The cake mix vs scratch cake debate is a somewhat controversial topic. Which is better, cake mix or scratch cakes? Well they’re both homemade, but there are good and bad points of each type of cake.
Here I break down the pros and cons of cake mix based recipes and scratch cakes and talk a little about what their best uses are, plus my thoughts on the debate.
Oh my goodness, this is a loaded question. In one corner you have a scratch cake and in the other corner you have a cake mix. Which one will win the match in the cake mix vs Scratch Cake debate?
Ok, I feel like everyone has an opinion on this and some people can really be strong-minded about it…like really get upset over it.
I hope that’s not what happens here, because I just want to get things out there and just discuss it in a rational manner. Are ya with me?
Let’s first break it down into pros and cons of each and then I’m going to give you my honest to goodness thoughts.
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PROS & CONS OF CAKE MIXES & SCRATCH CAKES:
PROS OF CAKE MIXES:
- They stay moist longer.
- Cake mixes are easy and they consistently turn out well when baked.
- Sometimes it’s just quicker.
CONS OF CAKE MIXES:
- There are a ton of preservatives in them.
- They have a box mix taste to them, even if you add in other ingredients.
- It’s not a scratch cake. (I know…this one is a lot like that Friends episode where Ross writes out his pros and cons list for Rachel and Julie and everything is stacked up against Rachel, but then there’s one line on Julie’s con list that says…She’s not Rachel. This is sort of like that.)
PROS OF SCRATCH CAKES:
- They don’t have tons of preservatives in them.
- You can’t beat the taste of a scratch cake.
- You get a really great sense of accomplishment when you make a great tasting scratch cake.
CONS OF SCRATCH CAKES:
- Sometimes, they can dry out quicker.
- Scratch cakes are a little trickier to bake. You need to know a bit about baking them and follow the instructions to the letter.
- Sometimes they can take longer to mix up.
My thoughts on the cake mix vs scratch cake debate:
You might think I’m taking the weasel way out, but basically I think this is YOUR call. Frankly your own opinion is what should matter to you on this subject, because it’s whatever your taste preference is, or what you like to bake the most. There are some really good doctored cake mixes out there that taste amazing.
Personally, I really like scratch cake. That’s what I ate the most growing up. (My Mom was in the wedding business.) I can tell when something is cake mixed based, no matter what you do to it. That doesn’t mean I think it tastes bad…I don’t. I can just tell the difference.
I think a lot of people really can’t tell the difference because most people are used to cake mixes and that’s totally fine. If I’m in a hurry, or just feel like something different, I like to use cake mix based recipes.
I really enjoy the process of baking a scratch cake though. It just gives me a huge sense of accomplishment when they turn out because sometimes they can just be finicky. A box mix is much more predictable.
So, which is better, cake mix or scratch? Does cake mix tastes better than homemade? Well, in my opinion, one is not ‘better’ than the other. It’s all about preference and how you’ll be using it.
If you’re making a carved cake, then a cake mix might not be the best option. If you’re under a pressure situation and don’t want anything to go wrong and scratch cakes just stress you out, then use a mix if that’s what you’re most comfortable with.
As far as selling cakes go: A lot of people will make others feel like they are unethical because they are selling cakes that are cake mix based. I don’t like it when others try to make people feel bad about stuff like that.
If people are buying them from you and they are in demand, then so what? It’s not just about the recipe, it’s also about the time and effort it takes to make a great looking cake.
Some cake business owners are more into the decorating of the cake, some are into organic ingredients and some are just overloaded with orders and they need to get them out quick. Each scenario is different.
If you don’t feel good about selling cakes made from a mix, then don’t do it. If you’re okay with it, then it’s totally fine. Don’t beat yourself up for it. There are plenty of cake businesses that make mix based cakes…even tons of bakeries.
Now, if you’re a purist and only want to do scratch cakes, then go for it. Use that as your branding. There are people who only want to purchase scratch cakes and so those people are your customers.
I like to think of myself as somewhere in the middle. When I was selling cakes, I only sold scratch cakes, but that is because that’s what I was comfortable with, but I am not opposed to using cake mixes and I do use them at home at times and even as a base for some recipes on the blog.
