So today we are looking at the ingredients in conventional cake mixes and, of course, I am giving you a recipe for a homemade cake mix that is every bit as convenient but without the weird additives. I use it as a quick snack cake – sometimes not even frosting it.
This time I put a quick peanut butter glaze on it…yum!
Commercial Boxed Cake Mixes, Additives and All
I figured that I had better stop naming names unless I was in the market for a lawsuit, and most conventional products are made of similar ingredients anyway. This cake mix starts with a “D” and has a first and a last name… but you didn’t hear that from me.
In any case, most cake mixes have the following ingredients.
Ingredients in Cake Mix
Sugar, Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Vegetable Oil Shortening (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Propylene Glycol Mono- and Diesters Of Fats, Mono and Diglycerides), Cocoa Powder Processed with Alkali, Dextrose, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate). Contains 2% Or Less Of: Modified Food Starch, Wheat Starch, Polyglycerol Esters Of Fatty Acids, Salt, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Cellulose Gum, Xanthan Gum, Maltodextrin, Artificial Flavors.
Now lets look at the ingredients and additives one at a time.
Let’s talk sugar a minute. I know, I know, I said sugar was safe – and it really is IF you are getting pure cane sugar. Sadly, unless the bag says “pure cane sugar” then you could be getting a sugar that has beet sugar in it…right now this is not so much of a problem but the government is allowing farmers to plant GMO sugar beets this year… so.. you might as well start looking for the pure cane sugar now.
Bleached flour. Sigh. I won’t use it…I prefer organic…and cake flour is bleached as well. Organic flour is not bleached, by the way, which is why baked products may come out a little more coarse. Usually an easy fix – just use about 1 tablespoon less per cup than called for in the recipe or substitute 2 tablespoons organic cornstarch for 2 tablespoons of flour in each cup. Bleaching is accomplished one of several ways but chlorine is common.
Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil
Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil… ok. I have several issues with this. First of all hydrogenation is really bad. It clogs your arteries and makes you fat. Soybeans, if they are not organic, are increasingly GMO but even more than that, soy has natural plant estrogens called phyto estrogens. While these are not a problem in normal amounts Americans are eating soy in almost everything. I can spot a guy who has switched to soy milk pretty easily… his body changes, gets soft, and he gets moobs. You know, man boobs. Now, I absolutely know that someone is going to come on here and say I am wrong …that they have been drinking soy milk for years and they have a rockin bod… however, American men have increasingly lower testosterone levels. In fact, hormone levels can be significantly changed in as little as five weeks.
Diesters Of Fats, Mono and Diglycerides
I searched everywhere to find what Diesters Of Fats, Mono and Diglycerides were. I did find some things but there were in chemistry talk. Basically they are a derivative of an oil with the molecular structure changed, I think. If I can’t understand it I prefer not to eat it. I don’t know whether to classify them as additives or ingredients.
Cellulose Gum is made from trees and cotton. It is found in laxatives among other things. It is a stabilizer for doughs and batters and used to as a sizing for wall paper. It is also considered and appetite suppressant. Gnaw on a tree instead. It is one of the additives in almost every commercial product you eat. Apparently the food manufacturers would consider the Velveteen Rabbit a gourmet meal.
Maltodextrin is made from corn, potato, or other starchy food. It adds a little sweetness. The main problem is that is could be made of…yeah..say it with me…GMO products. And really, why even put it in there? Apparently the companies have an additive quota.
But It Is SO Convenient
So, there you have it. Ick. Homemade, right?
But, no one can dispute a cake mix is pretty handy to have around. You can throw it together quickly and easily. So what if you are ingesting ingredients with names that even a native Welshman couldn’t pronounce… you are saving time and money. Right?
Homemade Alternative to Boxed Cake Mix
The answer is, of course, homemade cake mix. You can make this in large quantities and then store it in Mason Jars on your pantry shelf. Just like the boxed kind but without the weirdness. Make the vanilla sugar by adding a vanilla bean or two to a 5 lb canister of sugar and letting it mingle with the sugar for a week or so.
This is rich and moist and chocolate-y. You can just sprinkle it with powdered sugar, add a scoop of ice cream, or make a confectioner’s glaze as I did here with peanut butter. You can also make 3 -8 inch layers from this mix. The yield of this is probably about double what is in the pouch of the commercial cake mixes so you may even want to half it up and use it for two cakes. The 13 x 9 inch cake is very thick so if you do divide it cut down your baking time to 25 to 30 minutes.
Look, Ma, no additives! No weird ingredients!
images: marye audet (c) 2011