Results Of My Box Vs. Scratch Experiment...

Decorating By snarkybaker Updated 17 Jun 2008 , 4:30am by twooten173

snarkybaker Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
snarkybaker Posted 20 Mar 2007 , 11:31pm
post #1 of 82

I am and have always been an adamant scratch baker. In my time on CC, so many people have insisted that their doctored mixes are better than scratch that I decided to perform an experiment.

Twice a year at my restaurant, we invite everyone who has contacted us about planning an event ( usually a rehearsal dinner or a wedding) to a large tasting party where we make almost everything on our party menus. I always make a variety of cake flavors and icings as cupcakes and set them out on a large stand.

Sunday, we had over 60 people attend. The cakes that were set out were Vanilla Chiffon, White chocolate velvet. White Almond Sour Cream cake, Vanilla Cognac cake, Darn Good Chocolate cake and my double chocolate layer cake.

We ask them to take notes on the things they taste so they have a reference point to work from when the catering manager sits with them to choose the menu for their event.

Of the 42 people who ate the vanilla cakes, 24 chose vanilla cognac( scratch) as their favorite, 14 chose white chocolate( scratch), and 2 chose white almond sour cream cake (mix).

Of the 38 that tasted the chocolates cakes ( some people tasted everything) 30 chose the scratch double chocolate over darn good chocolate cake( doctored mix).

I'm not super surprised by the results, since I have always thought that a well made scratch cake would win, but I really did think that closer to half of the attendees would prefer the hyper sugared, fluffy-rubber texture of the mix cakes. What is really the most surprising is that no one expressed a preference for the chiffon cake, since that is the scratch cake that most resembles a mix cake in texture.

Obviously, the experiment isn't conclusive, since I didn't control for icing, and some people could just prefer the Vanilla Meringue buttercream to cream cheese icing.

81 replies
jackieaugusto Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
jackieaugusto Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 1:02am
post #2 of 82

Thanks for the insight. I've always done scratch cakes as well so the box phenomenon is new to me. I'm not knocking it since it tastes good too. But if you have a keen sense of taste you can detect a scratch cake from a box one. Would you mind sharing the vanilla cognac cake? Sounds interesting and I've never come across that. You can pm me if you like. Thanks! Jackie

snarkybaker Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
snarkybaker Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 2:05am
post #3 of 82

I'll send it to you tomorrow when I get back to the restaurant. I could try it from memory, but I'd hate to botch it.

revel Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
revel Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 2:32am
post #4 of 82

I am a scratch baker as well. I've been questioning it though lately with all the recent posts.
It sounds like no one really likes scratch cakes so i'm really glad to hear your results! Your vanilla cognac cake sounds really good!

lsawyer Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
lsawyer Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 3:23am
post #5 of 82

Ok scratch ladies----help set me straight on a few things:
I've always had the belief that a scratch cake was meant to be eaten the day it is made. After that, it starts to get pretty dry and go bad. How do you get around this? (besides adding a simple syrup?)
What about the bacteria levels after day one, since there aren't any preservatives?
I like the idea of a scratch cake, I just can't seem to find one that's any good----especially a white cake. However, my scratch carrot cake is really good and lasts for many days.
I cannot stand the taste of artifically flavored cake mixes, such as strawberry, so I use a white cake mix as the base and add the fruit and flavorings.
Also, I always hear arguments here that people are used to the box mix taste and consider scratch cakes to be dry, but that doesn't seem to be reflected in your taste-test.
Does the alcohol in your cake help preserve it?
Don't get me wrong--I'm not anti-scratch at all. I just can't seem to find any good ones; even the "expert" recipes leave a bit to be desired.
Any insights you can offer would be greatly appreciated!

snarkybaker Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
snarkybaker Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 3:39am
post #6 of 82

Honestly, most dry cakes have been either overbeaten, overbaked, or both. I do use simple syrup, but mostly because I like to add the extra flavor dimension that my cointreau vanilla bean syrup adds.

If you want to get serious about baking, you probably need to get a thermapen and pull your cakes out of the oven based on internal
temperature rather than " when a tester comes out clean". Your cake is overcooked by the time a probe is perfectly clean.

