Make or Buy? Cake Mix vs. Homemade

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Cake mix sparks a lot of debate, it seems! On the one hand, it’s fast, convenient, and reliable. But on the other hand, homemade isn’t really that much fussier and it tastes a whole lot better. Or does it?

For purposes of comparison, we’ll use Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Classic Yellow Cake Mix and our own recipe for yellow cake: Easy DIY Yellow Cake. All costs were taken from Peapod Online Grocery. In the homemade cost, we don’t account for the cost of salt or other typical pantry staples.


Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Classic Yellow Cake Mix:
Box Mix: $1.50
1/3 cup vegetable oil: $0.23
3 large eggs: $0.55

TOTAL: $2.28

Easy DIY Yellow Cake
1/2 cup butter: $1.19
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar: $0.55
3 eggs: $0.55
2 1/4 cups flour: $0.50
1 teaspoon salt: $0.00
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder: $0.00
1 1/4 cups milk: $0.37
1 teaspoon vanilla: $0.63

TOTAL: $3.79


A few years back, we did an experiment timing mixing up a bowl of boxed cake mix verses making it from scratch. You can read the complete results here, but at the end of the day, the two took almost exactly the same time: a little over five minutes.

Baking time is also almost exactly the same: about 31 minutes for the Dunan Hines (per the box) and 25-30 minutes for the homemade cake. Both should cool for about 15 minutes before eating or frosting.

Total time from start to finish for both cakes is roughly 50 minutes.


Since the preparation time for both cakes is nearly the same, it’s hard to argue that one is more convenient than the other based just on the ingredients or time saved.

Where we feel like the cake mix gets an edge over homemade is when it comes to peace of mind. We know that cake mix is going to work exactly the same every time. Even more, it will taste the same every time. (Plus, we typically dirty fewer dishes with boxed!) Unless you bake cakes frequently, it’s hard to get that same kind of consistency with homemade cakes.


Here is where the homemade gets its turn! While cake mixes have a certain nostalgic comfort-factor, they typically taste flat, sugary, and vaguely chemically while the texture leaves a lot to be desired. Cakes made from scratch just taste better: rich, buttery, and moist with lots of sweet flavor nuances that make it hard to stop eating more.

When you get down to the fine print on those cake boxes, you’ll see a handful of ingredients that don’t seem to belong. Things like polyglycerol esters of fatty acids, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, cellulose gum, and modified cornstarch. If healthfulness is a big factor in your cake consumption, this might be a winning argument for you for homemade over boxed mix.


Honestly, we could go either way with this one. The box mix is about $1.50 cheaper and requires less effort, energy, and attention. And really, the flavor isn’t that bad…just not that remarkable. Homemade cakes can sometimes be fussy, especially if you don’t make them very often, but dang! It’s hard to beat a homemade cake for flavor and texture!

OUR VERDICT: There’s a time and place for both.

What do you think?

Related: Make or Buy? Macaroni and Cheese

(Images: Peapod and Faith Durand)