Live Real. Eat Real.

The Cake Mix Is A Lie

I know, I said I was going to post a recipe for Fight Back Friday today, but I made an interesting observation over the last couple of days that is far more worthy of the theme of the meme (oh, I’m a poet and don’t know it).  First, a little background.

Unless you’re a long-time reader here you might not know that, once upon a time, I was a professional cake decorator.  A pretty good one, too, if I do say so myself.  Because of this, my kids have never had a “store-bought” birthday cake; nor have my stepdaughters, at least in the last 12 years.  Nor will The G Man, who celebrates his first birthday this Sunday.  And since I’m decorating his birthday cakes (yes, cakes – and cupcakes, too, but you’ll hear more about that next week), I will bake them too.

In fact, I’ve already baked them – we leave tonight to head down to Cincinnati for the weekend, and since hotels generally don’t have the facilities for cake baking (and Jolly’s apartment is already going to be overwhelmed with party preparations and out-of-town guests), I had to bake them ahead of time.  And since I had to bake them ahead of time, I had two options – bake cakes from scratch, repeatedly brush them with simple syrup/liqueur, freeze them and hope they didn’t dry out, or use cake mixes.  I chose to use cake mixes because 1) I wouldn’t be eating it (after 10 years as a cake decorator, it’s not my favorite dessert) and B) I didn’t want to chance them being dry after 3 days – cake mixes, being made with oil as opposed to butter, are also full of wonderful chemicals/emulsifiers that give them an extended shelf life, to say the least.

Now, keep in mind that even before I decided to rid my kitchen of refined sugar, flours and vegetable oils it had literally been years since I made a cake from a mix.  I’m not talking 1 or 2 years – I’m talking like closer to 15.  And since I rarely eat cake, it’s probably been that long since I consumed cake made from a mix.  So, as I began mixing the batter in my trusty KitchenAid, I leaned over the bowl to watch the action and noticed something I’d never noticed before – an odd, chemical smell.

I checked to “sell by” date on the box of Betty Crocker SuperMoist Chocolate Fudge cake mix – it’s expiration date was a year away (that right there should tell you something).  So, I went about greasing and flouring my Mickey Mouse shaped pan, poured the batter in, baked it for the requisite 35 minutes, and set it out to cool on a rack.  Ten minutes later, I shaved off the top of the cake so it would lay flat as I turned it out of the pan – and took a bite of the bit I’d cut off.

It tasted…well, terrible.  That chemical smell had given way to a chemical aftertaste, and it left a nasty, greasy film in my mouth after I’d swallowed it.  I stood there, wondering if there was something wrong with it and if I should toss it, when The Young One came downstairs and said, “Oooooh – cake!” and proceeded to devour the piece I’d cut.

Now, this kid is very picky when it comes to “off” flavors and textures of food, so I asked, “Does it taste all right?”

“It’s fine,” he said, eying Mickey as if he wondered if anyone would miss an ear.

So, repeat the above scenario with a yellow cake – which, on top of the weird chemical smell/taste and greasy film, was cloyingly sweet – with the same result:  my teenager devoured the portion I let him have and declared it fine.  (Note: Beloved, who is giddy at having lost over 20 pounds, refused to touch it, much less taste it.)

So, I decided it was me; not only have I lost my taste for things made from processed and refined carbohydrates, my palate seems to have completely changed.  After just a few months of eating only whole, natural foods almost exclusively, I have gotten to the point where I cannot tolerate anything with artificial ingredients.  And boy, are cake mixes just loaded with artificial ingredients.

Betty Crocker SuperMoist Chocolate Fudge cake mix

  • Enriched Bleached Flour (wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid and while you’re at it, ask yourself why flour has to be “enriched”)
  • Sugar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Cocoa processed with Alkali
  • Leavening (baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate)
  • Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed oil
  • Corn Starch
  • Modified Corn Starch
  • Salt
  • Propylene Glycol Mono and Diesters of Fatty Acids
  • Distilled Monoglycerides
  • Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate
  • Dicalcium Phosphate
  • Cellulose Gum
  • Xanthan Gum
  • Artificial Flavor

My, my – that just sounds so appetizing, doesn’t it?  No wonder the darn thing tasted like chemicals – it’s loaded with them.  I don’t know about you, but the last time I baked a chocolate cake from scratch, it contained just flour, milk, eggs, sugar, butter, baking powder, cocoa and salt.  That’s it.

I’m sure the guests at The G Man’s party will be perfectly happy with the cakes; they will be cute and probably taste just like they’re supposed to.  But I’m not sure I’m going to be able to get over the guilt of serving such a mess to friends and family (to say nothing of my adored son and grandson) – and you can rest assured I never will again.

Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday

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