A cake-mix a home-made cake doesn’t make! Or does it? Take the poll!

I realize that the title is controversial, and would love to hear your thoughts!

A couple of weekends ago I was out in a  beautiful Swiss village visiting a very nice household wares shop. I could spend a day in there: stroking bone china, admiring cake decorating sets and coveting pricey  Japanese kitchen knive-sets. To save money I usually only go there with a chaperone…..

IMG_3494On a whim I popped by some friends of mine.  A couple who loves to eat and live well. They have two very cute children and the mom has a heart of gold and on top of that looks like a harder-working version of Angelina Jolie…..

During my visit they were preparing for their daughters 6th birthday party.  Remembering the parties of my childhood I expect 20 kids with a magician in tow to arrive at any minute.  Looking around for a big cake with frosting, and little gift-wrapped give away leaving gifts I spot cupcakes. In lieu of a complex cake with frosting and ballerinas and mermaids on top there were cup-cakes covered in sprinkles –  all identically sized, cup-cake clones. Looking as though someone measured out everything with great attention to detail. The dad, who is an architect, and “designed” the cupcakes has, he told me, made at least 1000 cupcakes since they have had kids. I asked about the recipe, and somewhat shame-faced he said “Leisi” . For some reason his daughter loves  chocolate cake from the package…he was loathe to admit it, but there it is. Goes to show that gourmets are made not always born.

To note, cakes in cartons,  only really caught on here in the last 5 years and only because the ones on offer were ones we didn’t have here: brownies, devils food , chocolate chip cookie that kind of thing. Historically as a nation of simple farmers (yes that was before banking and watches) the conviction that a good woman looks after her family by cooking wholesome food from scratch is still held dear. During the wars being a neutral country Swiss men didn’t get drafted into service to the same extent they did in other countries and so women didn’t go to work in place of the men, meaning that the solid “olde-style” values were in a better position to survive here. Depending on the type of woman you are this either great or not so great, in the work-place I vote (emphatically) for not so great. However, still today, thanks to the economic stability of the country, Swiss women have the luxury of being able to work part-time if they wish, usually when they have kids,  or not at all. In summary this ends up meaning that in  Switzerland a cake made from cake-mix doesn’t count as home-made. This brings me to an anecdote in the US, I was at a party in Washington D.C. talking to another woman, and discussing baking, and we both discovered we love being in the kitchen.  I commented on the weird, to me, observation that many of my American friends rate pre-prepared food which has been minimally altered at home as being solidly home-made. The lady looked at me as though I had said something very strange, which I guess I had,  and said “Oh, but of course; I always make my home-made brownies using cake-mix” – I was deeply embarrassed, although not as much as when talking to another American lady about beef, I said that in my opinion American corn-fed beef tastes good but is too fatty, and that I prefer European style or South American style grass-fed beef. The answer to that was “I have never been outside the United States, so I really wouldn’t know”

Since then I am careful when voicing my opinions. But not here and not today. So I bring this discussion to a party near DC – ladies, and gentlemen of Fiesta Friday,  I look forward to your answers 🙂


42 thoughts on “A cake-mix a home-made cake doesn’t make! Or does it? Take the poll!

  1. I have made with shop mix and never really liked but some love the taste but it’s not really home made is it however I think parents need to do in their life what makes things easier for them and so be it if they buy shop mix at least they did a bit of it 🙂 each to their own I suppose it’s semi home made lol x

  2. It all depends on where the pre mix comes from. Certain deli type places does a brownie mix so well it is stupid to go buy all the ingredients. If I switched on the stove to make it then I have made it!

    • Dear Flippenblog – takes a lawyer to lay it out so neatly! Interesting approach, depends where it came from, I guess it might do if you get a delitype mix, never seen that before, but then we’ve established this kind of thing is not en vogue here! I like your conclusion – if I switched on the stove to make it I have made it!

      • Hehe! Especially if you switch on the stove at 11 at night when you have time for these type of things! Also if there is a spatula to lick, who made it?!

      • aha the tried and true spatula test! it comes down to the definition of make – is make the activity or merely the inanimate starting substance – if we are arguing make is the activity, which I think we can agree on then yes you made it – at home – so home-made – however, for me if someone serves me a home-made cake mix made cake I feel unloved 🙂 – sad but true. As though I didnt warrant pulling out all the stops and making a proper cake 🙂

      • Aahhhh my dear Watson but I did not go and buy a whole cake. I made the bought cake mix and therefor thought of you. It is all in the evidence see!

      • aah – I see well then of course its all ok :)!
        And there I was thinking that instead of going out and buying a cake-mix and thinking of me, what had really transpired in your mind was the following short story:

        Flippenblog is tidying her files and arranging flowers, tumti tumti tum. When suddenly the computer goes PLING and reminds her that in 15 minutes Polianthus is coming to tea. Flippenblog thinks: “Züt alors, zere is a person coming to tea – I forgot….hm wot to do, wot to do????”
        ” Let me check ze storage cupboards 🙂 and mix togezzer a cake so I can lick the spatula and fill ze house with lovely homemade cake-baking smells, that should do it!”

        ” 15 minutes later – the cake is almost finished. Voila. The polianthus lady arrives 15 minutes late, because the Swiss timekeeping thing doesnt work equally well for all people and ze house smells like a bakery, divine.

        But of course my story is all wrong because you planned ahead! Silly me -happy Sunday 🙂

      • Ha! And don’t forget dear Il DottoreI went and bought you beautiful flowers for the “high” tea. There we have it. Truce and we shall eat cake!

