kmstreepey Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 6:16pm
post #1 of

I am doing some research of bakeries in my area for pricing, quality, etc. in order to see what competition is out there. I do not have a cake business but want to start researching the possibility of opening one in a couple of years. So, I ordered a cake from a well-known and well-liked bakery in a nearby town. When I ordered the cake in their shop, I asked specifically if they bake from scratch and the girl taking my order said "yes" without any hesitation at all.

A week later, I picked up the cake (not impressed with the decorating, but that is another topic!) and tasted it. I am convinced that it is from a box. Maybe doctored, but based on a box mix. Now, I don't want to argue whether box baking is good or not. I bake from scratch and don't mind that others bake from a box. But I can't believe that they lied to me about it. Do bakeries actually do that? Flat out lie when asked a direct question? Maybe I am naive, but I didn't expect that at all...

144 replies
kelleym Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 6:38pm
post #2 of

I've told this story before, but I used to use the kitchen of a restaurant that had a bakery counter, and they claimed they were a "scratch" bakery. Oh, well, all their cakes started with Duncan Hines, but they claimed to be "scratch" on the basis of them mixing and baking the cakes on site. They didn't think they were lying. The right question to ask, is, "do you use a mix".

There are very few true scratch bakeries. It's just not cost effective for most business models.

GeminiRJ Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 6:41pm
post #3 of

Perhaps she was thinking that the cakes are baked on the premises, as opposed to shipped in frozen from a distributor. So maybe to her they are from scratch. I know it's a stretch, but who knows.

costumeczar Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 7:05pm
post #4 of

They probably lied about it, and they know very well that they don't bake from scratch if there's a mix involved. Most production bakeries use mixes in one form or another for consistency or whatever reason, but if someone asks they should tell the truth...Sometimes if you ask people if they use a mix they'll say no even if they do, so they know they're lying about it. (at least some of the bakeries in my area do that.)

jason_kraft Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 7:28pm
post #5 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by kmstreepey

When I ordered the cake in their shop, I asked specifically if they bake from scratch and the girl taking my order said "yes" without any hesitation at all.



You may want to try getting a more authoritative answer from the owner of the business or at least the baker as opposed to a retail clerk.

Baking from scratch means different things to different people, so you probably don't want to jump to the conclusion that they lied to you just yet. To me scratch vs. mix is really more of a spectrum depending on how much preparation has been done for you when you purchase the ingredients, I doubt anyone here is truly a 100% scratch baker (milling your own flour, etc).

QTCakes1 Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 7:41pm
post #6 of

It's been my expierence that they do lie about that. I have even gone so far as to break it down and ask after they yes,"So you mean you actually measure the flour, break open your eggs, pour some actual milk, and add real vanilla extract" and they say "YES", and it's a mix. Every single time, they say yes, and you know it's from a mix.

Vista Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 8:11pm
post #7 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by QTCakes1

It's been my expierence that they do lie about that. I have even gone so far as to break it down and ask after they yes,"So you mean you actually measure the flour, break open your eggs, pour some actual milk, and add real vanilla extract" and they say "YES", and it's a mix. Every single time, they say yes, and you know it's from a mix.




I often use a doctored mix, and I still " measure the flour, break open your eggs, pour some actual milk, and add real vanilla extract". I just add those things to my mix.

Like everyone said there are varying ideas of what it means to be scratch.

AZCouture Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 8:12pm
post #8 of

Dang! I don't mill my own flour. Guess I'm a liar.

QTCakes1 Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 8:32pm
post #9 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vista

Quote:
Originally Posted by QTCakes1

It's been my expierence that they do lie about that. I have even gone so far as to break it down and ask after they yes,"So you mean you actually measure the flour, break open your eggs, pour some actual milk, and add real vanilla extract" and they say "YES", and it's a mix. Every single time, they say yes, and you know it's from a mix.



