• February 28, 2024

I Conducted An Office Taste Test Of The Most Popular Boxed Cake Mixes, And The Winner Surprised Every Last One Of Us


Claudia Santos

Hello bakers, non-bakers, and boxed cake lovers alike. My name’s Claudia, and in case you haven’t heard, I like to bake. And while you probably won’t find me on “Great British Bake Off” any time soon (although, Paul and Prue, let’s chat), you can find me constantly making baked goods for my friends and family.

Truth be told, I wasn’t always a baker and, like a lot of people, was vehemently against something that had little room for error. So before I was whipping up homemade layer cakes and loaves of bread, boxed cake mixes were my go-to. I’ve always been a huge advocate for ready-to-make and easy desserts — you don’t need a stand mixer and hundreds of dollars worth of ingredients to bake. Plus, in my 27 years of life, I’ve never once seen someone complain about getting a Funfetti cake on their birthday.

Claudia Santos

Since we’re officially in holiday mad-dash mode and you probably have enough to worry about without thinking of dessert, I wanted to go ahead and try out different boxed cake mixes to find which one would stand out (and save you the holiday baking stress). Here are the six brands I grabbed.

For the sake of this test and to keep things even across the board, I went with yellow cake since it’s kind of the gold standard (pun intended) boxed cake and comes with less variation than other flavors, like chocolate. Not that it matters, but I want to point out how HILARIOUS I found the way competing brands emphasized how “moist” their cakes were (moist supreme, perfectly moist, super moist…I love it). Anyway, here are the brands:
1. Pillsbury Moist Supreme Yellow Cake Mix ($1.27)
2. Jiffy Golden Yellow Cake Mix ($0.98)
3. Whole Foods Classic Yellow Cake Mix ($3.29)
4. Duncan Hines Perfectly Moist Classic Yellow Cake Mix ($1.38)
5. Betty Crocker Super Moist Yellow Cake Mix ($1.69)
6. Trader Joe’s Yellow Cake and Baking Mix ($2.99)
Each cake was cooked exactly according to their respective package instructions which, surprisingly, did vary (we’ll get into that in a bit). Most of them made two 8-inch round cakes or one 9×13-inch sheet cake with the exception of Jiffy, which only made one 8-inch round cake.

Ross Yoder

And because I could not possibly eat six cakes all by myself, I enlisted the help of my wonderful BuzzFeed coworkers to participate in a blind taste test.

While I was trying all of these for the first time with everyone, the taste test wasn’t blind for me since I had to package up and serve the cakes. But since I haven’t had boxed cake in a while, I truly went in with very little preconceived notions of each brand.

Claudia Santos

Each cake was assigned the same numbers as listed above, and everyone was asked to fill out a form ranking the taste, texture, and moistness (sorry) of each cake from a scale of one (terrible) to five (amazing). The average rating was then calculated for each category, and the average of those was calculated to get an overall rating for each cake.

You’ll also notice that a few cakes received the same average rating. When that happened, I either sifted through comments to determine the winner between the two or acted as a tie-breaker.

Claudia Santos

Although not everyone regarded themselves as a baker per se (I actually think that’s an even better perspective to have), we definitely all had A LOT of thoughts about each cake and were surprised at how different they all were. So let’s not delay this any longer and get into it.

Claudia Santos

6. Jiffy — The brand best known for its cornbread mix delivered a yellow cake with a wildly confusing texture and flavor. I believe the overall consensus here was ‘Huh?’

The baking instructions and ingredient additions for Jiffy also strayed from the others. There was no need for the addition of any fat, just one egg, and 1/2 cup cold water, and the instructions were to beat on medium speed for four whole minutes. The lack of fat really threw me off since that’s what contributes to the moisture and crumb of a cake. So no/less fat means a tighter crumb and a dry cake. Vegetable shortening was listed as ingredient, which is pretty standard for most cake mixes, but it could be that Jiffy puts more into their dry mix. I also noticed some brown specks in the batter, and that’s when I saw that flaxseeds were also listed as an ingredient. Why? I have no idea.

Claudia Santos

A couple of us compared it to angel food cake, and others found that it was reminiscent of cornbread (remember, no one knew this was Jiffy!). Ross also thought it tasted “like the frosted sugar cookies you get in the grocery store, and not in a good way.” Like those cookies, it had a very closed crumb and felt fragile, like it could easily dissolve if you dropped it in water. There was also a slight lemony aftertaste that was so off-putting and not at all what you’d expect when biting into a yellow cake.

