Hello everyone. This is just a discussion for my own interest. I always bake my cakes from scratch. Several reasons - primarily because a member of my family has a nut allergy and this is the only way I can be certain of safety for him. Another is because it's the way I was brought up! But I notice that quite a few people seem to use cake mixes, particularly in the US (am I right?). Is this because of the ease of making, or the wide variety of flavour options? I would be very interested to get your opinions on the pros and cons of these and should I start using them? And how do they taste? btw, I did try a Tesco cake mix the other day and it was vile!
I too was brought up in a scratch baking family. It was also a family of stay at home mom's. Working full time in nursing, raising three children, dealing with my husband's paralysis, volunteering throughout the school years and trying to fulfill my artistic cravings through countless crafty ventures left me much less time to bake...if I wanted to sleep at all!
I'm not familiar with Tesco as it is not readily available in the US. We do have several good brands including Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker. I frequently use mixes, primarily for the ease and consistency of results. However, I use them for a base for added extenders, other ingredients to make the cake flavor and density that I desire for each cake. I absolutely LOVE the book Duncan Hines Cake Mix Magic - 125 Easy Desserts...Good as Homemade. The introduction answers your question better than I possible could so I will quote a pertinent bit here.
"As the hours of free time available for baking decrease in today's hectic world, a baker's need for shortcuts that don't sacrifice quality increases. Anyone who bakes from scratch knows that not only can be time-consuming, but it can also end up in disappointing results. I love to bake from scratch but if there is a convenience food that saves me time and still meets my high standards for quality, I'm happy to use it as part of my baking. I call it speedy scratch baking! Starting with a Duncan Hines cake mix is the perfect shortcut you're looking for. You're off to a good start when you start with the best. Since the cake mix ingredients are premeasured accurately and are consistently reliable, starting with a mix saves many preparation steps like measuring, sifting and creaming. A cake mix also cuts down considerably on the number of ingredients you need to create a dazzling dessert. You can still add some of the wonderful rich, flavorful ingredients like eggs, sour cream, butter, nuts, chocolate and fruits to give the cake that "homemade" distinction and taste that no bakery cake can match. The tolerance of cake mixes is another bonus, greatly reducing the risk of a disaster dessert. Mixes are formulated to withstand minor variations such as overmixing, undermixing, oven temperature variations, measuring utensil discrepancies, different mixers and pans and a variety of added ingredients. You are almost guaranteed to be proud of your masterpiece."
The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn is also a "must have" for the busy baker! It offers 175 fast, foolproof recipes that cover most any cake you can imagine.
For me, mixes are a lifesaver. And I've NEVER had ANYTHING but praise for the looks and TASTE of my cakes. I hope this helps you as well.
Memory Makers Cakes
Wow - awesome reply Rosemary, thank you so much! It seems this Duncan Hines thing is the one to go for. although not easily accessible in stores here, I see I can get in online. We only have some very basic Betty Crocker mixes available (carrot cake for example). The Duncan Hines book sounds very interesting too, so I might see if that is available here (at a sensible cost!). We do seem to pay a lot more for cake making things here than over your side of the pond! Thanks again.x
I would suggest Half Price Books, Amazon.com or eBay for the book. I've found it and numerous others at great prices. In fact I got the Duncan Hines slightly used for about $9 (retails for $18.95 US) on amazon with free shipping! If you are only getting one book I would suggest the Cake Doctor first because it provides many more varieties based on basic vanilla, yellow and chocolate mixes. You can use any brand mix you desire and get great results...except maybe your Tesco LOL!
Thanks again Rosemary. I had a quick look at Amazon.co.uk (.com shipping prices are mental to the UK!) and found the Duncan Hines book for around £5 (bargain!). I'll also check out the Cake Doctor one. xx