I often use a doctored mix, and I still " measure the flour, break open your eggs, pour some actual milk, and add real vanilla extract". I just add those things to my mix.

Like everyone said there are varying ideas of what it means to be scratch.




But if I ask you if you bake from sctatch or use a mix base, and you answer, no, I don't use a base mix, and then I even elaborate what I mean by scratch, and you still insist it's all scratch, your a liar. I think everyone knows what people are asking when they ask "Do you bake from scratch"? They want to know if you use a mix, period. YOu can sugar coat it and doctor the mix up all you want, the question is do you bake from scratch. That is why every now and then you see on here a thread that says "They ask if I bake from scratch, but I use a mix, what should I say", cause those that use a mix know what people mean when their are asked do they bake from scratch. Now I am going to leave what you said alone. I was answering the OP's question and yes, bakeries lie about what they use.

costumeczar Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 8:46pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by QTCakes1

I was answering the OP's question and yes, bakeries lie about what they use.




Yep.

pieceofcaketx Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 8:49pm

It's not enough to just mill the flour though, you actually have to grow the grains first if you want to truly bake from scratch.
I also make my own butter from the cow I keep in the garage, shhhh don't tell the HOA.

QTCakes1 Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 8:54pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by pieceofcaketx

It's not enough to just mill the flour though, you actually have to grow the grains first if you want to truly bake from scratch.
I also make my own butter from the cow I keep in the garage, shhhh don't tell the HOA.




icon_lol.gificon_cry.gificon_lol.gificon_cry.gificon_lol.gif

kellertur Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 9:05pm

Jeepers freaking creepers! Mill our own flour to call it scratch? That is ridiculous...and yes, I bake from scratch no mix involved. I don't however use flourescent yellow sleeve fillings and call them "homemade lemon curd" like my competition does. There is a huge difference between opening a box of mix and cracking a few eggs and tossing in this and that, then there is figuring out the exact chemistry of a scratch cake. LOTS of people chronically complain on here about "bad recipes" just because they can't figure out how to bake from scratch. It's technique.

"A bad craftsman blames his tools (or recipes)"

costumeczar Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 9:34pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by kellertur

Jeepers freaking creepers! Mill our own flour to call it scratch? That is ridiculous...and yes, I bake from scratch no mix involved. I don't however use flourescent yellow sleeve fillings and call them "homemade lemon curd" like my competition does. There is a huge difference between opening a box of mix and cracking a few eggs and tossing in this and that, then there is figuring out the exact chemistry of a scratch cake. LOTS of people chronically complain on here about "bad recipes" just because they can't figure out how to bake from scratch. It's technique.

"A bad craftsman blames his tools (or recipes)"




thumbs_up.gif

Vista Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 9:36pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by QTCakes1

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vista

Quote:
Originally Posted by QTCakes1

It's been my expierence that they do lie about that. I have even gone so far as to break it down and ask after they yes,"So you mean you actually measure the flour, break open your eggs, pour some actual milk, and add real vanilla extract" and they say "YES", and it's a mix. Every single time, they say yes, and you know it's from a mix.



I often use a doctored mix, and I still " measure the flour, break open your eggs, pour some actual milk, and add real vanilla extract". I just add those things to my mix.

Like everyone said there are varying ideas of what it means to be scratch.



But if I ask you if you bake from sctatch or use a mix base, and you answer, no, I don't use a base mix, and then I even elaborate what I mean by scratch, and you still insist it's all scratch, your a liar. I think everyone knows what people are asking when they ask "Do you bake from scratch"? They want to know if you use a mix, period. YOu can sugar coat it and doctor the mix up all you want, the question is do you bake from scratch. That is why every now and then you see on here a thread that says "They ask if I bake from scratch, but I use a mix, what should I say", cause those that use a mix know what people mean when their are asked do they bake from scratch. Now I am going to leave what you said alone. I was answering the OP's question and yes, bakeries lie about what they use.