I’ll also point out that when I put these cakes in the kitchen for anyone at BuzzFeed to grab, I had a few people take a bite of Jiffy, immediately wince, and say, “nope.”

⭐️ OVERALL SCORE: 2.2
Here’s how it broke down:
Taste: 2
Texture: 2
Moistness: 2.7Personally, I found it was lacking that signature sweetness from a yellow cake. Not that I love it when they’re overly sweet, but this one just fell flat flavor-wise. As Sarah put it: “Dry, crumble-y (and not in a good way), and bland. When I took the first bite, I said, ‘Hmmm…’ and pushed my plate away.” Can confirm, this did happen. If you’re a huge fan of angel food cake, you might be pretty happy with this one, but if you’re looking for that classic yellow cake flavor, Jiffy will likely be a miss.

Claudia Santos

5. Whole Foods — While the flavor of this cake wasn’t totally there, it was really the texture that threw everyone for a loop. Half of us described it as a sponge in the worst way possible. As Raven put it, “It’s a little bit of a confusing experience.”

The preparation for the Whole Foods cake was closest to Trader Joe’s in that they both called for the addition of milk rather than water. The rest of the ingredients and additions were pretty standard including three eggs and 1/4 cup vegetable oil. I did notice that the batter felt a little runnier and thinner than the others, and it didn’t hit me with that typical sweet yellow cake smell.

Claudia Santos

There’s no denying that this cake was utterly confusing. Sarah specifically noted that it “tasted like a wet sponge that had been left in the Sahara Desert to dry,” and Ross echoed this, saying it was “simultaneously moist and dry.” I think I could see visible question marks above everyone’s heads as they were eating.

Claudia Santos

The flavor was just…dull with a lack of sweetness despite it having a comparable amount of sugar to the rest of the mixes. I don’t even think a hefty scoop of frosting could salvage this unfortunately.

Ross Yoder

In a surprising twist, it was actually the cake most people grabbed from the kitchen at the end of the day. Which was a mystery to EVERYONE.

⭐️ OVERALL SCORE: 2.4
Here’s how it broke down:
Taste: 2.5
Texture: 2.2
Moistness: 2.5
Well, Whole Foods, we all expected more (especially from the most expensive mix), but ultimately, the wet-dry sponge texture threw everyone off, and there was no redemption when it came to flavor.

Claudia Santos

4. Trader Joe’s — Yet again, we were confused with this dense, short cake. I wouldn’t say the issue with Trader Joe’s was that we didn’t like it, but that it more closely resembles a poundcake than the standard yellow cake it’s sold as.

What I did like about this batter was that it called for a stick of melted butter rather than oil, so I knew it was going to be RICH. However, because of the lack of oil, I was a little afraid it wouldn’t be as moist as the more “traditional” brands. (Vegetable oil 100% has a time and place depending on the cake.)

Claudia Santos

Reviews here were a little mixed. No one outright said they didn’t like it, but a couple of us equated the taste and texture to pound cake more than a yellow cake. Raven thought it was “not crumbly at all and pretty moist without feeling like a wet towel in your mouth,” while Sarah thought it “tasted like a pancake” and “not like a traditional yellow cake.” So thoughts were a bit all over the place. Having eaten six slices of cake at this point could’ve also been a contributing factor.

Claudia Santos

It was dense, short, and slightly on the drier side. It was also the last cake everyone tried so we definitely had a lot to compare it to. The richness of the butter did give it a bit of a higher-quality feel, but I actually think a mix of butter and oil could’ve given it a rich taste while maintaining moisture. On the plus side, the sweetness level was perfect.

Claudia Santos

Funnily enough, a majority of the testers guessed that this was Trader Joe’s, probably because it was so different from the other five (and TJ’s is always trying to be a lil’ different).

⭐️ OVERALL SCORE: 3.9
Here’s how it broke down:
Taste: 3.5
Texture: 4
Moistness: 4.2
If it were 100% up to me, I’d probably knock down this moistnessrating slightly. Again, this cake really wasn’t bad, and if someone served it to me at their birthday party, I’d happily eat it. But I’d probably question why they just served me pound cake and would immediately need a nap after a couple bites.

