Cake mix versus from scratch

Decorating By Tessie2135 Updated 9 Jan 2014 , 6:48pm by Godot

Tessie2135 Posted 3 Jan 2014 , 5:22pm
post #1 of 33

Sorry, but I have to ask this question.  I don't know if it is blasphemy to use cake mixes, but I have been doing some mixes and some from scratch (just making cakes for friends/family now).  I love the taste of my homemade vanilla cake, but I feel like after a day it dries out.  What if the design is ellaborate and you need more than one day for decorating time?  The cake mixes seem to stay light and fluffy even after a few days in the fridge.  How do you "from scratch" people prevent cakes from drying out?  I've browsed through the recipes on this website and use a sour cream based one when I do a cake from scratch.  Any advice?

32 replies
jason_kraft Posted 3 Jan 2014 , 5:37pm
post #2 of 33

AFor most scratch recipes, freezing the cake will maintain the taste and texture for quite a while.

live laugh cake Posted 3 Jan 2014 , 6:32pm
post #3 of 33

I use mixes but have my own modified version. I have added some things that the recipe does not call for. Honestly, I think it tastes much better. Also, they are unique compared to the mix, but do not hold the difficulties.

KathleenC Posted 3 Jan 2014 , 6:58pm
post #4 of 33

I often use cake mixes, but rarely "as they come out of the box".  I'm usually adding something to modify or enhance or change the flavour.


However, what I do for any cake (mix or scratch) is I almost always make them in advance (anywhere from a couple of days to a week or two) and freeze them.  They take no time to thaw and are often easier to work with (carving, as an example) than fresh cakes.


I'm always getting compliments on my cakes, whether it's a mix-based or scratch cake.


Try that and see if you see an improvement.

Tessie2135 Posted 3 Jan 2014 , 10:07pm
post #5 of 33

Thank you all; part of why I asked this question is also, one time I froze a from scratch cake and thawed it and it was dry.  Cut into and it was just crumbs, crumbs!  Maybe I didn't wrap it good enough. What is the rule?  Wait until it is completely cool then wrap and freeze?  I've seen some sources say wrap and freeze when it is still a little warm.

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 4 Jan 2014 , 4:30am
post #7 of 33

AI bake cookies from scratch, but I've always baked cakes from mixes, and the closest I've ever come to a scratch cake was something from a recipe that was on the back of the Bisquick box, some 35-40 years ago.

So far, my only bits of "mix-doctoring" are (1) my strawberry marble cake, and (2) that I now weigh out an extra 1/3 of a box (and 33.3% more oil and water, and an extra egg) when baking a 9x13 white cake (or bake 2/3 of a box for an 8x8 or 9x9), and I think I may have to start doing the same with spice cakes.

And to the "scratch-or-nothing" crowd, EVERYTHING is, when you get down to it, nothing but chemicals. And in particular, unless you make your own baking powder, you're still dumping in a mix of chemicals that somebody else engineered.

Tessie2135 Posted 4 Jan 2014 , 9:02pm
post #8 of 33

Thanks; sounds like a need to try freezing again!  Airtight tupperware container sounds like an awesome idea.

live laugh cake Posted 4 Jan 2014 , 9:33pm
post #9 of 33

really hope this helps! :grin:maybe gross frosting. :/  But that is hard to do. 

enga Posted 4 Jan 2014 , 10:36pm
post #10 of 33


We make a lot of genoise cakes and they tend to be drier, so we use infused simple syrups to keep them from tasting dry.


Here is one technique that might help too.


Since you like you recipe you could just follow this tip for after the cake is baked on this site.


Or you could do what my mom and grandma do............ you ready........ DUN DUN DUHHHHHHHHH!


Opt out the  oil, butter, sour cream, or buttermilk for........wait for it.......wait for it.... Apple sauce!