I completely agree with you. While I do bake alot from scratch, NO MIX, I do often use a doctored mix. I know people that think if they do not follow directions on a label they think they are doing it from scratch. While I disagree with their logic, that doesn't change the fact that others do see it that way.

I do not consider myself a baker. While I do bake from scratch, I generally have to follow a recipe word for word. I do not have the level of expertise to be able to add and take away to achieve a desired result (not that I haven't tried icon_redface.gif ). My sister SWEARS that she only cooks from scratch, but will use things like canned cream of mushroom or celery (maybe not the best example, but the first thing that came to mind). That to me is not cooking from scratch.

carmijok Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 10:48pm

Or maybe...just maybe...you can't really tell the difference as far as this bakery goes! You're going by an 'I could swear' hunch but maybe they are being truthful and you are just questioning it.
Honestly, if they're not claiming in their advertising that they are a 'from scratch' bakery, they really don't have to tell you anything. It's their proprietary right to keep their products and recipes--be they from box or scratch--a secret.

I worked at a bakery where we would occasionally get that question and it drove me nuts. I would ask why they were asking and usually it was just because they felt scratch was 'superior'. I just told them 'we do both scratch and mix baking depending on what the customer wants'--which was true. But it's funny that our best seller and most popular cake for weddings was a slightly doctored box cake.

jason_kraft Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 10:56pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by kellertur

There is a huge difference between opening a box of mix and cracking a few eggs and tossing in this and that, then there is figuring out the exact chemistry of a scratch cake.



That's exactly what we do for our gluten-free cakes...we've put together our own proprietary GF mix (which we used to package and sell to customers), and it works very similarly to a box mix. Is that scratch or not?

CalhounsCakery Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 11:14pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft

Quote:
Originally Posted by kellertur

There is a huge difference between opening a box of mix and cracking a few eggs and tossing in this and that, then there is figuring out the exact chemistry of a scratch cake.


That's exactly what we do for our gluten-free cakes...we've put together our own proprietary GF mix (which we used to package and sell to customers), and it works very similarly to a box mix. Is that scratch or not?




I would say if your making your own mix, it's still from scratch.

kellertur Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 11:46pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft

Quote:
Originally Posted by kellertur

There is a huge difference between opening a box of mix and cracking a few eggs and tossing in this and that, then there is figuring out the exact chemistry of a scratch cake.


That's exactly what we do for our gluten-free cakes...we've put together our own proprietary GF mix (which we used to package and sell to customers), and it works very similarly to a box mix. Is that scratch or not?




Responding to the "mill your own flour" issue and the semantics dance around "scratch baking":
did you also grow the Chick Peas or coconuts or whatever yourself first, before you milled it into flour? When I make a gluten free cake I make my own rice flour...BUT I don't fly out to my own personal rice patty in China and plant and harvest the rice myself. Honestly, I think everyone here knows what is meant by "scratch baking"...just ask your grandmother...or great grandmother if you're under 30.

Scratch baking...it's what your great-grandparents called BAKING. icon_biggrin.gif

kmstreepey Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 12:10am
Quote:
Originally Posted by carmijok

Or maybe...just maybe...you can't really tell the difference as far as this bakery goes! You're going by an 'I could swear' hunch but maybe they are being truthful and you are just questioning it.
Honestly, if they're not claiming in their advertising that they are a 'from scratch' bakery, they really don't have to tell you anything. It's their proprietary right to keep their products and recipes--be they from box or scratch--a secret.




It's true, I don't really know. It is a hunch based on my experience with my own cakes and eating cakes I've known to be from a box, some of which I've made myself. I really want to believe the girl at the bakery. (I should also say this is a custom cake shop and the girl came straight from the back to take my order, so I would assume she knows what is actually going on in the kitchen.) I see your point about them not having to tell me anything at all, Carmijok. True. But I would rather get an honest answer than a cover-up. Again, I don't know for sure if she was lying. It's just a suspicion, but one that comes from an educated palette. I asked out of curiosity and tried not to have a tone that could be considered judging or anything like that. The girl didn't seem thrown or offended or annoyed by my question at all.

