Cake Mix Vs Scratch Baking

Baking By eaamckenzie14 Updated 6 Jun 2015 , 9:05pm by CatPoet

eaamckenzie14 Posted 5 Jun 2015 , 11:38pm
post #1 of 25

Hi everyone, I want to talk to you guys about scratch baking vs. using a pre-mixed formula. I have been decorating cakes now for about ten years and I wanted to look into starting my own business. When I did some research I was surprised to learn that a lot of bakeries order cake mix in bulk to make their cakes while some use store bought box cake mixes. And some don't even bake their own cakes at all. Anyways I personally felt that I wanted to bake from scratch but I quickly found out that its not as easy as it sounds. Im no novice to baking but scratch cakes can be inconsistent at times unlike using a mix or a box where you know your product will come out the same each time. Please let me know what you think about this. Is it wrong or misleading to make your cakes from a mix at a bakery?

24 replies
snixsnaxshax Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 12:15am
post #2 of 25

Hello, I have a small home based bakery business. I do make all of my cakes and cupcakes from scratch, however you are right about find a recipe that is consistent.   I have often thought of just using cake mixes. I am curious to see what other's say. Good luck!

Pastrybaglady Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 12:41am
post #3 of 25

You yourself said lots of bakeries use mixes.  It's not wrong or dishonest unless you say you're baking scratch and you're not.  As a consumer I admit was surprised and a little let down when I found out bakeries use mixes, but when you're doing high volume you need more efficiency.

Jinkies Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 1:00am
post #4 of 25

I only do scratch and advertise my business as such.  I personally believe that if I'm going to charge top dollar for my cakes, they should be from scratch.  Perspective clients do seem to appreciate that when I remind them that my cakes have no chemicals/preservatives.  Makes the price tag a little easier to swallow :)

I do agree that scratch baking is not easy, it's a lot of work and a lot of testing recipes.  It's a real commitment, because some days I really would love to just open a box.

But, as Pastrybaglady said, it's not wrong unless you're not honest about it.  Lots of people use mixes and do quite well.  It's really just a personal decision.

I'm curious if people who don't advertise as scratch get a lot of clients asking about it...maybe most clients don't really care?


Natka81 Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 1:30am
post #5 of 25

Eaammckenzie14, it is your decision, but I wouldn't want to buy cakes made from box mixes, even if they are very cheap. I really don't like the taste.

This past 3 months a have ordered from 2 different legal home baker, they make excellent wedding and birthday cakes. Everything  I ordered,all cake flavors and cupcakes came from box mix. I  am not going back to them.

-K8memphis Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 2:27am
post #6 of 25

the worst cake I ever had, I guess I will never forget it, it was my sister-in-laws scratch wedding cake all i remember is one yucky mouthful of egg white --

you are authorized to make/use anything you want just make sure it comes out awesome 

fwiw i use cake mix often doctored for clients because I use fillings that need refrigeration and cake mix cakes go in & out the fridge really well -- I bake from scratch for family - 

you can do anything you want - best to you

eaamckenzie14 Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 5:11am
post #7 of 25

Thanks guys for the great tips and advice, I just made a wedding cake this past weekend and I opted for the box mix. It was truly a labor of love as I didn't charge the bride for my services but she sis buy the materials. I made one from scratch and then another cake mix I doctored with pudding and butter milk, my husband was the taste tester and he choose the box, he said both were good but the box had more flavor, so is it cheaper to bake from mix or scratch my last question...

mccantsbakes Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 5:17am
post #8 of 25

I do a mixture of scratch and mix baking.   It really depends on the occasion and what I am trying to do.   

With that said I will NOT use a chocolate box mix.   Ever.    Even doctored up chocolate mix cakes just taste flat to me.    A good scratch chocolate cake recipe using high quality chocolate is almost an outer body experience.  The depth of flavor is just something a box mix misses in my opinion.     White cakes however, can be doctored in such a way that they yield a very pleasing taste and mouthfeel.  

Most people don't know what a good scratch cake tastes like.    I have had friends taste cakes and what they define is "good" is the sweeter, more oily, light and bouncy texture.....which is a mix.     The scratch cakes tend to get reviews like " loved the taste but it was heavier than I like"....or the crumb was finer....or dry even compared to what they know.     I try not to roll my eyes too much, they just don't know the difference since most of us were raised in the era of quick Duncan Hines convenience cakes or the saccharin sweet grocery store bakery cakes.    (A good yellow box mix cake with canned chocolate frosting brings me back to every birthday of my childhood....serve it on a plate covered in foil and throw on some jimmies and some gel piping and it's a trip down memory lane)

There is nothing wrong or dirty little secret like when baking with box mixes.   It's just a preference.  One of many choices a baker makes when deciding their cake plan.    And since when did he word "chemicals" become synonymous with "bad" or "undesired"    To advertise a scratch cake as being chemical free is misleading in that flour contains chemicals.   baking powder and soda ARE chemicals.....water is a chemical....our bodies are literally made of chemicals.    So.....while I am sure people "get" what you are meaning when you say "chemical free"  saying that is not really correct.   Technically.  