One of my aunts swears by using Miracle Whip to make hers moist vs my sister who uses Hellmann’s Mayonnaise. All three methods make for a delicious cake especially the chocolate ones. HTH :lol:




enga Posted 4 Jan 2014 , 11:02pm
post #11 of 33

*sorry your recipe

Tessie2135 Posted 5 Jan 2014 , 2:40pm
post #12 of 33

Good advice; thank you for the youtube videos.  Okay one more question.  Yesterday I tried my from scratch recipe on cupcakes (oil based recipe, no butter) and today they are....A LITTLE DRY.  Not a lot but a little. Covered the cupcakes in a tupperware dish last night.  Question is, did I over bake? Cuz even yesterday they seemed a little tough around the edges.  They were ever so slightly browned on top.  Should there be any brown at all? TIA

enga Posted 5 Jan 2014 , 5:00pm
post #13 of 33

Yes probably, try baking them till they are just slightly golden on top. I check them early and  try to take them out as soon as the tooth pick comes out clean. Cupcakes are very easy to over bake.

Tessie2135 Posted 6 Jan 2014 , 2:13am
post #14 of 33

A[IMG][/IMG]Okay I did it! Froze a from scratch cake and took it out today and let it thaw for two hours and then decorated it. Fluffy and tasty! Worked out great for our 1 st anniversary! Thanks everyone!

enga Posted 6 Jan 2014 , 3:45am
post #15 of 33

That looks good! Happy Anniversary!!!!!

gatorcake Posted 6 Jan 2014 , 4:17am
post #16 of 33




Freezing is unnecessary. While people make all sorts of claims about how they make cakes "more moist," frankly I have never had a problem with dryness (only bake from scratch) and see no benefit from freezing other than time saving. When folks are saying "Wow this is so moist" or "Wow this is not dry at all" I see no reason to make them "more moist"--assuming that is possible. 


I also have never had problems with dryness even with multiple days of decorating.  Properly wrapped after baking and crumb coats and iced and if your recipe is good you really should not have much to worry about.


As to advice---use balanced recipes, don't over bake, consider using a simple syrup. There is plenty of information out there about what makes a properly balanced recipe. Cooks Illustrated, Alton Brown, BakeWise by Shirley Corriher are just a few of the places that discuss the optimization of recipes to produce particular results. There are also science of baking books one could read. 


If your cake is only lasting a day it could easily be over baked. I do not know what test you use for doneness, but if it is--when your tooth pick comes out clean, then your cake is already over baked and will only get worse as it cools.


Dry cakes can be moistened with a simple syrup. If you are a fan of the vanilla cake you refer to, a simple syrup will add moisture (as opposed to the debate about the impact of freezing) to your cake.

Tessie2135 Posted 6 Jan 2014 , 1:05pm
post #17 of 33

AThanks for the info. I will check out Alton brown. I have always been a fan. I do think I am overbaking as the top of the cake has browned a bit when it take it out. Which I was leaving it in cuz it was still jiggly which probably means I've filled my pan too full.

Tessie2135 Posted 8 Jan 2014 , 12:59pm
post #19 of 33

ATip 104. Thick side against the cake

NYAcupcake Posted 8 Jan 2014 , 4:15pm
post #20 of 33

Thanks much for replying xx! @Tessie2135

MyFairDiva Posted 8 Jan 2014 , 6:34pm
post #21 of 33


Original message sent by enga

Or you could do what my mom and grandma do............ you ready........ DUN DUN DUHHHHHHHHH!

Opt out the  oil, butter, sour cream, or buttermilk for........wait for it.......wait for it.... Apple sauce!

