Vanilla cupcakes – Can you judge a cupcake by its cover?

This weekend, a fellow foodie and I planned an afternoon of baking. We wanted to try out a vanilla cupcake mix that I received as a gift. It came in a very cute package with instructions on how to make a dozen cupcakes as well as icing.

We figured that since we were in the process of baking cupcakes, we might as well bake a batch of vanilla cupcakes from scratch (go figure). Can a cupcake mix taste as good as cupcakes make from scratch? I was attracted to the packaging and the fact that it included instructions for making a dozen vanilla cupcakes plus icing.

Today we will be trying two types of vanilla cupcakes: one prepared using a mix and one prepared from scratch.

Taste testers:
Please try one of each cupcake. Please comment on the appearance, texture and taste. Do you notice a significant difference between the cake and icing for each one? Which one do you like more?

My thoughts:
Based on the results of a previous taste test, I think that the cupcakes made using the mix will taste pretty close to the cupcakes made from scratch. However, I think that there will be significant differences with the quality of the icing. I’ve tried store bought icing in the past and it never seems to be quite as good as homemade buttercream.

Side note:
My friend also gave me a package of decorative cupcake liners which are great for presentation but also serve a functional purpose – they are made of a sturdier paper and claim to be strong enough to use instead of a muffin pan. These cupcake liners did prove to be strong enough to use without a muffin pan and they also made the presentation of the cupcakes very sophisticated. It’s great that these proved to beneficial from both a practical and presentation stand point!

Thank you everyone for posting your comments. Here is the reveal:

Pink: Cupcake Mix
Purple: From scratch


The results:
The results were split down the middle with some people preferring the pink cupcake and others preferring the purple cupcake. Some people could taste the vanilla more in the purple cupcake and a denser texture. This is probably because the cupcakes made from scratch had vanilla and whole eggs in their recipe. The cupcakes made from a mix didn’t call for vanilla or egg yolks (you had to separate the eggs and just use the egg whites) which resulted in a lighter texture which is also something that the taste testers noticed.


Bottom line:
If it weren’t for the fact that I was tasting the cupcakes side by side, I wouldn’t really be able to tell that one was made from a mix and the other from scratch. If you’re pressed for time when making cupcakes, use a mix and spend the extra time decorating (this is where it really counts).

10 thoughts on “Vanilla cupcakes – Can you judge a cupcake by its cover?

  1. I preferred the purple stare cupcake over the pink. The pink had an aftertaste and was direr. The purple star cupcake was more tender, and more flavourful and seemed to have a more buttier taste
    Both had too much icing!

  2. Both cupcakes were delicious. Vanilla one of my faves! But I did notice a slight difference in the two cupcakes. the Pink cupcake (A): The cake was lighter, fluffier and even had a lighter taste, while the purple cupcake (B) was denser and had a definite taste to it.

    As for the icing both were sugary buttercream but A was a little less gritty icing then B.

    Overall A was my favorite. And I'm guessing B was from the mix.

  3. Pink Star cupcake:

    texture: smoother
    taste: saltier
    appearance: not much different than the the other one

    Icing: saltier

    Purple Star cupcake:

    texture: drier
    taste: doesn't have the salty taste
    appearance: not much diffent than the other one

    I like the Pink star cupcake!

  4. Pink – icing: too much butter, I think even for a buttercream.
    cake: moist and spongy (best of two cakes)

    Purple – icing: no strong butter flavour, good balance between creaminess and sweet, no overkill either way (best of two icings)
    cake: dryer, denser. This was the mini cupcake however so not sure if this made a difference when comparing to the full muffin size?

  5. No contest! The cupcake in the blue/purple jacket wins hands down. And I'm pretty sure it's the homemade one, the icing is a give away. That's butter cream for sure. The other icing tasted very artificial and full of chemicals. In terms of the cake part, they were similar and both moist and delicious. Both cupcakes looked equally appealing.

  6. Yum! Both were good. I tasted the cupcakes with and without the icing.

    Without the icing, cakes taste similar. Vanilla flavor is really mild. Cannot tell difference between homemade vs mix.

    With the icing, pink decorated cupcake tasted soooo good, soooo buttery and rich!

    I think pink decorated cupcake is made from scratch and purple one is from the mix. My favorite is the pink because of the icing!

  7. Purple: Lighter flavour, sweeter icing, tastes a little like pound cake. I can taste the vanilla more in this one. Cleaner taste overall.

    Pink: This cupcake is lighter in texture but has a slight bite to it with a mild bitterness/aftertaste. However, if you weren't comparing them side by side, I don't think you could really notice. The purple cupcake is better in terms of flavour. The pink one is nicer in terms of lightness of texture.

  8. Great cupcakes!! Thanks

    Purple – Vanilla taste was mild, liked this cupcake better. Both seemed similar in the texture of the cake but the icing seemed different between the two.

    Pink – had a stronger vanilla taste, almost a strange aftertaste. I would say this was from the mix.

  9. The pink cupcake was more dense and had a harder icing (one that held it's shape well…maybe a cream cheese base?).
    The purple cupcake was lighter and so was the icing.
    Both were delicious but if I have to choose one I choose the pink cupcake as the better one.

  10. I liked the pink one. It tasted more smooth and creamy. The purple was more dry, but I wouldn't notice if someone just gave me 2 delicious cupcakes to eat!

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