Unpopular Opinion About Box Cakes

I’m leery of it because these mixes are put together with rigid scientific accuracy - although I’m tempted to add lemon to a white cake mix. I am suspicious of lemon cake mixes because here, I think the chemical taste might be pronounced and I like to control the product.

But if you have additions that work for you, I’d be interested to hear about them.

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There is a cookbook called The Cake Doctor. The entire book uses cake mixes as a launch pad to more involved cake recipes. My wife has a copy.

The only add ins my wife uses have been dried fruit, nuts, chocolate bits or extracts that I recall. But this cookbook takes mixes to another level.

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I have my tried and false. :grin:

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All this talk of cake reminded me of another Hungry Onion thread, about the cake mix ladies who bake from boxed mixes in rural Alaska. The short story is that cake mixes make sweet treats possible in these remote communities. Resourceful bakers adapt the box mixes to use ingredients and add-ins they have on hand.

I also remembered a pistachio pudding cake that was popular back in the 1970’s, I think? If memory serves, said dessert involved yellow cake mix combined with a box of pistachio pudding mix. My aunt wowed the family when she introduced us to that cake!

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Thanks for linking that! I enjoyed it when first posted and enjoyed it again.

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Thanks for posting that. The OP hit upon the essence of my issues w/people who look down on cake mixes: “really puts things in perspective; made me realize how much of a food snob i’ve become.”

Food snobbery. I detest it, probably because I indulged in it when I was younger & I feel guilty. As a Boomer I’m from the first mass generation of food snobs.

While some of our concepts are valid, most are ludicrous. Iceberg lettuce got put in the dungeon - now it’s back. Now it’s OK to cook your string beans to mush, just as long as you drown them in expensive olive oil and splash them with lemon juice… Crisco will kill you (a little of it won’t - it’s better than butter for greasing pans…)

The list goes on. I’m tired of it all.

The only bad diet is one that doesn’t provide proper caloric and nutritional needs. Beyond that, eat what you like.

I may start another unpopular opinion thread: browned butter.

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Before I starting baking and for a good deal of trial and error after, I was completely sure I’d never bake anything worth eating.

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I too feel that mixes have their place in our lives. I love the Ghirardelli brownie mix for a quick result. I also make a rum cake using boxed butter recipe cake mix that never has any leftovers when I take it to a gathering. My sister just baked an ombre box mix with homemade icing for a familly birthday that really hit the spot.

Each of us has the reasons we pick whether to bake from scratch, or use a mix. Each is equally valid. I would never disparage or discourage either path.

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Nor would I. Time is a luxury all its own.

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I think some of us go through phases of being more food snobby and less food snobby.

Some of us might be snobbier about some ingredient, foods or restaurants than others.

I am not snobby about cake mix or purchased frosting.

There are all sorts of items I splurge on, or choose, or avoid. I enjoy my share of commercial cakes and cookies- from a mix or from a store.

Sometimes I crave something like a TastyKake or a Vachon cake (a Cdn brand of snack cake), and homemade won’t do the trick. Homemade Oreos (some people make them up here, recipes are online) are missing the crunch and whatever commercial ingredients that make Oreos taste the way they taste.

I’m privileged to be able to make those splurges and choices.

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Gotta say, these NYT suggestions for topping a brownie look pretty tasty.

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These Crack Brownies are decadent. I made them for a friend’s 50th birthday.

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My son would enjoy those!

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Ghirardelli brownie mix. A few years ago, they changed the names on their several varieties. You want the dark chocolate one that contains chips/chunks. I use melted virgin coconut oil for the oil part, and add walnuts. They are spectacularly good.

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I remember, quite some years back, I think on America’s Test Kitchen, that they did blind taste tests of basic cakes made from mixes and from scratch. The mix cake won. Additives and oil keep them moister and give them a better crumb. The taste of scratch cakes benefits from butter, but they dry out, so are best consumed the day they are made.

Somewhere, I have one of the cookbooks by Ann Byrn, the “Cake Mix Doctor”. Her recipes combine box mixes with various add-ins and frostings to elevate the results. They are very appealing. Used copies are readily available for under $5.00.

I find canned frostings far too sweet but when making frosting for carrot cake, I mix whipped cream cheese with canned vanilla frosting, tasting until I get the correct balance of taste and texture.

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There’s someone who doesn’t?? :rofl:

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Ah - or a Hostess orange cupcake. Eat the squiggle first!!

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Kind of the same thing as leftover wine.

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That’s another think I like about my boxed brownies. I have topped them with dulce du leche, cream cheese, raspberry jam, crushed pretzels. So much bang for the buck, and quick and easy.

And honestly, sometimes chocolate lovers really aren’t hard to please. Anything that has any hint of chocolate flavor is a hit with them.

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And I bet box cakes are even better now than they were a few years ago. There’s a ton of R&D involved in engineering mixes to have maximum fluff, moisture, and body. No one can replicate this in a home kitchen.

Since writing my grump, I’ve done some more research and I’ve discovered that there is a “bake-off point” at which the essence itself will degrade. Not the alcohol - the actual essence, for example, the vanillin in vanilla. So, as you read that irresistible recipe about the food bloggers perfect white vanilla cake, which requires you to buy expensive specialty ingredients, be prepared for disappointment. (Or add a teaspoon of butter-vanilla bakery emulsion.)

Again, food is emotional. If you “taste the chemicals” in a box cake, well, I have “tasted the chemicals” in any number of so-called natural foods. I am one of those cilantro-haters. It’s the aldehydes… and my genes.

Back to vanilla - cards on the table - I can’t stand imitation vanilla. Yes, I can taste the chemicals. But maybe that’s because imitation vanilla is simply junk, and I should try a better grade of bakery emulsion. I might well try that as an experiment. For science, I’d make a scratch cake. :wink:

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold