Bake from scratch or use Packet Mix?

This is a very controversial subject and it comes up again and again in our classes. Do you bake from scratch or do you use a packet mix? I know that emotions run high in the baking world. You only have to watch BBC’s Great British Bake Off once to see just how high.

We often ask this question in our classes – have you ever used a packet mix? And we get quite a few very raised eyebrows. “How could you?” “Seriously?” “You open a packet and mix it and bake it?” “No……..!” “I would NEVER. There, I’ve said it.”

So it turns out that baking from scratch gives the baker a greater degree of emotional reward. The story goes that when cake mixes were first invented, they did not require any eggs or oil added to them. You simply mixed them with water and your cake would bake perfectly. However, sales soon slumped and research suggested that “not enough work” was involved in making the cake and hence housewives (because, why would husbands make cake, ever) were going back to making cake the hard way. Cake mix manufacturers soon added a step to the process and now you added an egg or two and oil to most mixes so that you did your “work” before enjoying a home made cake!

(images courtesy: Betty Crocker website)

Never did I realise how passionate bakers were about baking from scratch until I started teaching cake decorating. I must come clear, I have no issues whatsoever in using a cake mix. In fact, when we have to bake 88+ cakes for a class, you will pretty much never see us cracking hundreds of eggs!

In answer to our question about cake mixes, we always get the slightly shy/guilty look that says, “Yup, been there, done that, baked it and loved it!” Our observations are that on the whole, British/European students tend to prefer baking from scratch and Americans/Canadians do not have a problem with packet mixes. Could it be that American packet mixes are available in a wider variety and therefore more popular? Has The Great British Bake Off made packet mixes off limits to us? How could you justify using a packet mix if everyone is using flour, eggs, butter?

So why is it that there is strange guilt associated with using packet mixes? They were developed to make life easier. Should we be feeling guilty about making our lives easier? Why?!

What do you think? Do you use packet mixes? Or do you always bake from scratch? Leave a comment below. It’ll be interesting to see different opinions!

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