A lot of times when I have to bake a cake earlier than I'd like to, I'll add 1/4 of signature secrets
It does something similar to a box of pudding but without the nasty fake flavoring. It will make the cake slightly denser and help it hold moisture for an extended period of time.

nefgaby Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
nefgaby Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 3:47am
post #7 of 82

Wow, thanks for sharing this info with us.... would you share your recipes? This is making me crave chocolate and white chocolate cake! Thanks so much!

ckkerber Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
ckkerber Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 3:49am
post #8 of 82

Have you tried the King Arthur's White Cake recipe? It's my favorite white cake from scratch. I always do scratch cakes and they're fine for a few days. They don't dry out (unless I stick them in the refrigerator after they've been cut) and I don't worry about the lack of preservatives because I do a lot of scratch baking (muffins, cookies, breads) and none of them have preservatives and all of them are fine for a few days after they're baked.

dailey Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
dailey Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 3:53am
post #9 of 82

i'm not suprised...i *love* scratch cakes. as a matter of fact, my ultimate *favorite* is the white buttermilk from "the pastry queen" and i have you to thank as i tried that recipe after hearing your high remark on it. oh, and please share the vanilla cognac and white chocolate cake!

Fascination Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Fascination Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 4:00am
post #10 of 82

Thank you txkat
I too always make my cakes from scratch.
Except for maybe some of the chocolate cake mixes, I find that they all have an 'artificial' taste, even the vanilla cakes. I find that I have to add more flavoring to compensate.
Your White chocolate velvet and Vanilla Cognac cakes sound like they would be heavenly (if you are sharing, and would not mind, then please add me to the list).

lsawyer, I am surprised by your comments; a scratch cake, baked with butter, or oil, would not immediately start to dry. Even with no preservatives, a fresh scratch cake will keep for several days if stored in a cool place.
just my 2 cents...


Narie Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Narie Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 4:03am
post #11 of 82

Your cake is overcooked by the time a probe is perfectly clean.

This is what I have suspected. I know that the window for getting a cake perfectly baked and over baked is very small. What is the internal temp for a cake supposed to be? I have been seriously considering using a temperature probe. Where do you find a guidelines for proper internal temp?

indydebi Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
indydebi Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 4:09am
post #12 of 82

txkat, I wish I was close to you so I could sample your cakes! The major reason I'm a mix-baker is because I have yet to taste a scratch cake that I didn't want to just spit out. My assumptions have been either (a) all scratch cakes taste like crap or (b) I've only met those who have no idea how to bake. icon_confused.gif Your story is giving me hope. icon_confused.gif

I'll share a story that made me react with "Ohhhhhh! THAT'S what the scratch bakers are talking about!" My 4 yr old granddaughter was spending the night and at the grocery, I picked up a pack of the Nestle's toll house squares (break apart, bake). I knew she'd want cookies and I just didn't feel like making a batch from scratch. I grew up on Nestle Toll House from the tube and I LUV'D these cookies. Well, I baked these things up and took a bite and choked and spit it out. I told my husband, "If some mom buys these things and claims that she baked "homemade" cookies for her kids, then she should be shot!" After living on my scratch choc chip cookies, these "mix" cookies were down right nasty!!

Ohhhhhhhh! THAT'S what the scratch bakers see as the difference!

So after that experience, I'm a bit more open on "trying" to find something that is just as good as the cakes that have gotten me this far.

snarkybaker Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
snarkybaker Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 4:27am
post #13 of 82

Believe me, I would not have been unhappy if I had found a mix-based recipe that people would pay for. I spend a fairly decent amount of hours every week measuring, sifting, and folding in ingredients. Dump and go would be great!

I recommend Rebecca Rather's book to anyone that wants to bake from scratch. Her recipes are almost universally wonderful.

koolaidstains Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
koolaidstains Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 4:30am
post #14 of 82

I would love to be able to bake from scratch. I know that a good scratch cake is better than a box, but then you have to be good at it LOL. Box mixes are just a little more fool proof. I've baked the same scratch cake and have had it turn out both great and bad. What I need to work on is how to have a consistently good scratch cake. I can turn out a consistenly good box cake so that's what I normally stick with.

Indydebi, I cooked and ate those cookies only once - yech. But, they are REALLY good for eating raw LOL. That's right, I buy it just to eat raw with a glass of milk.

LadyMike Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
LadyMike Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 4:35am
post #15 of 82

Please, please, please - If you're willing to share your recipes, I'd love to have them. I, too, have had a very hard time finding a really good "scratch" cake. One of the best bakers I ever knew lived by my grandmother's grocery store. She was the little German lady that did all of the scratch baking for The Kopper Kettle in Morristown, IN. I always wanted to be like her, but then the teen years hit, grandmother passed, and later, so did the wonderful baking lady. I never got to ask her for her recipes. This makes me realize that my collecting skills are really necessary! LOL Thanks for this thread. I think I'll try to contact some of her relatives to see if anyone kept her recipes and would be willing to share them.

Chef_Stef Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Chef_Stef Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 4:36am
post #16 of 82

What a cool way to get honest results on your cakes!

