Beat the Box: Is a Box Mix Really Faster?

published Apr 2, 2008
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In February, many of you said that you still used box mixes because they were faster than scratch. So, we challenged you to bake two cakes side-by-side, one from scratch and one from a mix, and send us photos, promising to post whatever the results were. But no one took us up on it!

And so we decided to complete the challenge ourselves, and find out which is faster – baking from scratch, or baking from the box?

To make things as fair as possible, we consulted a friend who swears by box mixes. She recommended that we choose one that advertised “pudding in the mix,” preferably Pillsbury, saying it had the best flavor and texture. To make things even more fair, we chose a new recipe – Faith’s DIY Yellow Cake, so that we wouldn’t have the advantage of familiarity.

Each cake was baked into one 9-inch layer, and 12 cupcakes. Before we began, we buttered and floured both pans, preheated the oven, and made sure the butter was softened. Then we started the timer.

We creamed the butter and sugar, then added the eggs, flour, salt, and baking powder, let the mixer run for about 3 minutes, and then poured it into the pan. Stop the timer. 5 minutes and 25 seconds

Next the mix. We combined the package, 1/3 cup butter, 1 cup water, and 3 eggs. Everything was blended together, then mixed on medium.for 2 minutes exactly. And the timer said? 5 minutes and 12 seconds. A whopping difference of 13 seconds.

Don’t believe it? Check the timers.

But how did they taste? We attempted to conduct a blind taste test, but the bright yellow color and distinctive mix taste gave everything away. The box cake also domed, while the scratch cake baked evenly, which we prefer for decoration purposes.

Box mix on the left, from scratch on the right

Our fellow taste-tester agreed that there was something appealing about the box mix. Its sweet taste was so reminiscent of childhood, and great birthday parties.

But as we chewed, a gummy chemical flavor started to emerge. It was faint, and we could see how you could easily get accustomed to it, but it was there.

The from-scratch cake had a much lighter and not-too-sweet flavor. It was moist and airy, with an even crumb. A nice, solid cake.

Before the morning was over though, we’d polished off a cupcake from each batch. The flavor from the scratch cake was better, but the cake mix was a serious competitor.

So the verdict? A difference of a mere 13 seconds, and far fewer chemicals.

We say, scratch cake wins!

Test it For Yourself!

Time yourself making a scratch cake and your favorite box mix.
Send us pictures of the results, and your thoughts on the flavor and ease of each, and we’ll post it.

Need easy from-scratch recipes?