So basically I’m saying…you do you and if someone gives you a hard time because you prefer the cake mix based recipes, or scratch recipes (whichever), then they don’t have to eat your lovely confection now do they. 🙂
And just to round this post off, I’m going to link you to four recipes…two are mix based and two are scratch. If you’re up for the challenge, I challenge you to make these…just pick the flavor you like (chocolate or vanilla) and make the mix based recipe and the scratch recipe.
Yes I know that’s a lot of cake, but it’s not hard to find people that will eat cake…I do it all the time. 😉
Taste test them and figure out what you like best. Don’t worry about whether it’s mixed based or not, what do YOU like best, or what do your customers, or family like best. Then you’ll have your answer to the cake mix vs scratch cake debate.
- White Sour Cream Cake (cake mix based recipe)
- Vanilla Bean Cake (scratch cake recipe)
- Double Chocolate Sour Cream Cake (cake mix based recipe)
- Chocolate Butter Cake (scratch cake recipe)
Don’t forget to pin it for later!
I always use the White Sour Cream Cake recipe. I have used this with Lemon, white, French white and yellow and it has never failed me. In fact all my customers love the flavors and the moistness of the cake. I only use a Chocolate buttermilk scratch recipe for my chocolate cakes and it is the best recipe. I just love your blogs and all that you do. Thank you!!!!!
Hi Beth, Yep those doctored cake mix cakes are about as close as you can get to a no-fail cake. They’re dependable, you can customize them and people like them! And thanks for the lovely compliment about the blog! 🙂
Hey there, Thanks for your input. I don’t do much anymore but have most always used mixes. It’s really irratating when people ask me if I make my cakes from scratch! I hate to lie but feel it’s none of their business esp. since I’ve always been told how good my cakes are. Any advice on a good answer?
Hey Donna, yeah I totally get what you mean. You definitely don’t want to lie (and I’m sure you don’t), but I would say something like, “No, I don’t make them from scratch, but people LOVE the taste.” Or if you doctor cake recipes, you could just say, “I use a mix as the base and then customize it with the perfect ingredients and flavors and people just love the taste.” If they want only scratch cakes, then they aren’t your customer, but there WILL be people who are completely fine with it.
You know what’s funny? I said this in the post, but I think it’s so true…I don’t think most “non cakers” would actually know the difference between a doctored mix and a scratch cake. I think so many people are used to box mixes, that it would just be hard for someone to say something was a mix or scratch if you didn’t tell them. I mean, I could be wrong…it’s known to happen. 😉 Like I said, there’s no wrong way to do this…it’s just what type of cake you feel comfortable baking. Anyway, my point is I’d just be honest, but then talk about the fact that people LOVE what you do to the cakes.
There may be others who respond to your comment with some ideas on what to say as well.
I would proudly say; I made it from a mix because I prefer it rather than buying a cake from the bakery. Feel free to bake a cake from scratch and bring it over anytime!
(I bake cakes from scratch, but once in a while I simply crave that box mix taste from my childhood, the way my mom made them).
Good response Marshall!
Do you have any great cake recipes for diabetics?
Hi Alan, I wish I did have some diabetic recipes for you! I am definitely not an expert on diabetic recipes, but have been asked for them quite a bit lately, so I think I need to try and do some recipe development. I noticed that the Eating Well site has what looks like a bunch of diabetic cake recipes though…you might check that out. Sorry I couldn’t be more help!
I look forward to trying your Vanilla recipe. Up till now, l have used a rum cake recipe for a vanilla-ish cake.
Hey I love a good rum cake though! And I hope you really like the vanilla cake…I’d love to know how it goes!
I like to make from scratch chocolate cake and cupcakes! I do not prefer the taste of box mix! It’s never chocolatey enough! However I do tend to use vanilla or white cake mix – two reasons 1. I like taste and 2. Never can get a good recipe that works well and consistent
Thanks Christine for your comment! We all have our different preferences that’s for sure and I agree that cake mixes are super consistent!
I have tried a few times to make a scratch cake but they never turn out. They are always very dry and never rise well. So I stick to doctored box mix which I think tastes very good.