I have this special place in my heart for grocery stores due to the fact that I absolutely love food. The endless assortment is exciting but definitely makes it hard to choose which brand of a product to buy or simply what to buy. To avoid running into this issue when choosing a cake mix, I decided to get every brand of boxed cake mix sold at local grocers to determine once and for all which mix I should be baking.
I picked up each brand of yellow cake mix available in two grocery stores local to College Hill – Eastside Marketplace and Whole Foods. Each cake mix requires the addition of the same ingredients – water, canola oil, and eggs.
I holed myself up in my dorm’s hallway kitchen and baked all five of the mixes that I bought, following the directions on their respective boxes. Vigorously stirring five cake mixes by hand for 2-5 minutes each adds up to a sore arm and cramped hands. Three and a half hours and 78 cupcakes later, I was exhausted but done baking.
I then recruited friends to perform the final taste-test. Not surprisingly, my friends willingly volunteered, no begged, to taste the cupcakes. In order to get a full set of data, participants ranked the cupcakes from 1 (best) to 5 (worst) as well as comment on flavor, texture, and appearance.
So where does each brand stand?
Average Rank: 4.04
Appearance: “Brown,” “Off color,” “Small”
Flavor: “Coconutty,” “Weirdly coconutty,” “No flavor”
Texture: “Gummy,” “Dense,” “Not fluffy”
This cake mix was the least popular because it didn’t taste like cake. Most people thought the flavor was overwhelmingly coconutty for a yellow cake mix. This mix is best summed up by one participant’s quote: “more like a muffin than a cupcake.”
Average Rank: 3.32
Appearance: “White AF,” “Weirdly mountain shaped,” “Beautifully yellow”
Flavor: “Meh aftertaste,” “Mixed feelings about this”
Texture: “Dry,” “Crumbly,” “Tough consistency”
For starters, this mix only made a dozen cupcakes rather than the standard two dozen. The cupcakes baked with strangely high mounds in the center and tasted very dry. Although I could have overbaked these cupcakes and made them dry, I fault the mix for its poorly written directions. Buy this mix if you only want to make a dozen cupcakes. But let’s be realistic; who opts for fewer cupcakes?
3: Duncan Hines
Average Rank: 3.29
Appearance: “Nicely yellow,” “Large and rounded”
Flavor: “Less sweet than the rest,” “Flavorless,” “Seems healthy”
Texture: “Soft like a cloud,” “Very fluffy,” “Light,” “Moist”
This cake mix is more buttery than the others and less sweet. It’s not ideal for consumption alone, but in some ways the lack of sweetness makes the cupcake pair perfectly with the sweetest of frostings. Grab the Duncan Hines mix if you’re looking to make your frosting the star of your dessert.
Average Rank: 2.30
Appearance: “Yellow in the best way,” “Cracked on top”
Flavor: “Sugary,” “More syrupy,” “Very buttery”
Texture: “Sticky,” “Light, fluffy,” “Hollow”
This mix was second best by a very slim margin. Most people really liked it because it was the sweetest of all of the mixes. It tasted unhealthy in a way that reminded people of birthday parties and celebrations. If you crave a sweeter cake with a syrupy consistency, go for the Pillsbury mix.
And the winner is…..
1: Betty Crocker
Average Rank: 1.96
Appearance: “Yellow,” “Cracked,” “Tall, nicely shaped”
Flavor: “Just right sweetness wise,” “Not too sweet”
Texture: “Moist,” “Light,” “Airy, full,” “Crumbly yet sticky,” “Fluffy”
This cake was universally loved. Many people could not pinpoint why it was better than the rest but simply knew by its taste that it was their favorite. Betty Crocker seems to have created the ideal cake mix blend – a perfect balance of sweet and savory, moist and dry, sticky and crumbly. This mix really takes the cake!
Although Betty Crocker won the taste test, each brand had its own merits. If you are looking to please a crowd, go with Betty Crocker cake mix. If you like butterier cupcakes or are looking for a healthier option, go outside of popular opinion and buy a different mix.