Cake Mix

As a kid I loved cake mix. You open the box and the little packets, you follow the instructions and you get a cake. Cake mix seemed like magic to me and those cakes tasted the best. I used to bake cakes when I should have been studying for exams. I’d make a special trip to the supermarket and bake a cake to eat as a study reward.

I didn’t come from a family that baked. I relied on cake mix magic because I didn’t know better. Only years later, when I took up baking as an adult, did I discover that my childhood cake mix was an illusion. Baking is far easier than you think. Cakes taste better when you mix each fresh ingredient in the right order rather than relying on a pre-mixed packet. Baking is precise, but not hard.

How many times do we fall for the cake mix option? The situation where a clever marketer makes the simple sound hard to sell a product at attractive margins. Pennies of inputs become dollars of profits because we believe the marketing and don’t do our own research and experimentation.

Whole industries of consulting, fitness, health, food, career advice, self-help, technology and more use the cake mix model over and over. Whenever someone is telling you to buy their solution because something is hard it is worth checking that it is not just slow, precise, complicated, or demands practice. Most cake mix solutions lead you to end up doing it yourself the ‘hard way’ in the end. There satisfaction to be had in the effort of getting there yourself.

2 thoughts on “Cake Mix

  1. Simon, apt…with the caveat that there are tradeoffs, and we all make our choices. M’lady bakes some things from scratch, uses mixes at other times. (I choose not to bake at all! 😉 We all choose what matters. Certain things I care about the brand, other things, I buy generic. Different list for m’lady. I know certain things *not* to buy generic for her! So, there are things I consciously buy the mix (e.g. canned enchilada sauce; have made by hand, just not worth it, to *me*.) And things I will do by hand (e.g. jambalaya). However, being conscious of the tradeoffs, as you suggest, is important. Do it by hand, or at least know what’s involved, then decide. To your point, however, don’t just take what’s marketed!

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