Growing up with a mom who loved cooking and baking, we never really baked using boxed mixes. We always started from scratch and ended up with delicious baked goods. She was the mom that always signed up to bring in food for any class holiday, just as an excuse to show off her amazing cooking skills.

However, there was always so much work that went into each of her treats, along with so much cleanup. Half the work of baking was washing all the dishes, putting away the flour on the top shelf of the pantry, and trying not to mess up the recipe.

Recently, I began to wonder if all this extra work was really worth it, or if boxed cakes and canned frostings tasted just as good. There are so many big brand names producing cake mixes, each boasting a claim of a homemade taste. So, I decided to test this theory by baking two cakes, one from scratch, and one from a box. Because, of course, science.

The Experiment  

For my experiment, I decided that for my "from scratch" cake, I would use my favorite chocolate cake and chocolate frosting recipe. You can find the cake recipe here and the frosting recipe here. I'll admit, these recipes are incredibly simple. However, the icing requires both an electric mixer and softened butter (and who ever remembers to take out the butter beforehand?).

Julia Palace

As for the boxed cake, I used a Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake, and I frosted it with Classic Chocolate Frosting. I followed the directions on the box, adding 3 eggs, 1/3 cup of oil, and half of a cup water. 

Julia Palace

The Results

Visually, the cake that I baked from scratch had a much darker, richer color compared the the Duncan Hines Cake. The boxed cake was also much airier looking, with bubbles on the top of the baked cake. 

Julia Palace

The canned frosting had a darker color on the other hand, and was slightly harder to spread due to its sticker consistency. The frosting that I made from scratch was fluffier and easier to spread onto the cake. 

Julia Palace

Taste-wise, there was some discrepancy. Based on a blind taste-test, half of my family preferred the taste of the "boxed" side over the "homemade" side. Some liked the moister, denser, and more flavorful cake over the fluffier and crumbier texture of the boxed mix. Some liked the fluffier and sweeter homemade frosting over the thicker canned frosting.

The Winner

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Overall, there were parts of both cakes that stood out as winners. As for myself, I think I enjoyed the cake that I made from scratch better, but I might be biased.

While I thought that the cake from scratch would for sure win over my family, that wasn't exactly the case. Some of us enjoyed the boxed cake over the homemade one, that took more effort to make and clean up. Side by side, unless you looked close enough, the two cakes even looked identical.

So, the answer to the eternal question, is it worth it to bake from scratch? Sometimes. If you have the time to make a cake from scratch, find a recipe you love and use it. If you are in a crunch for time, no big deal. Boxed mixes taste great and are quick and easy to make. It comes down to how much effort you feel like putting into your baked good...and sometimes, its okay to be a little lazy.