It’s been called the invention that redefined “Baking.”
Was it the electric mixer? Perhaps, it was a modern oven fueled by propane rather than wood or corn cobs. As much as Miss NiNi loves my silicone spatulas, it might have been something as simple as the invention of that little kitchen tool, Dear Readers. But it wasn’t any of the aforementioned.
The piece of American history given credit for redefining baking was the cake mix. Yes, the simple-to-use, conveniently packaged cake mix.
Cake Mixes – The Early Years
I have often thought that the cake mix showed its face in kitchens far and wide after World War II. But upon further investigative research, I soon discovered that John D. Duff at Pittsburgh’s, P. Duff and Sons invented the cake mix in the early 1930s.
Many kitchen inventions are born to aid the busy life of a homemaker. It was just as much so for a 20th Century homemaker as it is today for a 21st Century man or woman whose charge is providing care of the home and the activities within it.
But in the case of the cake mix, that creation wasn’t born out of the need of convenience. Nor was it invented because mills had too much flour. The truth of the matter proved that it was developed because of a surplus of a product—molasses!
Mr. Duff’s patent for “an invention that relates to a “dehydrated flour for use in making pastry products and to a process of making the same” was originally assessed to gingerbread. That mix encompassed all of the dry ingredients, including powdered whole egg. The homemaker only needed to add water to the mix and then bake.
Talk about easy peasy, Dear Readers! No need to have flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, spices nor eggs on hand. They were already in the mix!
Did the sale of cake mixes take off lickety split? No, they sort of dallied around until a psychologist, Ernest Dichter, revealed that American women wanted to have a more hands-on approach in the cake-baking process.
Adding only water to the dry ingredients to create a cake was a very easy task. Yet, women weren’t really identifying with this new-fangled mix. Mr. Dichter surmised that if these women could additionally add fresh eggs, they would more readily feel at home with the actual preparation of the desired cake.
So, Mr. Dichter presented his psychological gem to General Mills’ Betty Crocker. By creating a new demand in a busy modern world, General Mills would not only be in the flour-selling business, but also they would be selling convenience! The two ideas were a match made in Heaven!
Fast Forward to Today – No Cake Mixes Here
How many boxes of cake mixes occupy your pantry shelf, Dear Readers? Might there be one, two, or even ten?
Zero Cake Mix is Miss NiNi’s solemn vow! Why is that, you might ask? I take pleasure in measuring and mixing together every required ingredient for a cake recipe. I like to apply mixing techniques of whipping, beating, stirring, and folding to get optimum cake results.
Does the “totally from scratch” method versus using a cake mix leave open room for error in the overall preparation of a cake? Of course, it does!
Experiments in the food lab and Miss NiNi’s dessert bakery have proven that hypothesis time and time again. Hand crafting is a challenge that is most often overcome with repetitious recipe preparation by the same baker. Just think of how your grandma made a mouth-watering chocolate cake with the stamp of perfection time after time after time. Practice makes perfect!
If it’s so easy and so quick to produce a cake from a box mix, why does Miss NiNi continually shy away from its use? I’ve always noticed a certain chemical flavor within a cake created from a mix. Not a fun dining experience for me! Perhaps, it’s due to the preservatives used to keep the contents shelf stable.
Regardless, Dear Readers, Miss NiNi’s desserts will always be made by the precise measuring and mixing of each required ingredient.
The Invention that Redefined Baking is certainly noteworthy. But for Miss NiNi, the idea of adding a little more or a little less of an ingredient to get “just right” results is the epitome of baking joy! That’s the way I bake in the food lab. That’s the way Miss NiNi bakers bake in the desserterie.
And if you want convenience baking, Dear Readers, let Miss NiNi be your personal baker. No mixes. No chemical undertones. Only handcrafted goodness is a phone call or email away!