On that note though, I will say in defense of scratch baking being  my preference is that last year I baked box cake using canned icing just to have here at home.  I left this cake on my counter for a couple days.   Incidentally we had a surprise ant invasion in our kitchen.    NOT ONE ANT would go NEAR that cake.   They were inches away and avoided it entirely.   That says something about some of the chemicals we are putting in those things....it made me think "huh....interesting" 

Pastrybaglady Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 7:14am
post #9 of 25

Whoa mccantsbake, that is very disturbing.  So I wonder which the ants found more distasteful, the cake or the frosting.

Jinkies Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 10:34am
post #10 of 25


Quote by @mccantsbakes on 5 hours ago

I do a mixture of scratch and mix baking.   It really depends on the occasion and what I am trying to do.   

With that said I will NOT use a chocolate box mix.   Ever.    Even doctored up chocolate mix cakes just taste flat to me.    A good scratch chocolate cake recipe using high quality chocolate is almost an outer body experience.  The depth of flavor is just something a box mix misses in my opinion.     White cakes however, can be doctored in such a way that they yield a very pleasing taste and mouthfeel.  

Most people don't know what a good scratch cake tastes like.    I have had friends taste cakes and what they define is "good" is the sweeter, more oily, light and bouncy texture.....which is a mix.     The scratch cakes tend to get reviews like " loved the taste but it was heavier than I like"....or the crumb was finer....or dry even compared to what they know.     I try not to roll my eyes too much, they just don't know the difference since most of us were raised in the era of quick Duncan Hines convenience cakes or the saccharin sweet grocery store bakery cakes.    (A good yellow box mix cake with canned chocolate frosting brings me back to every birthday of my childhood....serve it on a plate covered in foil and throw on some jimmies and some gel piping and it's a trip down memory lane)

There is nothing wrong or dirty little secret like when baking with box mixes.   It's just a preference.  One of many choices a baker makes when deciding their cake plan.    And since when did he word "chemicals" become synonymous with "bad" or "undesired"    To advertise a scratch cake as being chemical free is misleading in that flour contains chemicals.   baking powder and soda ARE chemicals.....water is a chemical....our bodies are literally made of chemicals.    So.....while I am sure people "get" what you are meaning when you say "chemical free"  saying that is not really correct.   Technically.  


On that note though, I will say in defense of scratch baking being  my preference is that last year I baked box cake using canned icing just to have here at home.  I left this cake on my counter for a couple days.   Incidentally we had a surprise ant invasion in our kitchen.    NOT ONE ANT would go NEAR that cake.   They were inches away and avoided it entirely.   That says something about some of the chemicals we are putting in those things....it made me think "huh....interesting" 

So, I guess your ants agree with me :)

Natka81 Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 12:34pm
post #11 of 25

The tough thing in scratch baking is knowing there is box mix in store.

Don`t just stick with trying traditional white, yellow and chocolate scratch cakes recipes. There tens of recipes for genoise types of cakes which are light and fluffy just like box mix cakes. 

Webake2gether Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 1:11pm
post #12 of 25

I do both scratch and box mix as I am still learning and testing recipes. I find that certain scratch recipes are easier than others for example we make red velvet from scratch and only had consistency issues once but I've yet to find a white cake recipe that yields consistent results. I've made German chocolate cake from scratch but still searching for a good chocolate cake recipe. So while I continue to test I use box for chocolate and white cakes. But I doctor them and you can't tell they are box mixes. I do desire to bake from scratch completely but I think as long as you aren't falsely advertising 100% from scratch and your product taste great I don't see anything necessarily wrong with it. I think it's a preference more than a rule. I do make everything else from scratch even fondant and in situations where I don't use my homemade fondant I tell them. Also by the time I've doctored a box mix it doesn't end up being cheaper still easier (since I'm still a beginner).

the lady we used to buy cakes from before we started baking uses box mix and  it didn't bother me bc her cakes were amazing  to look at and tasted pretty good too. Also the lady who made my wedding cake was amazing (expensive but oh so worth it) and to be honest I'm not sure if she baked from scratch or mix. So as a previous customer I think more often than not people don't notice or really care. But there will always be those who need or prefer from scratch, organic, gluten free or sugar free. 

-K8memphis Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 1:13pm
post #13 of 25

mccantsbakes - you are so correct especially regarding 'çhemicals' if people think there are no çhemicals in their cake then they don't have cake at all because everything is a chemical air water paper flour sugar eggs bread and cake are made of chemicals --

fwiw Duncan Hines for years had a notice on their white cake mix boxtop that said "no preservatives" how 'bout them apples

Jinkies Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 1:37pm
post #14 of 25

@k8memphis,

I think anyone with a brain in their head, knew what I was saying.  Clearly there is a difference between scratch baking than with box mixes which are filled with PRESERVATIVES-WHICH ARE CHEMICALS.  This was not a science lesson, the op asked opinions and I gave mine (in a very respectful manner).  