One of my aunts swears by using Miracle Whip to make hers moist vs my sister who uses Hellmann’s Mayonnaise. All three methods make for a delicious cake especially the chocolate ones. HTH :lol:

Lol Enga...! I laughed so hard at the Dun dun duuuuuhhh :D - and it made me think of the Kwanzaa cake ::eek!::


Happy Anniversary!!

enga Posted 8 Jan 2014 , 6:53pm
post #22 of 33

Lol Enga...! I laughed so hard at the Dun dun duuuuuhhh icon_biggrin.gif


Oh wow,  I don't know how to respond to this other than to say I'm very disappointed. SMH

enga Posted 8 Jan 2014 , 9:11pm
post #23 of 33

The more I think about this video the angrier I get. I'm Black no I didn't say African America because I wasn't born in Africa. I don't celebrate Kwanzaa, heck I don't even celebrate Christmas. No hidden reason, I just the don't think I should empty my savings account to rush out and buy gifts that people probably don't appreciate anyway but that's just me.


Mean while, back at the ranch, this Sandra Lee chick.  My family roots go back to the south. If you are going to celebrate (African American) cakes or how we celebrate. show us some semi homemade classics like Caramel, Lady Baltimore, Lane, Hummingbird cakes, even a new take on sweet potato, yam or pecan pies. But don't make a mockery of it. It looks like she just threw some mess together and said Ta duh and there you have it! Who in the heck puts corn nuts, pumpkin seeds together with apple pie filling and angel food cake. Oh and lets not forget the cinnamon chocolate frosting. 0_o


I'm speechless, some body stick a fork in me and flip me over cuz I'm done!


* sorry for the rant OP

Tessie2135 Posted 8 Jan 2014 , 11:29pm
post #24 of 33

AI'm not too ashamed to use a cake mix but I would be ashamed to make that Sandra lee cake. I can't believe how many times I've seen her whip out a pre made angel food cake and then slop something gross on it. I would be okay with the semi homemade if at least it was good recipes. If she really wanted to do kwanza she should have had a guest on the show to educate people about the holiday.

kikiandkyle Posted 8 Jan 2014 , 11:54pm
post #25 of 33

A(And herself apparently).

AnnieCahill Posted 9 Jan 2014 , 2:35pm
post #26 of 33

Sandra Lee also made a Christmas cake that was heinous, didn't she?  Oh yes, she did:


For future reference, pull your cakes when there are still moist crumbs sticking to the toothpick.  As a previous poster stated, if it comes out clean it's already overbaked.

bowbells Posted 9 Jan 2014 , 2:59pm
post #27 of 33

this is difficult because i love my home baked cakes and so my family and friends. I bake a lot but when it comes to selling celebration cakes i use commercial cakes because of their shelf life. 


my limited mobility means that things just take longer - I love to take my time with decorating and a commercial cake allows me that time. I always buy from the same supplier and havn't had any complaints so far.

Tessie2135 Posted 9 Jan 2014 , 3:47pm
post #28 of 33

Good advice on the toothpick test.  I always heard it should come out clean.  It's time y'all know the truth about me.  I haven't been using the toothpick test.  I'm in an old apartment and I figured if I open the oven door it would let all that heat escape.  So I look in the window and stomp my foot on the ground and if it jiggles, I know its still batter under there.


Back to Sandra Lee.  She at least needs to give up doing cakes.  That Christmas cake is awful.  I love the way she justifies imperfections by saying its imperfect like a real tree.  I don't like her savory recipes either.  Everyone knows how to take a premade pizza crust with premade sauce and put toppings on there.  Just doesn't offer anything new.

enga Posted 9 Jan 2014 , 5:06pm
post #29 of 33

Everybody has a way to tell if a cake is done, I was just trying to give Tessis a way to indicate when a cake is done. The term clean means not sticky or wet, if you look closely at the tooth pick when it pulls out clean there will be small crumbs on it. If a toothpick still has sticky crumbs stuck to it, it's still raw.  There are other ways like touching the center of the cake with your finger for a depression test if it sprigs back it done if it doesn't and leaves an indention it's not. I'm an old hat, I can tell when a cake is done by the smell same with anything I cook. Its called the Maillard reactions, a caramelized scent. I didn't know this was going to turn into a pissing contest. Which is quite funny if you think about it since I am a pastry chef. But hey, to each his own.




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