It’s so nice to have some Chrissy Teigen-based drama in the news again. What a gift. It makes it feel almost like the before times. If you missed it, Teigen released a line of baking mixes under her kitchen and home goods brand Cravings. These are not your typical baking mixes, but slightly fancier mixes for things like salted white chocolate macadamia cookies (“with flaky sea salt!”) and banana bread. The problem is, New Zealand-based baker Jordan Rondel is accusing Teigen of ripping off her “luxury” baking mixes, which sell for $25. And given the two released a carrot cake mix together in September, she could be right. Gawker has a good rundown of the drama, but the whole thing brings up a separate point that is important to consider. If you are spending $25 for cake mix, why not just buy a damn cake?
When I was growing up, the general rule was that the more you paid for something, the better quality it was. That line of reasoning has completely gone out the window. Rondel, in the “Why So Expensive?” section of her website, does argue that her mixes require “stupidly expensive ingredients,” that she’s a small business owner, and that it comes in “gift worthy packaging.” Teigen’s mixes are cheaper than Rondel’s, around $8 to $10 a box. But looking at the ingredients, both Teigen’s and Betty Crocker’s white chocolate macadamia cookie mixes have sugar, enriched flour, and baking chips made with palm oil, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most of the $6 difference between the two is not going to the manufacturers and workers putting the mix together. Maybe I’m wrong!
But still, if you are paying $25 for Rondel’s Coconut Raspberry Lime Loaf mix (which you need to provide your own raspberries for!), why not just go to a bakery or grocery store, where the cakes will be freshly made by professionals?
Baking mixes have a long history, borne out of a national surplus of molasses and a desire for convenience. But that convenience was always one of price as well — rather than having a pantry full of cake ingredients that could easily spoil if you didn’t use them up, all you had to do was add water or sometimes an egg and your family could enjoy a cake. Mixes are for when your kid’s birthday party is coming up and you need 50 cupcakes that do not cost as much as your rent. For $25, you could easily afford to make a cake from scratch, or if you don’t have the baking prowess, give the job to someone who knows what they’re doing.
Of course, it’s more complicated than that. Mixes were also sold to housewives in the 1940s and ’50s to specifically assure them that they were not “cheating,” they were still dutifully cooking for their families. The pressure to perform this sort of housework is still strong, and while many people do legitimately derive pleasure from baking, those people are more likely to actually be baking and not using a mix. If you’re not getting frugal convenience out of a mix, and you’re not getting something of professional quality, then what are you paying for? Status? Probably! Anyway, if you’re paying that kind of money, you shouldn’t be required to do the work of baking a cake on top of it. The audacity. Buy a cake. Free yourself.