ARTICLE

Duncan's Degustations – Betty Crocker Super Moist Devil's Food Cake

ATTN: Ms Betty Crocker, c/- General Mills
SUBJECT: Betty Crocker Super Moist Devil's Food Cake vs me, Mittens and Mum

Dear Betty,

I've long been in awe of your ability to sell buckets of ready-to-use frosting to the masses. I can remember how Australians called it icing, too, before you (or cupcakes) arrived.

The idea of tubs of icing fascinated me. It seemed naughty, perverse, and maybe a bit like dipping into a pot of yumminess. But I never tried it.

I'm writing to you, Ms Crocker, as part of the opening episode of a new occasional article series on Syrup & Tang, called Duncan's Dégustations. As a public service (or personal torment) I'll be exposing myself to foods I would normally be sceptical about for one reason or another, just to see if my prejudices are unfounded. I've chosen one of your products as my first subject.

I haven't made a packet cake since, oh, about 1986, and even back then I could tell that my Mum and White Wings had rather different concepts of "cake". For one thing, there was that signature artificial taste and smell, slightly metallic, and a little reminiscent of some plastics. There's been seemingly no decline in the popularity of packet cake mixes, and the daredevil in me decided I just had to try one in 2011. Surely, surely, the intervening years would have seen such a rise in food technology skill and knowledge that a packet cake could, in fact, achieve some deliciousness, Betty?

Now, I noticed you have three types of chocolate cake: Super Moist Chocolate Fudge Cake, Super Moist Devil's Food Cake, and Decadent Chocolate Mud. I can't say that your boxes were at all informative about the difference between these, and the ingredients lists were so similar (apart from chocolate chips in the mud cake, if I recall correctly) that any product differentiation seemed to lie largely in the names. I chose the Devil's Food Cake.

The ingredients list: Sugar, wheat flour, cocoa (8%), vegetable oil, raising agents (500, 341 [a sodium carbonate and a calcium phosphate]), dextrose, thickeners (1422, 466 [acetylated distarch adipate and carboxymethyl cellulose]), emulsifier (471 [glyceryl mono-/di-stearate]), wheat starch, whey powder, salt, flavour, antioxidants (306, 320 [tocopherols and butylated hydroxyanisole]). And the consumer must add water, oil and eggs. None of the additives are problematic, to my knowledge.

Now, Betty, I know you're a figment of someone's imagination, and your real-life minions at General Mills aren't likely to be letter-readers, so permit me to cut to the chase. My co-eater Mittens and I made your cake. It was, indeed, very pleasantly "moist" in the mouth (though to be technical, moist relates to moisture, not the soft, oily nature of your cake).

I tried it out on my Mum, without telling her that it was cake mix cake. She was very polite about the texture. That's all. Then she asked me if it was a packet cake.

Ms Crocker, we found your cake bitter, undersweet, not particularly chocolatey, and a touch metallic. In fact, in most regards it was very much the same as the packet cake I made in 1986. What's more, the stingy portion of frosting you included (that sachet doesn't stretch very far now, does it!) did nothing to make things better. It's disappointing enough that the frosting only stretched to the thinnest of coatings, but why did it have to taste salty and (again) a touch metallic? Is this the foul substance people buy in those tubs, for reasons that now entirely escape me?

Mittens wonders what differentiates your cakes from the likes of, say, this:

I would be ashamed to serve this sorry excuse for cake. Your website says its "Made in Australia from the best quality ingredients we can find in Australia and around the world to deliver a superior product". Try harder, Betty.

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COMMENTS

14 responses to “Duncan's Degustations – Betty Crocker Super Moist Devil's Food Cake”

  1. Victoria

    A cracking idea! I look forward to reading more tales of your gastronomic adventures.

  2. Sarah

    Love it!

  3. Cakelaw

    Those boxes often almost suck me in with their bright colours and attractive photographs – and who doesn't want a "super moist" cake? But it sounds as though I can continue to give them a wide berth.

  4. Emily

    This is awesome – cannot wait for more. I think some kind of TV dinner would be excellent!

  5. Mary

    Yes, please do a TV dinner! I am looking forward to your future roadtests of food from a box. The amount of icing on the cake on the box is so misleading.

    Betty Crocker is such a cultural icon that there was a Betty Crocker cookbook for kids released in the 1950s (http://www.archive.org/details/bettycrockerscoo00croc). You know, to spread the goodness of cake in a box. :)

  6. Daniel

    You're very harsh. These cakes are perfect…..for children's parties.

  7. amy

    LOL….thanks for the good laugh! I never like icing that comes in a tub either! They are just too sweet for my liking. I rather whip up a fresh batch of swiss meringue butter cream…yeah, more time consuming but totally worth it.

  8. Injera

    Oh, wow! I was trying to find some plain flour at the supermarket the other day and was able to locate one brand amongst the many packet cake mixes…

    You will have to try Hot Roll Mix next ;-)

  9. Thanh

    I think chocolate cakes are so easy to make, why would you bother with these awful packet mix. Thanks for testing it out for everyone.

  10. Mamacaz

    What a fabulous and intriguing idea! Satisfies my curiosity without me having to actually try it. I too am a little nervous for you, there's some horrid stuff out there being sold as food.

    Daniel, my children would be insulted! LOL

  11. Coby

    I agree with Mumacaz that children shouldn't be subjected to packet mixes either. At least my children have turned their noses up at 'pretend cakes'! My daughter baked a cake today. She's 8. It was a relatively easy recipe from Tessa Kiros, but if an 8 year old can make a real cake without any more assistance than an adult finishing off the finely chopped rosemary, surely taller versions of kids (yeah, grown ups) can manage a cake from scratch!?

    I thank you Duncan for taking the bullet for us all. For years I thought I didn't like cake, but that was because the only cakes I was ever served were bought ones. Since I started baking my own I see I DO like cake – as long as it's real.

  12. Janine Maru

    Ha ha, thanks for the good laugh, I came across this simply because I wanted to know if anyone had identified any difference between the cake varieties as they all looked the same

  13. brian stitt

    Well i read your chocolate fudge cake review and thouroughly enjoyed it(no not the cake not until my bithday on monday). I hope that i don't strike the motherlode and betty crocker delivers an exceptional packet cake and icing tub. Wish me luck.nairB in canada

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