20th Century Cake

19 06 2009

From a box no less. What the heck is the world coming to?

Inspired by my pantry “shelf of shame” where items that should have been rotated out long ago reside, Jonathan Bloom’s Wasted Food blog, and Sharon Astyk’s Independence Days Challenge Item #4 (Reduce Waste) and #7 (Eat the Food), and Keith’s insistence that we could just drown it in ice cream and booze, I assembled this:

That, dear readers, is an authentic box of cake mix that has somehow resided in the nether reaches of my baking pantry since 1995! I do not know how it got there, who bought it, or why I’ve moved it, but there it is. Well, it was. It’s residency permit in my house has expired!

I’ve never made a box cake mix before. I’ve certainly baked plenty of cakes, but haven’t ever been compelled to buy a box of sugar, flour, powdered oil, leavener, salt and a plethora of chemicals to do so. Whoever first came up with the idea of boxing the cheapest ingredients of a cake, printing an incredibly convoluted rebus of a recipe and slapping on a professional food stylists’ image of cake on the front and charging whatever it costs for maybe 50 cents worth of stuff must be a rich man by now.

Hey, propylene glycol is in shampoo too!

The instructions alone are enough to scare anyone off baking. It’s not that it’s hard, it’s just hard to read and follow. Hard for me anyway. I think they’re intentionally written so that this simple task of mixing things together is made complex so as to infer that baking a real cake must be really difficult. The ingredients are a real turn off for me too. Of course, this thing is so old that it doesn’t have any of the ubiquitous corn syrup solids. Small win.

So after I checked the Duncan Hines website to make sure that I wouldn’t be poisoning myself due to the advanced age of the product, I checked inside for evidence of bugs or rodents. Even though the leavener might be aged over the years, nothing else had wanted to eat it either. Drat!

Forging ahead, I gathered up my mise. Cleverly, Croesus Duncan Hines, has the poor housewife furnish all the expensive bits such as 3 eggs. I didn’t have any vegetable oil except olive so I melted a mixture of butter, coconut oil and some Spectrum shortening. During my research, I’d read some recipes that had suggested a dollop of sour cream. Didn’t have any of that either, but yogurt could stand in. What else? Oh yes, water. These mixes are so handy, just add water … and eggs and oil and …

While I was meddling, I decided to add in strawberry jam hoping to cover up the chemical tinge. I read that one on the interwebs too. I also added in a shy teaspoon of baking soda and baking powder to ensure a rise. The batter was a bit lumpy, caking agents age as well, I suppose, but behaved. Since I didn’t have nor want frosting, I decided on the Bundt format.

Because of the extra moisture in the jam, it took longer than 32 – 37 minutes to bake. I think I hit the snooze button on the timer 4 or 5 times before my tester came out clean.

The verdict? A bit sweet since mixes make up in sugar what they lack in flavor and I added the jam. The crumb is a bit holey, but that was my fault for overbeating. I got a little overzealous since I hadn’t used my hand mixer in ages.

I think a little rum and ice cream should make it go down just fine. Maybe there’s even some vintage pudding mix around for a cheater’s trifle. ;)

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2 responses

11 03 2010
Julie Reinhardt

Love that you made this 1995 cake inspired by the wasted food blog! Now I think I have some ancient “just boil the pouch” Saag Paneer from my cupboard to go make. It’s the boiling the pouch that keeps stopping me in my tracks on that one. How is that food? Maybe I’ll donate it.

16 03 2010
Saara

You could always remove it from the pouch and make it that way! It’s probably mostly just spices so it should be okay. I’m still finding a few items. In fact, I found some fruitcake from 2001! It was still fine, but it tasted of the plastic wrap that I had wrapped it in so I tossed it. Nowadays I wouldn’t use the wrap, but I was less aware of the issues in 2001. Live and learn!

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