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All your boxed cake mix questions answered. This is the best guide for what types of cake mix to choose. What cake mix is the most chocolaty? What cake mix has the best rise? I’m answering all your questions.
Listen, it’s no secret that we use a lot of cake mix around here. Why? Because I think anyone should be able to make something amazing and if that means you need to start with a cake mix, that’s okay with me. In general, we are not just making a cake mix and slapping some canned frosting on it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever did that. I generally alter my cake mixes in some way shape and form. If you don’t like cake mix, that’s okay to, because I am sure you have a favorite homemade cake you can substitute.
Given the amount of baking I’ve done in the past four years, I definitely have my preferred brands, and sometimes I’ll even specify that for you. So this post is meant to be a deep dive into variety of cake mixes that are available and to see how each one is different from one another.
Let’s just take a moment and talk about ALL the cakes I made in one day- which also meant all the taste testing. I had cake spread out over all of my counter. I should have planned better when the beau was here to help me. After all he pretty much only eats chocolate cake and Rice Krispie Treats. Anyway.
All cake mixes offer a wide variety of flavors and some that have pudding in the mix. There’s always a chocolate, vanilla and even a devils food, but than there’s different variations of Funfetti, maybe a lemon or red velvet. For the purposes of this test, we’re talking Devil’s Food and we’re working with the top three: Betty Crocker, Pillsbury and Duncan Hines.
There are certainly other brands available such as Ghirardelli, King Arthur Flour, Jiffy or even a generic store brand, but I felt that these were the top 3 most common brands when it comes to cake mix.
I often get asked questions about how many cupcakes each box makes because people feel that is varies between brands. So I will update this post at a later time. Otherwise you can definitely check out my tips for baking cupcakes where I talk about how much batter for each cupcake and the different types of pans that are available.
For the purposes of this experiment, I used only the ingredients called for on the box: water, oil and eggs. All three boxes were 15.25 ounces / 432 grams but each one varied in the liquid ingredients that are required.
Betty Crocker: 1 ¼ cup water, ½ cup vegetable oil and 3 large eggs
Pillsbury: 1 cup water, ½ cup vegetable oil and 3 large eggs
Duncan Hines: 1 cup water 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 3 large eggs
How does this affect the actual batter? Well, here are my findings:
Betty Crocker cake mix was by far the thinnest, due to extra ¼ cup of water. In fact, when I measured out the amount of batter in each prepared cake mix, there was an extra 1 cup of prepared batter in this box.
The Pillsbury batter was the darkest in color, so it’s no surprise when you see my conclusion that this was the most chocolately flavored cake.
The Duncan Hines batter what the thickest, which makes sense because it has the least amount of liquid.
Usually, a boxed mixed can be baked in a 9-inch by 13-inch pan or two 9-inch rounds. In my kitchen, I normally bake with 8-inch round pans, which results in a thicker/taller cake. For this post, I tested these cake mixes in two different ways and it should be noted that I did NOT use my beloved bake even stripes.
One tip I have is that I always grease my pans with Crisco and line the bottom with parchment paper. This helps ensure the cake releases easily from the pans. It’s also nice because when I am cooling the cakes on the wire rack, the bottom of the cake won’t stick since it is lined with parchment paper. It also makes it easier to transport from surface to surface.
Test 1: 9-inch round pan using 1 ½ cups of batter for each cake mix. Each cake baked for 19 minutes. As opposed to dividing the batter in half (because not each cake mix had the same amount of liquid batter), I wanted to control the amount of batter in each pan.
Test 2: Two 8-inch pans using 1 ¾ cups batter for each cake mix. Each one baked for 19 minutes except for Duncan Hines, which needed an extra 2 minutes.
So what were are my conclusion?
Betty Crocker: In both tests, the Better Crocker has the least amount of rise on the cake, which again might be due to the increased liquid in the batter.
Referring back to the 9-inch cake, the Betty Crocker had the most compact crumb but I also felt like it had the most air bubbles with Duncan Hines being a heavy competitor.
When I baked a second batch (8-inch cakes) of Betty Crocker, I did this test twice because I wanted to do a test using half the batter ( 2 cups & 2 tablespoons) but you can see it is significantly higher/taller because there the additional liquid batter.
Pillsbury: The Pillsbury cake had the best chocolate flavor. In both cases, the Pillsbury one baked most unevenly, meaning that it needs to be “torted” if you are making a layer cake. Torted is a fancy word for cutting off the dome of the cake.
Duncan Hines: The Duncan Hines cake had the lightest and fluffiest texture and it was also the most moist cake mix. This was surprising to me given that the batter was the thickest. This cake also has the most cocoa flavor, which is not to be confused with the best chocolate flavor (looking at you Pillsbury). This cake also had the best rise. It should also be noted that Duncan Hines is a Wilton approved cake mix that is used in their test kitchens.
You really can’t go wrong with any of these cake mixes, but I would make your judgments based on what you’re looking for in a cake mix. Do you have more questions? Please let me know!
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