Claudia Santos

3. Duncan Hines — Although a little less yellow and a little more brown, this felt like a run-of-the-mill, exactly-what-you’d-expect boxed cake. It wasn’t quite a winner in anyone’s eyes, but certainly not a loser.

You’ll notice that these next three cakes all have the same exact ingredient additions: 1 cup water, three eggs, and 1/2 cup vegetable oil. They also contain the same amount of dry mix. For Duncan Hines, the dry mix looked a bit like Jiffy in both color and texture.

Claudia Santos

Overall, no one was singing the praises of Duncan Hines, but we all thought it was a solid cake. Ajani found it to be “not overwhelmingly sweet nor too bland,” which most of us agreed with. However, Sarah thought it “could have been a tad sweeter.” There was definitely more of a subtle taste to it, and given that I thought the dry mix resembled Jiffy’s, I found it funny when both Raven and Victoria compared it to cornbread.

Claudia Santos

The crumb was a little more open, and it rose a bit higher than the other cakes, making it super fluffy. But I found the texture to be ever so slightly too spongy.

⭐️ OVERALL SCORE: 3.9
Here’s how it broke down:
Taste: 3.8
Texture: 3.7
Moistness: 4.2
Again, this was a solid base cake with a decent texture and moistness. Because it wasn’t as sweet as some of the others, I think it would be a great cake to cover in frosting if that’s your thing.

Claudia Santos

2. Pillsbury — This nostalgic-tasting cake didn’t disappoint anyone with a sweet tooth. This is exactly the flavor (and color) you’d remember from so many childhood birthday parties.

When I was mixing this, I immediately could smell that super sweet cake mix smell, and the batter was yellow yellow. Obviously, these all had food dye in them, but it looked like Pillsbury had mixed up the most vibrant color.

Claudia Santos

A few of us compared the flavor of Pillsbury to a Funfetti cake, and that’s really the best way I can describe it. It was sweeter than the rest with that distinct artificial vanilla taste. Even though I thought it could easily knock me into a sugar coma, both Ross and Sarah found it to be “sweet but not too sweet.” For better or worse, it also had the most attention-grabbing yellow color of any of the cakes.

Claudia Santos

The texture was really nice, albeit with a bit more of an open crumb than I’d like, and, as Ross put it, it was “moist without being wet” (i.e. that sliminess you can sometimes get with a boxed cake). For what it’s worth, people who grabbed it in the office also loved it.

Claudia Santos

And almost everyone knew this was Pillsbury from the start. It’s probably safe to assume this was a brand a lot of people grew up with and immediately recognized.

Claudia Santos

1. Betty Crocker — Perfectly balanced with a consistent crumb, Betty really is *that* girl. While this one tied with Pillsbury, I had to give the edge to Betty for delivering a boxed cake that wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet nor too spongey.

Betty Crocker’s batter looked almost identical to Pillsbury’s (with a little less yellow), so initially, I thought these two would have very little difference when baked. Don’t get me wrong, they were similar, but Betty slightly nudged out the competition.

Claudia Santos

The fact that this was the fifth cake we ate and I had no problem taking several bites is a sure sign of how good it was. I found the sweetness to be the perfect balance of Pillsbury and Duncan Hines, and it hit on that nostalgic taste without tasting too artificial. Sarah compared it to “eating a sugar-laced cloud,” and Ross thought it was “a little more substantial and rich” than Pillsbury.

Ross Yoder

This had more of a closed crumb than Duncan Hines or Pillsbury, but more open than a cake like Jiffy, giving it that signature fluff without the sponginess. The moisture level felt just right, with Ajani noting that he “could literally hear the *squish*” when cutting through it. That’s when I discovered Betty Crocker had a secret ingredient: corn syrup, which can help cake batter retain moisture.

Love it or hate it, I really think the corn syrup is what took this cake over the edge.

⭐️ OVERALL SCORE: 4.1
Here’s how it broke down:
Taste: 3.7
Texture: 4
Moistness: 4.5
Even though Betty Crocker tied with Pillsbury’s average rating, when I asked everyone for their overall winner at the end, half voted for Betty (and you already know I’d personally bump all of these numbers up). This cake definitely will not disappoint no matter the occasion. Just take it from Ajani: “Might serve this at my birthday. Maybe even my funeral to brighten the mood!”

So there you have it, folks: Our taste testers are officially Team Betty. Let us know which of these is your favorite or if there’s another boxed cake mix you swear by!

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