I should also mention that the other members of my family didn't notice the aftertaste that I did. It could have just come from other ingredients they used (not sure what).

This is an interesting discussion on what "scratch" means. I've always assumed a common definition, but perhaps people would consider it to be "homemade" or made "from scratch" even if it started with a box, especially if they've known nothing else. Given then debate on sites like this, though, I would think they would know what I meant. Perhaps I should have had a follow-up question, but I didn't want to make a big deal out of it. I would have ordered a cake anyway.

I am happy, though, that my cake tasted better! Of course, I'm biased.... icon_biggrin.gif

QTCakes1 Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 12:20am

I never understood the attitude of "they don't have to tell you if they bake from scratch". If I am paying for it, I have a right to ask. They don't have to answer my question, but I don't have to buy it. I am not asking for their recipe, which would be a trade secret, I am asking if they bake from scratch. I want to know, cause it's what I want to spend MY money on, and there for it is my business. It's just like some people who ask questions when they buy a used car or if I ask my doctore where he graduated from. I don't know his' grades, but I like to see the diploma and where he graduated from. We ask questions all the time about things we purchase, cause as consumers we want to know what we are paying for. I don't understand why asking someone if they bake from scratch or a mix is exempt to this rule and considered none of our business to ask.

kellertur Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 12:36am

You're probably a super taster, like I am. I took a paper test in Jr. high adn those that could taste the bitter paper were what they call super tasters. This might explain why some people don't like certain vegetables, etc. I can SMELL chemicals in mix cakes, but that's because I have a bionic nose (no joke, it's a curse), and scratch is all I've ever known. My 18th birthday cake was a mix cake because we had a family crisis and no one had time to bake. It was my first and last... I remember it being not "bad", but a weird texture and a bit on the dry side.

jason_kraft Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 12:55am
Quote:
Originally Posted by kellertur

Responding to the "mill your own flour" issue and the semantics dance around "scratch baking":
did you also grow the Chick Peas or coconuts or whatever yourself first, before you milled it into flour?



The point about milling your own flour was meant to illustrate one extreme end of the scratch baking spectrum. In my view a 100% scratch baker would indeed grow all their own ingredients and do all the processing themselves, but obviously very few people have the resources or wherewithal to do that these days.

At the other end of the spectrum would be a business that buys fully decorated cakes wholesale and resells them to customers or small businesses. In between there are people who invest in R&D to put together proprietary mixes from base ingredients, some who start with an existing mix and add their own twist, and others who don't modify an existing mix and instead focus more on things like decorating. A successful business can potentially be built on any point along the spectrum.

In the Information Technology world the "make vs. buy" decision is common when developing new business applications. Depending on what you want to focus on, you can either code a brand new application yourself, buy a customizable application and modify it to your liking, or just go with an off-the-shelf app so you can start adding value in other areas as soon as possible. None of these decisions are right or wrong, the best fit for your business will depend on how much capital you have, your in-house talent pool, and which competitive advantages you are targeting.

Quote:
Quote:

Honestly, I think everyone here knows what is meant by "scratch baking"



On the contrary, as we've seen in this thread the term "scratch baking" means different things to different people. To address the OP a better question to ask would have been whether the bakery uses their own mix or an off-the-shelf mix.

CalhounsCakery Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 1:20am

I'm not sure how it works in the states, but if asked, don't you have to provide the ingredients in food products? If I ask wether or not someone is using a mix, they should be under an obligation to tell me. What if I had an allergy to some preservatives or additives you would find in a mix? It could potentially turn into a health issue if you tried to keep it a secret. I know I can't eat dried fruit, it causes me headaches everytime. This became an issue when I purchased a cupcake with apples in the batter. I got a headache, so I went back to the bakery where they admitted it was dried apples, not fresh (they stated they used fresh products). Another time I ended up in the hospital with an allergic reaction due to someone using canned cherries... It's important to be upfront about the freshness of your ingredients.

costumeczar Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 1:22am

I call BS on the "I don't know what scratch means" red herring argument. Everyone knows that baking from scratch is using flour, sugar, eggs, butter and BAKING, not using a mix and adding stuff to it. If you tell yourself that's baking from scratch you know you're full of it even if you won't admit it.

