Just Say NO to Canned Frosting and Box Cake

Homemade cupcakes

This is a guest post by Catherine Delett.

Birthdays rock. Ask any kid what their favorite day of the year is and chances are, the answer is “My birthday!”

And birthdays almost always mean birthday cake. It may seem like the easiest thing to do when it comes to making all those birthday cupcakes is to grab a box cake mix and a can of frosting.

But just say NO to the box and can!


  • Because they are full of ingredients that have been linked to diseases, chemicals that no one needs to eat, and dyes that have been banned as toxic in some countries.
  • Because they are designed to sit on a shelf a very long time while retaining their “delicious homemade taste” – a red flag that they are filled with all sorts of ingredients we shouldn’t put in our bodies.
  • Because taking the time to cook from ingredients improves our food culture and the health of our families.

Here are the ingredients to Betty Crocker’s Rich & Creamy Vanilla Frosting:

Sugar, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil, Water, Wheat Starch, High Maltose Corn Syrup, Contain 1% or Less of Salt, Distilled Monoglycerides, Colored with Artificial Color, Yellows 5 & 6, Polysorbate 60, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Citric Acid, Nonfat Milk, Freshness Preserved by Potassium Sorbate

Notice there are two sugars (high maltose corn syrup is similar to high fructose corn syrup and is used to sweeten food and increase shelf life), trans fats (in the hydrogenated oils; linked to heart disease and obesity), and lots of hard to pronounce chemicals (mostly emulsifiers). Strangely, even though it’s white, it also has dyes in it.

A box cake mix isn’t any better. Here are the ingredients to a Betty Crocker Supermoist Yellow Cake mix:

Enriched Flour Bleached (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Sugar, Corn Syrup, Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, Modified Corn Starch, Corn Starch, Contains 1% or Less of: Salt, Propylene Glycol Mono and Diesters of Fatty Acids, Distilled Monoglycerides, Dextrose, Dicalcium Phosphate, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Xanthan Gum, Yellows 5 & 6, Nonfat Milk.

This has three types of sugar (dextrose is a corn sugar), trans fats, dyes, and a bunch of chemicals.

Here’s the good news: you can make your own super-delicious cake and frosting.  Really, it’s true!

Now, I don’t know if it was Ms. Crocker or Mr. Hines that started the rumor that cakes from scratch are hard to make. And maybe there are some that are difficult. But this one isn’t. This is a recipe for simple, yummy cupcakes and frosting. And look! You don’t even have to Google any of the ingredients to figure out what they are.

Simple Vanilla Cupcakes (makes 24)

2 cups of sugar
1 cup of butter
4 eggs
4 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
3 ½ tsp baking powder
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Add to butter mixture. Mix well. Stir in milk until smooth. Bake 20-25 minutes.

Vanilla Frosting

4 cups confectioner’s sugar
4 Tbsp butter (softened)
4 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients and mix until smooth.

The bottom line: When it comes to cake, bake and frost from scratch. It’s healthier*, it tastes better, and you’ll teach your kids the best food comes from ingredients, not boxes and cans.

*Healthier, for sure, but still a treat. As Michael Pollan so eloquently put it in Food Rules, “Treat treats as treats.”

Catherine Delett blogs at www.consumethisfirst.com where she brings parents the most important and relevant food and nutrition information, or as she calls it – “food intelligence”.

  • Marcy

    Love these ideas!!! Making a real cake (or cupcakes) is a delicious alternative to the JUNK that goes into boxed mixes. Even better is getting your kids to crack some eggs and measure some flour so they can make the cake with you. And better yet is licking the spatula!!!

  • http://www.pstucson.com Juliette

    not to mention it’s really fun to make the cake “your own” by tweaking it with different ingredients, adding healthy options, removing sugar, including flaxseed meal… all for yummy yummy results.

  • karyn

    I think people get so used to baking from a box, they don’t realize how easy and simple baking from scratch really is. All the ingredients in the recipe, everyone probably already has at home versus making a trip to the store to pick up a box of cake mix.

  • http://www.consumethisfirst.com cat delett

    Juliette, if you removed the sugar, what would you replace it with?

    Karyn, so true. I can usually bake these cupcakes on the spur of the moment because the ingredients are all pantry staples in my house.

  • DeeKay

    I am an avid believer in homestyle cooking and baking.  What was good for my grandma and my mother is good ( I know) for me and my family.  Besides If i don’t see wholesome ingredients in it, then I know it contains too much sugar, fats, or sodium by other names that I cannot  even pronounce.  If you want to get healthy and in shape , get back to the basics.  It may take a little longer, but it is WELL worth it!!!!  If you can’t it would be just as healthy to eat the box or bag!!!

  • jwg

    great cupcakes, the old fashioned 1-2-3-4 cake

  • Elenah

    confectioner’s sugar is just sugar AND CORNstartch-many people are allergic to corn

  • Dyann

    I haven’t bought a box of cake mix or container of icing in years. It’s super easy to make it from scratch and most cake mixes you still have to add stuff to it so I really don’t see what people are saving even when it’s on sale. But basically I stopped because of the ingredients and I find it expensive and the scratch versions taste much better and I do not like most store bought icings. They have an odd taste, probably the chemicals found in them to extend shelf life. If I want something I make it from scratch regardless of what it is. I also haven’t used margarine in many years, only butter. I’m getting myself further and further away from anything that is already made for the most part and I always read ingredients.

  • cathy G

    fyi powdered sugar is made of corn syrup

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      No. Powdered sugar is made of sugar. Anticaking agents are added – either cornstarch or calcium. You can make your own at home by putting table sugar through the coffee grinder.

  • Rafael

    I just came here to promote my mixtape.Shit so fire y’all won’t need ovens it’ll heat that shit up faster then Satan slapping his dick on a skillet.