Where Have All The Cake Mixes Gone?

In the melody of Peter, Paul, and Mary's song,  "Where Have All the Flowers Gone", I've been humming, where have all the cake mix gone?

As a child, I have fond memories of strolling down the grocery store aisles looking at the almost limitless flavors of cake mixes and frosting selections. Now, I'd be hard-pressed to find more than five. My grandmother often bought vanilla, but I loved trying all the other flavors like coconut, red velvet, and seasonal flavors like pumpkin spice, but my mother stayed true to her favorite, German chocolate cake with pecan coconut icing.

Cooking supplies section in grocery store
Getty Images

When I was asked to write about cake mixes it was funny because I'd noticed that the mixes and frosting choices had dwindled over the years. Prior to the pandemic, I remember going to three different grocery stores trying to find pecan coconut frosting because I wanted to make a cake in memory of my mother.

When I was a child, I remember Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker were the two big cake mixes with each of them having dueling flavors. At least two different types of plain and French vanilla cakes: white or yellow; super moist or angel food.

Now the choices are pretty basic with vanilla, chocolate, and a kid's favorite Funfetti which is nothing more than vanilla cake with bright, multi-colored sprinkles.

Why the Missing Mixes

During the Covid quarantine, wheat flour was missing for weeks which could explain why there was a limited supply of cake mixes, but I noticed the cake mix aisle shrinking prior to the pandemic.

I think more people figured out how to make delicious cakes from scratch. I think another reason is ready-made grocery store cake quality has improved so much.

I've written extensively about Whole Foods' Chantilly cake and how it almost has a cult following, but Whole Foods doesn't hold a monopoly on excellent store-bought cakes.  Acme and Shoprite have some phenomenal cakes with actual buttercream icing. Therefore, the need to buy cake mix or even make cakes from scratch isn't necessary.  

Betty Crocker cake mix
Geri Lavrov / Contributor

I personally enjoy making cakes, but only on special occasions because they are a labor of love. I will be the first to admit that it's not the easiest task and messing up a cake is in my opinion way easier than it is to get it right. Cake mixes are also very cost-effective. For less than $5.00 you could have a two-layered cake with icing. As a single mom - boxed cake came in handy when my budget was tight. 

I have pictures of boxed cakes I made and I'm not ashamed even with the amateur piping - because it was delicious and made with love. I smile just thinking about buying Dollar Store piping tips and trying to practice.

I'm not sure about you, but my childhood memories would not be complete without my grandmother's homemade chocolate (box) cake with super sweet store-bought chocolate icing.  I think I would be sad if I went down a bakery aisle and I did not see any cake mix but that song from Peter Paul and Mary will linger.

To the parents or just single people who want a little sunshine if it isn't a dietary issue, I encourage you to buy a box of Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker. Rip open that little plastic bag inside and bake a cake - the smell alone should bring a smile to your face and hopefully bring back some great memories. 

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Tee, is an aspiring writer and author - returning after 20+ years as an educator and juvenile justice advocate. Her adopted home is Philly, but she's really a country girl raised on the soil and seafood of the Eastern Shores. When she's not writing on Medium.com and now Wide Open Eats, she's busy working and cooking with family and friends.