Using a doctored mix is no more baking from scratch than heating a Stouffer's lasagna and adding extra cheese to it is cooking from scratch.

costumeczar Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 1:25am
Quote:
Originally Posted by CalhounsCakery

I'm not sure how it works in the states, but if asked, don't you have to provide the ingredients in food products? If I ask wether or not someone is using a mix, they should be under an obligation to tell me. What if I had an allergy to some preservatives or additives you would find in a mix? It could potentially turn into a health issue if you tried to keep it a secret. I know I can't eat dried fruit, it causes me headaches everytime. This became an issue when I purchased a cupcake with apples in the batter. I got a headache, so I went back to the bakery where they admitted it was dried apples, not fresh (they stated they used fresh products). Another time I ended up in the hospital with an allergic reaction due to someone using canned cherries... It's important to be upfront about the freshness of your ingredients.




Yes, you're supposed to disclose the ingredients if asked. You don't have to provide the balances, but you do have to tell what's in it. A lot of people don't seem to like that, though, so they dance around the issue and pretend like they don't have to.

jason_kraft Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 1:33am
Quote:
Originally Posted by costumeczar

Yes, you're supposed to disclose the ingredients if asked. You don't have to provide the balances, but you do have to tell what's in it. A lot of people don't seem to like that, though, so they dance around the issue and pretend like they don't have to.



I don't believe you are legally required to disclose ingredients (even allergens!) in a ready-to-eat item served from a restaurant or bakery unless the state or county has this requirement (many CFLs do) or you make a specific claim about the food (i.e. sugar-free).

http://www.fda.gov/food/guidancecomplianceregulatoryinformation/guidancedocuments/foodlabelingnutrition/ucm053455.htm#ready

And even if they were legally required to disclose the ingredients, they could simply list the ingredients in the mix as part of the final product, they would not need to specify whether it was mixed at their location ("scratch") or at a Betty Crocker plant.

kellertur Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 1:42am

My 11th grade Anatomy/Physiology teacher used to joke that in her home, vegetables were: ketchup and mustard. She still knew the actual difference. icon_wink.gif I don't hide my ingredients. I won't give out recipes to anyone, but I'm very considerate where allergies are concerned.

Sleeve fillings...*sigh*. Are they now considered "homemade"? And what the heck is shelf stable cream cheese filling? Never mind, I don't want to know...

I'm sorry, I've been watching too much MST3K again...

costumeczar Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 1:43am

I'm legally required to disclose ingredients if asked in the state of Virginia, according to the department of agriculture, which regulates food production businesses. I had to get an exemption for putting labels on the cakes because they require ingredient labels for everything that's sold, even all of the ingredients in the cake mix that you use if you use one. Yes, you have to type them all out and put them on the food label along with anythign that you add to said mix.

Cutting through all the BS once again, it's just common sense and good customer service that if a client asks about food ingredients, you should tell them. You can dance around it but if you're not willing to tell someone what's in the food you're selling them, why are you selling it?

costumeczar Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 1:45am
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft

[
And even if they were legally required to disclose the ingredients, they could simply list the ingredients in the mix as part of the final product, they would not need to specify whether it was mixed at their location ("scratch") or at a Betty Crocker plant.




Why the #&&*# would anyone put what was in a Betty Crocker mix into a scratch cake? I have no need for stool softeners in my cake, thank you. Propylene Glycol. Look it up.

Quote by @%username% on %date%

%body%