I'm not sure why mccantsbakes and yourself felt the need to belittle my answer and try to make me feel stupid. But, now I understand why others say this place is unfriendly.

eaamckenzie14 Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 1:40pm
post #15 of 25

I do like the way it was explained regarding the "chemicals" a lot of folks try to make bakers feel bad about cake mix additives, but you're  so right everything has or is a chemical. Baking is truly a chemistry within itself! With that said I am striving to find scratch recipes that I like. Right now I am doing both scratch and box, it is what it is lol!! With that said I would never advertise as scratch, taste and flavor automatically trumps scratch in my book. If it can be done from scratch with consistency and depth of flavor then then I will use that recipe, but at this point I'm not above reaching for a box mix if it's necessary.

-K8memphis Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 1:44pm
post #16 of 25

sorry, jinkies i disagree with you there's no disrespect there


eaamckenzie14 Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 1:45pm
post #17 of 25

Hey jinkies I liked your answer it was a good one and I understand what you meant. I don't think anyone is being rude to you, in fact I know exactly what your talking about when you said chemicals. I have done research on cake box mix preservative additives and its proposturous! Thanks for sharing with me you answer helped a lot as did everyone else thanks guys 

AAtKT Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 2:04pm
post #18 of 25


Okay... I understand both sides of the "chemicals" little debate here... I am a biologist by nature... as far as the organization of living things go, we are all made up of atoms (elements) which form molecules (and compounds)... all the basis for the chemicals (living and non-living)... And overall, we all have our preference as to what we consume (living and non-living)...

What really gets me is the whole "organic" thing... technically as far as science is concerned, anything with a Carbon-Hydrogen bond is organic... but according to the government, organic refers to not using certain things during the growing process...

Then again... the government classifies the tomato as a vegetable, but botanically it is a fruit...

These debates can go on forever and ever... 

Why not just agree to dis-agree and move on?

-K8memphis Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 2:10pm
post #19 of 25

no hard feelings 

-K8memphis Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 2:10pm
post #20 of 25

no hard feelings 

-K8memphis Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 2:39pm
post #21 of 25

i (should) actually know better than to speak up in scratch versus mix threads and I'm sorry I spoke up -- 

Jinkies Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 2:58pm
post #22 of 25

No worries, K8.  To clarify, as I said in my original post, I don't think there is anything wrong with cake mixes. I have used them myself.  I was simply telling the op that I personally decided to set up my biz as scratch and, as a business woman, I use that to my advantage as far as advertising.  It is something that sets me apart from other cake people in my area and the wonderful clients I have gained from it appreciate that.  I was just giving her one perspective.

To pick apart the word "chemical" and it's literal meaning and say that I'm misleading my clients (not said by you), I thought was very uncalled for.

We actually don't disagree on the scratch/mix thing.  I just disagreed on the way someone "seemed" to feel the need to belittle my answer and I felt like you were backing that up.  I'm sorry if I misunderstood you.  I'm done with my temper tantrum now.

mccantsbakes Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 3:46pm
post #23 of 25

Jinkies,  I wasn't trying to belittle you.   I would never ever intentionally hurt anyone's feelings on this site.....it's actually one of my pet peeves on here, the cattiness that can occur over cake.  

I wish text had tone, if you and I were standing together and I spoke to you verbatim what I said above in the tone I wrote it in inside my own head, you would probably say "Oh my gosh, I guess that is true! Technically chemicals aren't necessarily a bad thing and we as a society DO tend to associate chemicals with bad stuff. "     Because it was all intended with the utmost respect and honest discussion over what we define as chemicals.   I am a semantics girl, so I apologize if my being obtuse was offensive. 



And and yes, the Ants in my house agree with you ;) 

Jinkies Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 7:10pm
post #24 of 25

Thank you mccantsbakes, I appreciate your post.  I am cranky today so I should've probably stayed out of the sandbox.

CatPoet Posted 6 Jun 2015 , 9:05pm
post #25 of 25

 I once asked a Mormon Elder what was the biggest  hump to over come between Sweden  and USA,  he said  " Sweet treats ,  Swedish stuff is  less sweet and less chemicals  but when you get use to it , it is  good, however when you go back to USA and get that twinkie you so missed, you wonder how you could eat this sweet, salty chemical mix,"

So If you are used to the texture, taste of a mix cake , a scratch cake will be weird and odd. So it is up to you and what you want to give people  what you choose to make. 

I only do scratch, it way too expensive and I wouldn't have to time to find a box cake here in Sweden.   It very easy to make a  good cake and  all you is time.  No one is perfect  the first time.

My step to the prefect cake is this.

1. Find a recipe that works for you,  make until you understand it.

2. Learn to make 4 different cakes, this give you good base to stand on.   I have  white cake called moss cake,   Boston black out cake is my chocolate cake,   Easy almond is my go too almond cake  and I   also make a toasted oatmeal cake called Mårbacka.

3. Remember   practice makes perfect.

4. Add more cakes to your  list  ,   I have  for my  chocolate cakes,   brownie cake ,  Boston black out cake,  French chocolate cake and mudcake.   For my white cakes  I have white chocolate cake, moss cake,   butter cake  and for my different cakes there is  a lovely  strawberry cake, hazelnut cake and  carrot cake.


Good luck!

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