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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chocolate cake recipe – Store versus homemade

My wife made the mistake of mentioning that my daughter and I should bake something for some company that would be coming over in a little over an hour.  Not knowing what to bake I passed the decision to my 5 year old who immediately proclaimed we should make chocolate cake.  Not having any chocolate cake mix nor frosting in the house this seemed like a great opportunity for a Store versus homemade challenge.

Given I have never actually made a cake without my trusty Duncan Hines cake mix I went to the Internet and found what looked like a good recipe for a moist chocolate cake.


Moist Chocolate Cake Recipe

Ingredients (Cake)

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water


  • Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
  • Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
  • Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings.



Perfectly Chocolate Frosting Recipe

Ingredients (Frosting)

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
  • 2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions (theirs)

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Directions (mine)

Add all ingredients to bowl and mix until it looks like frosting.

The Contenders – Store Bought

Duncan Hines Chocolate Cake Mix, $2.25

Ingredients: Enriched Flour Bleached (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Sugar, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Corn Syrup, Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, Corn Starch, Modified Corn Starch, Contains 1% or Less of: Salt, Propylene Glycol Mono and Diesters of Fatty Acids, Distilled Monoglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Cellulose Gum, Xanthan Gum, Artificial Flavor.

Pillsbury Creamy Milk Chocolate Frosting, $1.99 for 16 oz container.

Ingredients: Sugar, Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Palm Oil, Wheat Starch, Contains 2% or Less of: Mono and Diglycerides, Cellulose Gel, Salt, Corn Starch, Citric Acid, Polysorbate 80, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Artificial and Natural Flavor, Cellulose Gum, Carrageenan, Whey. Freshness Preserved by Potassium Sorbate and BHT.

So I can make the cake for a total of $4.24 using the store bought items, plus $0.24 for the vegetable and oil that needs to be added bringing the grand total to $4.48.

The Challenger - Homemade

Here are the costs the cake yourself:

Chocolate Cake

Ingredient Amount Cost
Sugar 2 cups $ 0.640
Flour 1.75 cups $ 0.218
Baking Cocoa .75 cup $ 0.797
Baking Powder 1.5 teaspoons $ 0.048
Baking Soda 1.5 teaspoons $ 0.013
Salt 1 teaspoon $ 0.007
Eggs 2 eggs $ 0.265
Milk 1 cup $ 0.187
Vegetable Oil 1/2 cup $ 0.210
Vanilla Extract 2 teaspoons $ 0.055
Water 1 cup $ -
Total Cost $ 1.717


Chocolate Frosting

Ingredient Amount Cost
Butter 1/2 cup $ 0.531
Baking Cocoa 2/3 cup $ 0.708
Powdered Sugar 3 cups $ 0.676
Milk 1/3 cup $ 0.062
Vanilla Extract 1 teaspoon $ 0.028
Total Cost $ 2.004


All together it cost $3.72 to make the cake from scratch.

The Decision…


Store bought


Price   image   image   image
Taste   image   image      image   image   image   image   image 
Difficulty   image     image   image 

There was now comparison in the taste the homemade cake was way better than the ones we have been making from the boxes.  There were some obvious extra ingredients to add but nothing too complicated in the preparation (throw ingredients and let mix)  When it comes to price the homemade version was 83% of the price or $0.76 less.  Maybe to just put the nail in the coffin the homemade version was actually 33% larger than the box variety.  Though I had my doubts that this would be homemade’s first loss looks like it is going 5-0 with this one.


De in D.C. said...

Do your math again on the homemade cake and frosting. $1.717 + $2.004 doesn't equal $2.72 ;)

That said, homemade cake always wins hands-down in the taste category. Even if it is more expensive (it isn't, it's still cheaper) I'd make homemade cakes.

Cool series.

Going Homemade said...

Fixed the poor math, sure the one calculation I didn't do with a calculator oe spreadsheet :)

Glad you are liking the series hope to have more to come.

Pam said...

I have been all over the map on this one. I used to always make them home made. Then after college and I started teaching and got busy- well you know...and can usually find the mixes on sale for $0.99. and put them ont he shelf. Then latley I have been switching to less sugar- splenda and whole wheat flour so back to scratch again. I do still keep some mixes on the shelf for times I am in a hurry. For the frosting- I never buy frosting. WAAAAYY to much sugar for this household with 2 hypoglycemics. If I frost I make a cream cheese or pudding type frosting. Just some thoughts.