The Chatty Difference
The first cake mix came out in 1930 and back then they included very simple, benign ingredients. That was then, this is now.
Scratch v Box mix
Not only are the ingredients of these two types of cake very different, but there is a difference—a big difference—in the taste and texture of cakes made from scratch and those made from a cake mix.
Does the difference matter?
It depends on:
* What you’ve been used to
* What matters to you in your food
* What are your baking goals
Ella would say I’ve become a snob when it comes to baked goods. At this point, it’s very easy to identify cakes made from cake mixes because they include enzymes, hydrogenated oil, trans fats, emulsifiers, preservatives, artificial flavors and colors, lots of salt, and lots of sugar...and it all impacts the way the cake turns out.
Are they all bad?
Well, the average boxed cake mix in grocery stores today includes preservatives such as propylene glycol, which is also used in e-cigarettes and antifreeze. They also include artificial colors and flavorings, such as tartrazine, which has been linked to ADHD disorders;
Monocalcium phosphate, which is used as a levening agent and it's also found in fertilizers.
So yes, they can be.
The obvious benefits of cake mixes are that they are:
*Easy to use
Box mixed cakes are different. There are so many different ingredients in a cake mix, but it's the Xanthan Gum, though, that is quickly noticeable in the texture of the batter. For lack of a better word (and I used a thesaurus to try and find a better word to no avail) it creates a slimier batter. It's needed to combine all the additives--preservatives, and emulsifiers--together, otherwise your batter wouldn't mix together.
For baking, these emulsifiers and enzymes make the box cake "puff up" quickly, so the cake is much lighter in weight. [We've weighed our cupcakes and for example, our chocolate cupcakes weigh almost twice as much as box chocolate cupcake. It's the difference between artificial chocolate flavoring and real chocolate going into the cake].
Though I'll admit that the boxed cake's "puffiness" makes them feel very moist initially. Additives in the mixes make the cake saltier with the need to add more sugar to hide the artificial flavors.
Scratch cakes are very different.
They are more dense with a much richer taste. Less sugar and salt is necessary because there is no artificialness to hide. The ingredients are simple and therefore allow the true flavor--whether it's Vanilla, Chocolate, Almond, Lemon, etc--to be the primary taste.
We realize that generations have now grown up with the boxed cake mix and to an extent have become used to the taste and texture as being "cake." It has become an acquired taste. but knowing the difference should help identify the "value" in your baked goods.
Cost of Cakes:
The price of cakes should be very different if a baker is using a boxed cake mix versus baking from scratch with pure ingredients. Cake mixes are pennies vs. the cost of fresh eggs, butter, chocolates, pure flavorings, etc. Time is also a factor. A cake mix has no process--open box, add water, a couple eggs, and toss into the oven. A scratch cake always has a process that must be followed--measure, sift, mix slowly, etc.
My final advice? Know what you're getting.
If you're paying for "bakery" cakes, you should be getting your money's worth--real cakes made from scratch, fresh ingredients, not scratch cake prices for box mixes.