I love that you did it, and I love the results you posted. I've always been a scratch baker, and I always will be, but it's nice to see some good results from a basically blind unbiased taste test like that! Way to go! thumbs_up.gif

indydebi Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
indydebi Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 4:38am
post #17 of 82

Ladymike,if you find a good recipe, you letme know and I'll bring the coffee! I'm on the east side of Indy .... outside of 465 and north of 70! We're not that far!

LadyMike Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
LadyMike Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 4:43am
post #18 of 82

It's a date! I'm in Shelbyville. Do you ever go to Ms. B's in Speedway for supplies?

indydebi Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
indydebi Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 4:55am
post #19 of 82

Heck yeah! Since she's the only game in town! (I hate shopping at Michael's or Hobby Lobby for stuff!). I thought you were in Morristown .. you're closer than I thought! PM me anytime you're in the area and we can meet!

LadyMike Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
LadyMike Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 5:02am
post #20 of 82

Great! Will definitely be in touch!

mommacat5 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
mommacat5 Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 5:04am
post #21 of 82

Please add me to list of beggers for your reciepes...I am starting a home based business and would love to switch to scratch baking. I think I would feel more justified in saying my cakes aren't cakes you can find everywhere else. Thanx !

howie Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
howie Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 5:10am
post #22 of 82

For me scratch cakes take a long time. Most of the time I get requests at the last minute so I don't have time to look for a good one so i just stick to the box and pudding mix and it usually works like a charm. The one cake i did from scratch--banana spice cake was easier than i thought and it did get a ton of raves, HOWEVER, box is just more convenient for me right now. It's kind of like MMF--the one time i tried it took forever, whereas wilton's is easy accssible-however the taste is aweful!! i guess it all comes down to TIME and PATIENCE

Peachshortcake Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Peachshortcake Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 11:10am
post #23 of 82

Ok I am just going to put in my two cents here.
I grew up baking from scratch and really dont like doing it any other way. I find scratch cakes are sightly denser and more flavourful. In my experience my chocolate cake lasts longer than a box mix.
Anyways this is my familys chocolate cake recipe and it gets nothing but rave reviews.

3/4 cup butter
3 cups white sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup cocao powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 tsp Baking powder
3 cups AP flour
1 1/2 cups boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 F
Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, sour cream and vanilla.
Carefully mix in cocao powder. Stir in salt and baking powder. Mix in flour one cup at a time.
Carefully beat in boiling water. Once this is incorperated beat the batter for 2 minutes on medium speed.
Pour in to prepared cake pans and bake.
Makes 1 9x13 pan
2 8 inch rounds
or tons of cup cakes

mlwideman Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
mlwideman Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 12:14pm
post #24 of 82

Oh my that vanilla cognac cake sounds wonderful. Would you be willing to share that recipe? I would love to have it.

ChefAngie Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
ChefAngie Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 12:46pm
post #25 of 82

My Father was a baker and he taught me how to bake from scratch and how to use cake mixes (DUNCAN HINES). I do not know about Betty Crocker or Pillsbury so I can't comment about those.
I have success using both scratch and mixes.
I remember my Father ( he passed in 198icon_cool.gif telling me not to rush and do not beat it to death ( the batter).
He taught me how to guage the oven temperature (calibrate the oven using an oven themometer).
Using the correct pan size. A tomato paste can is a perfect heat conducter for sizes- 10, 12, and 14 inch pan. The baking core is okay but I prefer using the tomato paste can for the center.
I had angst about freezing cakes until I had no choice because I had 12 cakes to get ready for the same day and did not have any problems.
Happy Baking and Decorating

MCook Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
MCook Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 1:24pm
post #26 of 82

txkat--Please add me to the list of bakers who would like your recipes. I,too, use box mixes and add my own "extras" to jazz them up. I would love to be able to offer a couple of good scratch flavors of cake.
Where is your restaurant? I am in Central Texas area? TIA.

Fascination Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Fascination Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 2:28pm
post #27 of 82

hello Peachshortcake

Your recipe sounds awesome & easy to make,
I almost always use the Hershey Deep Dark Chocolate Recipe, but now I think I will try your recipe for an anniversary cake I need to make.


doescakestoo Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
doescakestoo Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 2:44pm
post #28 of 82

My many Thanks for the scratch cake I am trying to go back to my grandma's way of baking and she never used a box for any thing. And her cakes were awsome.

Karate Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Karate Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 2:49pm
post #29 of 82

txkat- please include me in the recipe list. I usually use box, but would love to try scratch

peachshortcake, will be trying yours this weekend.

ErinOBrien Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
ErinOBrien Posted 21 Mar 2007 , 2:56pm
post #30 of 82

What a great test! I would love to try your recipies also. They must be fabulous!

Quote by @%username% on %date%