Wow, I was offline for a day and I missed 5 pages of debate.
Anyway, as requested here is a list of the ingredients in a box cake mix as compared to the scratch mix. Iâve also included my very uneducated analysis of each ingredient (I dug up some interesting stuff that some people might be interested in).
Betty Crocker Super Moist White Cake
Enriched Flour Bleached (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid),
Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil,
Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Dicalcium Phosphate)
Propylene Glycol Monoesters of Fatty Acids
Corn Starch, Modified Corn Starch
Distilled Mono and Diglycerides
Add: Water, eggs, oil
White Sugar - both the box mix and the scratch version have sugar in abundance. (BTW: Sugar is very, very bad for the human body. Read âSugar Shockâ if you want to get scared out of your wits.)
Flour â Looks like the box mix is using AP flour and my scratch recipe calls for Cake Flour. To make the AP flour act like cake flour, certain emulsifiers (see below) need to be added that inhibit the formation of gluten. Why doesnât Betty just use cake flour? Well in the US Cake Flour is produced using chlorine and benzoyl peroxide and chlorinated flour has been banned in Europe. I guess Betty doesnât want one mix for the US and another for Europe, so they went the AP flour + Xanthan Gum route. (Just my opinion, though.)
Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil â This is in the box mix and not the scratch, but the scratch version uses butter. Both the oil and the butter and moistness and tenderness to the final baked product, but the butter (creamed with sugar) adds volume which the oil does not. Because the oil does not add volume, other emulsifiers are added to the box mix (see below).
Leavening â same in both â Baking Powder ( Cornstarch, Bicarbonate of Soda, Sodium Aluminum Sulfate, Monocalcium Phosphate)
Propylene Glycol Monoesters of Fatty Acids - Ykees. Sounds really nasty, but it is an additive that protects the mix against mites and microbial damage during storage.
Milk â non fat milk in the box mix vs whole milk in the scratch. Milk also contains glutathione, a reducing agent that softens dough.
Corn Starch â again the AP vs Cake flour thing. Because of the soft wheat used in cake flour production, cake flour has more natural starch than AP. Corn Starch is added to the box mix to compensate.
Salt â present in both versions
Distilled Mono and Diglycerides â Just in the box mix. This is a type of fat or emulsifier that helps produce a softer cake crumb. Again the AP vs Cake Flour thing. Cake flour uses soft wheat that is bleached with both chlorine and benzoyl peroxide. The bleaching of cake flour weakens its gluten and increases the ability of the starch to absorb water (yielding a softer cake crumb). The box mix is using hard wheat and no chlorination so it needs more fat/emulsifiers to inhibit gluten production and produce a soft crumb similar to cake flour.
Dextrose (aka corn sugar/grape sugar/glucose) â Just in the box mix. This is another type of sweetener (naturally occurring form of glucose). The dextrose provides the same properties as granulated sugar (bulk, browning, caramelized baked flavor, moistness, tenderizes ,etc) but without as much sweetness. Dextrose also improves the shelf life of baked goods because it inhibits microbial growth better than granulated sugar.
Soy Lecithin â Just in the box mix. This is an emulsifier to help provide a consistent texture to the cake. It makes dough less sticky and helps it rise. Also a great dietary supplement (I take it every day). It is a free-radical scavenger, boost âgoodâ cholesterol, and helps stabilize blood sugar. Lecithin is also part of a brain longevity regiment and is being used to help treat dementia patients.
Xanthan Gum (aka Corn Sugar) â Just in the box mix. Leavening agent. Xanthan Gum thickens without feeling thick and heavy and helps batters hold in gases. Xanthan is also being considered (along with heat and enzymes) as an alterative to chlorination in Cake Flour production.
Datem â Just in the box mix. It is another emulsifier used to make baked products rise to greater heights. Because the box mix doesnât use creamed butter/sugar, other methods are needed to achieve the same height.
Artificial Flavor â Iâm assuming this is artificial vanilla flavoring, but there is no way of telling. I guess it is Bettyâs secret formula. I did find this blurb about Artificial Flavors: The FDA does not require companies to disclose ingredients of color or flavor additives so long as all the chemicals in them are considered by the agency to be GRAS (Generally recognized as safe) enabling companies to maintain secrecy of formulas.
So nothing in this list has scared me off (except the chlorination of cake flour). Iâll still use doctored box mixes for my regular cakes and scratch for the special ones.