  3. Spending whole day in a household wares shop? I would love that and I could really spend my whole day there, checking everything they have (and wishing I have enough cash to buy whatever I want). 😀

    And about the issue of homemade, let me think about that… According to my understanding homemade means making anything from scratch. So what about using cake mix at home? Can’t you call that homemade? It’s made at home, right? 😀 Okay, I’m not making any sense! I think Justine’s right – it can be called semi-homamade. 😀

    • Hi Jhuls – you can see why the important stuff doesnt get done, as I spend all my time stroking china and like you wishing I had enough cash to buy whatever strikes my fancy! for me homemade is made from scratch too, now it depends where from scratch starts 🙂 – semi-homemade appears to be a pleasing compromise!

      • Hahaha! Stroking seems to be the thing I enjoy doing when no enough cash is available. 😀 These cupcakes look delicious, btw! 🙂

      • oh an ATM card is cash? isnt it, so is a credit card, a birth-certificate, my favourite watch?? I walked out with a brioche pan – I have never made brioche, I dont like it particularly, it cannot decide what it wants to be when it grows up, but the pan was cute, and now I have it..

  4. I grew up in a household where all baking and cooking was prepared from scratch; my Mum never used – and still never uses – a cake mix. The convenience of cake mixes – especially for parents or anyone with a really busy household – cannot be equalled, and they really do taste delicious, but I agree with those that feel they’re not truly homemade – just “semi.” I still prefer to make cakes from scratch, like my Mum. 🙂

    • Hi Sheryl – thanks for commenting – it seems there are a lot of from scratch bakers out there! I have only ever eaten 1 cake made from mix that I am aware of (in Milan would you believe) – and it was lighter and fluffier than normal cake but somehow also a bit artificial tasting – I guess to Flippenblogs point not all cake mixes are created equal!

  5. I have made cornbread from gluten-free cake mix, adding the corn, raisins, eggs and milk to the mix. And I’ve used gluten-free pancake too. With all the work it takes in my kitchen, you bet it’s home-made. We who are challenged at this cooking/baking stuff need all the help we can get.

  6. I like to make my cakes from scratch too but sometimes when you are really in a rush, the cake mixes do make it a little bit easier. However if you think about it the only step that it eliminates is the measuring step – where you need to measure the flour etc and sieve them. So just for a little bit of time save, do we really need all the artificial chemicals/ingredients etc? – that’s what I ask myself and so usually go the ‘all home’ route! But good question!

    • Hi Indu -lovely to have you comment as well 🙂 – thanks for your take – you raise an excellent point, at least I think so – the simplest cakes have flour, baking powder, sugar and butter in them – I guess the in the bag mix only needs you to add milk and water, so there must be some “butter” in there in some form, but overall the big time waster is the mixing and the waiting on the oven the measuring out ingredients doesn’t take more than 10 minutes, almost as long as opening up that bag of cake mix? And I also distrust the artificial stuff in there, if possible prefer to go without any additives that I cannot easily say the name of 🙂 happy tuesday

  7. OK, I just have to weigh in on this one because I have a long held opinion about cake mixes. I use them, not because they are that much faster (maybe saves 3 minutes of measuring out flour, baking powder…), but because they seem to produce more tender cakes. –on the other hand some cakes need to be made from scratch when you want a more sturdy cake with some texture– carrot cakes, apple cakes, nutty cakes… AND I draw the line when it comes to frosting. It must be homemade with lots of butter and cream– the frosting in a tin tastes like chemicals.

    So, sadly, I’m not a completely baking from scratch Swiss baker– just an American who uses cake mixes. (But my grandmother’s family immigrated from Bern!)

    P.S.– you made me laugh out loud with the comment about taking a chaperone to the cooking store. Not a bad idea!

    • Hello dear Rhonda – thanks so much for weighing in – is that a pun? – it might be…anyway – the cake out of a box that someone offered me recently was a lot tenderer than the sturdier homemade ones, I agree, I figured it was because there is more cornflour in the box mix which would be more delicate. It seems like your homemade cakes cover pretty much all eventualities, not sure what is left in the box mix if you make carrot, apple nutty cakes from scratch.

      On the topic of frosting out of a tin – you couldn’t find that here for love or money 🙂

      Interesting to me to read that people make cakes out of the box because of their texture/flavour – that would have to be an acceptable argument in my book, its all about the pleasure at the end of the day.

      Re the chaperone in the cooking store – sadly he wasnt with me last time so I now own a very beautiful very expensive porcelain brioche mould (and I dont like brioche but I loved the shape….) at least I know what I work for 🙂

  8. I took an apple crumble cake to a dinner party and when it was cut I realised that the apple slices were still a bit firm (the apple variety must have been robust!). I mentioned this and an American guest practically fell off her chair – “You mean you used fresh apples?” It had never occurred to her that anyone would use anything other than a tin of apple pie filling. Gross! I detest packet mix cake – it all tastes of synthetic vanilla and does making a simple cake really take anymore time and effort?

    • “you mean you used fresh apples?” ok I just laughed so hard that I almost fell of my chair…and I was heard rooms away…hm – apple pie filing really, out of the tin? Never come across it yet, seems like pumpkin pie filling, easier to just chop and make yourself or steam and puree – I think making a simple cake is as fast as using cake mix, but I haven’t ever used one they never appealed, much like McDonalds or ready made frozen packaged meals I never saw the point. I guess I am not in the right demographic

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