Unpopular Opinion About Box Cakes

I like this idea. Quick and easy for those times when you don’t have time. It seems like what we’re all saying is, it comes down to taste, and what you can do to have something delicious on that table, spending a “right” amount of time doing it. For some things, it can take longer because the taste payout is better, or it can be shorter, because the taste payout is better.

Good point.

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.)

Addendum to above. I wrote to Lorann Oils & they corrected me. The bake-off point is the point where the alcohol bakes off. I wrote them asking if there is a bake-off point where the vanilla (or lemon, or cinnamon, or whatever) bakes off & I am awaiting their reply.

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I would think (I’m very unsure), that if there was a reasonable baking temperature that caused vanillin to degrade, any artificial vanilla would suffer the same fate at a similar temperature.

Regarding “tasting the chemicals”, boxed biscuit mix (boxed scone mix, for the other side of the ocean) has always tasted very chemical-y to me. I haven’t had the same problem with cakes, or at least not to the same extent.

PS: Our friend Wikipedia claims that vanillin melts at 81°C (178°F) and boils at 285°C (545°F). Presumably if your cake is reaching an internal temp of 545, you’ll be worried about more than just whether the vanilla flavour has persisted. :grin:

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How does raw cake batter compare with raw chocolate chip cookie dough? :sunglasses:

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I’ve been there.

I actually have made a great Kahlua bundt cake starting out with a mix.

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When I was catering we always used Ghirardelli boxed brownies, usually made in half sheet pans. Our most popular were Baseball Brownies. We topped the brownies with peanuts, popcorn and pretzels.

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Oh, that combo sounds very kid friendly! Did you use one package for a half sheet pan? I must admit, I’ve never baked any kind of brownie or cake in a half sheet pan before.

Some 50 years ago it was popular to add a package of instant pudding mix to a cake mix, along with sherry or a liquour, resulting in a super moist bundt cake. This recipe is a good one, although the original one did not include chopped nuts.

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uh-oh, what do you have against browned butter?

Nothing. I love it. I think the taste is awesome. I just think it’s funny when people go nuts over a particular ingredient and then put it in everything. Chocolate chip cookie dough, for example. If you’re going to use browned butter at least let it solidify.

In thinking about this I’ve changed my mind to:

Go for it.

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I honestly don’t remember how many packages. We bought the giant boxes at Costco and I know we used at least 2 bags. I think the instructions are on the box. I do recall that we lowered the oven temperature and increased the bake time but I don’k now the exact numbers.

Looking forward to reading about your results.

Perhaps the most suitable thing for baseball is a bunt cake.

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I can actually taste the difference between boxed brownie mix and scratch from my favorite auntie’s recipe, but do I turn my nose up at the boxed? Absolutely not- they’re awesome. And you’re totally right about having to gather up the ingredients, in your situation it wouldn’tmake any sense.

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Even at home I may buy a box mix when I plan ahead to make brownies (or a cake, or muffins). I don’t keep boxes in stock.

That is entirely different in my mind from cooking or baking out of the pantry. For brownies butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, chocolate/cocoa of various sorts, flour, and salt are shelf stable and–importantly can be used for a myriad of products. A box mix is generally only good for whatever is pictured on the front. Flexibility is a good thing.

When the snow flies and the furnace struggles to keep up it is time to throw open the pantry and ruminate over “what shall I make?”

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There are many households without enough storage space or money to maintain a stocked pantry. For people who live paycheck to paycheck, even though baking from scratch is ultimately more economical, boxed mixes may be the more feasible form of home cooking.

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Weren’t box mixes promoted as a timesaver when the market began? Like pudding, jello, cookies, cakes and muffin mixes I thought the bigger allure was time savings. Today, a (some) convenience mixes are as pricey as steak.

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

― Jonathan Gold