The Best Boxed Yellow Cake Mix: A Blind Taste Test


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In our Taste Test series, BA editors conduct blind comparisons to discover the best supermarket staples (like vanilla ice cream or frozen pizza). Today, which boxed yellow cake mix is party ready?

Boxed cake mixes were patented in 1933 by a Pittsburgh molasses company called P. Duff and Sons as a way to use the company’s excess molasses. Sales increased over the years, but the boxed cake genre really began booming in the 1950s, when companies began including sugary frosting in their marketing.

So many of us have fond memories of baking boxed cake mixes at home. We made an absolute mess of our kitchens baking a boxed cake mix during sleepovers with our friends, messily cracking eggs and spilling oil everywhere. We waited impatiently for the oven to preheat while frantically baking a few cupcakes for a school bake sale. Everyone has their favorite flavor of cake mix (mine’s devil’s food cake), but if we were going to bet on one to please an entire crowd, the choice is easy: classic yellow.

Of course, a yellow cake mix can always be spruced up, but finding the best mix is still a critical first step. We tested eight boxed yellow cake mixes, baking them according to the instructions on their boxes, to determine which was the most delicious. We tasted them plain, and with a swoop of chocolate frosting, and judged on color, flavor, texture, and effort. There were disagreements, there was compromise, there was, in short, drama. Here’s what we thought.

Photograph by Isa Zapata Food Styling by Spencer Richards

Too Much Work: King Arthur Baking Golden Yellow Cake Mix

What’s inside: King Arthur’s boxed yellow cake mix contains the fewest ingredients of all our competitors—essentially just flour, sugar, and baking powder. While simple is usually better, in this case it meant that we had to add a lot of ingredients ourselves. In the end, it was almost as much work as making a cake from scratch.

The verdict: Many of our editors swear by King Arthur’s products, but their boxed yellow cake mix was a flop. A boxed mix is ostensibly supposed to make cake making easier. But King Arthur’s required us to reverse cream our own softened butter and oil, plus add milk and four eggs—more than any of the other mixes we tested. What’s more, the resulting cake didn’t bake all the way through at the prescribed time and temperature—we’re talking a pudding consistency in the center. And the parts that did bake were dry and bland.

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