-durable

HTH
Rae




I recently tried this, and it's a very yummy cake! My DD says it's better than the RV that I made for her wedding. thumbs_up.gif

I use both scratch and doctored cake mixes, and I get lots of compliments on both. My doctored cake mixes turn out every time I make them, but my scratch cakes are a little more fussy and sometimes fall. icon_sad.gif

scp1127 Posted 30 Jan 2011 , 5:21am
post #24 of 61

Alton Brown is not on your side!

Alton Brown did not say that! He said, "It is DARN TOUGH to bake a cake from scratch that is better than a cake made from mix. That's because these designer concoctions contain HIGH TECH ingredients that average cooks like you and I can't get our oven mitts on." "If you choose to bake from a box, you should still frost from scratch." This was a show on IMBC.

In "American Classic V: A pound of Cake, he said, "When, dear viewer, was the last time you baked a cake not from a box? Well America, it's time we got our cake groove back in gear".

He said it is tough, not impossible.

He NEVER used the word quality. The box mix companies R & D teams make these mixes with the requirement that it still needs to come out right with the baker making every possible mistake. There are no quality ingredients in a box mix. I am a scratch baker who bakes with high end ingredients and you cannot make any of my cakes for a dollar. My ingredient costs can be as high as $22 for a two layer 9 inch cake. And I add plenty on top of that as my selling price.

I am not debating box vs. scratch, but I want to clear up the misquote. I have studied Alton Brown's baking book with a highlighter and colored pens. Scratch baking is indeed tough, if you want to learn to do it right. Bad scratch cakes are easy to come by.

cakeandpartygirl Posted 30 Jan 2011 , 5:32am
post #25 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by scp1127

Alton Brown is not on your side!

Alton Brown did not say that! He said, "It is DARN TOUGH to bake a cake from scratch that is better than a cake made from mix. That's because these designer concoctions contain HIGH TECH ingredients that average cooks like you and I can't get our oven mitts on." "If you choose to bake from a box, you should still frost from scratch." This was a show on IMBC.

In "American Classic V: A pound of Cake, he said, "When, dear viewer, was the last time you baked a cake not from a box? Well America, it's time we got our cake groove back in gear".

He said it is tough, not impossible.

He NEVER used the word quality. The box mix companies R & D teams make these mixes with the requirement that it still needs to come out right with the baker making every possible mistake. There are no quality ingredients in a box mix. I am a scratch baker who bakes with high end ingredients and you cannot make any of my cakes for a dollar. My ingredient costs can be as high as $22 for a two layer 9 inch cake. And I add plenty on top of that as my selling price.

I am not debating box vs. scratch, but I want to clear up the misquote. I have studied Alton Brown's baking book with a highlighter and colored pens. Scratch baking is indeed tough, if you want to learn to do it right. Bad scratch cakes are easy to come by.



thumbs_up.gif

ThreeLittleBlackbirds Posted 30 Jan 2011 , 6:44am
post #26 of 61

Sorry, but I am not going to back down just because this has become a heated topic. You cannot call yourself a "baker" just because you open a box and add an egg and some sour cream and some almond extract. Once in a while? Fine. Every cake you make? Not fine. Making the cake for family or friends for free? Fine. Selling the cake for $4.00 per serving? Not fine. Just my opinion of course.

And yes, its hard for the average person to come by the ingredients in a box cake because they are CHEMICALS and the average person doesn't have access to such chemicals.

tonedna Posted 30 Jan 2011 , 6:48am
post #27 of 61

I knoe plenty of big bakeries that do use the box stuff.. They just don't buy the little box, thay buy a big bag!..Nothing wrong with it. What do you think supermarkets sell? Scratch?..

It's about good taste and what works for you..

Edna icon_smile.gif

FromScratchSF Posted 30 Jan 2011 , 8:58am
post #28 of 61

Being a scratch baker is like running a marathon.

I choose to run... I prepare 25 weeks in advance to spend 5 hours running 26.2 miles in a race that I pay money for knowing I'll never win. Training sucks. It's super hard. I have to be dedicated. I have to break through pain, mental and physical exhaustion to do it. I have to give up my social life and beer. FOR 25 WEEKS. Sure, I could jump in my car and drive 26.2 miles in 20 minutes (traffic permitting!). My husband and most of my friends think I'm nuts. But finishing is a feeling... an experience, that is amazing. Indescribable. It's something only a fraction of the world ever does and the sense of pride and accomplishment that I get from it makes me a better person. If I just drove, I'd never know any of that. I'd never know the pure joy of what it's like to cross a finish line. usaribbon.gif

When I finally perfect a recipe, it feels a lot like that. thumbs_up.gif Especially since it's better then a box mix. It may take me weeks of trial and error, but I know it'll be worth it in the end.

All I'm sayin, in my strange sort of way, is:

You could train and run right along with me. Anybody can. But don't dismiss baking from scratch because you choose to drive. icon_biggrin.gif

Kiddiekakes Posted 30 Jan 2011 , 3:00pm
post #29 of 61

Three Little Black Birds......No one is saying you have to back down as you have an opinion also but I think as a Newbie on this site and I know I speak for many as I have been around a Long time here when I say this is ..Just because you are passionate about scratch baking and feel that box mix baking etc is "Not Baking" in your eyes doesn't make it wrong and the assumption you are making that those who do use mixes are not bakers of any kind is hurtful to some and not really the way you want to start out here...We are a close community and those of us who have been around along time and seen alot of "Out of Control" posts know that we will come to the defence of any of our members from anyone bashing and hurting others needlessly....

Just my opinion of course.......

scp1127 Posted 30 Jan 2011 , 3:25pm
post #30 of 61

On a cake site, there is the decorating talent factor that allows box mix and scratch bakers to compete in the same field. I have always advocated that there is room for both in the market.

My concern is all the advice to go ahead and start a business without being able to bake unless it is from a box. Any book on how to start a business is going to start by telling you to be a master in your field. Because of tv, there is a new awareness and demand for baked goods of many kinds. More and more bakers and decorators are getting on this bandwagon every day. The innovation and superior products popping up every day is evident by just surfing the net. The books coming out this year are a testament of where the retail baking industry is heading... a more refined, niche marketing, boutique style. And like any popular product, it does not take long for the market to saturate and demand will be less than supply. Then the more innovative bakers will survive and the others will be on CC wondering where all of their business went. Being the best comes in many forms... location, a grand storefront and interior, a strategic marketing plan, cutting edge decorating skills, packaging and image, superior taste, organic baking, allergy based baking, lowest operating costs, sales ability... the list goes on and on. If great baking is not going to be your mission statement, make sure one of the above is... something you do better than everyone else. Because a business could open tomorrow that will put you under because you weren't prepared.

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