For a little while, Vanessa Kimbell had been pondering a few very good questions. For example, do more expensive ingredients make a better tasting cake? What is the difference in price between the supermarkets when it comes to the cost of baking a cake overall? If you buy your ingredients at a ‘budget’ supermarket versus a ‘higher-end’ supermarket, can anyone tell the difference? Does quality equal cost?
Just before Easter, I was asked by Vanessa to take part in an experiment live on BBC Radio Northampton’s Kitchen Garden Show to put supermarkets’ own-brand ingredients to the test in the ultimate supermarket challenge. A group of enthusiastic bloggers and bakers were each assigned a supermarket and were tasked with buying own-brand ingredients needed to bake Vanessa’s own Chocolate and Raspberry Cake, to her same method and recipe. The cakes were to be blind-tasted by William Sitwell, writer and editor of Waitrose Kitchen, and top UK blogger Helen Best-Shaw of Fuss Free Flavours (with a couple of little helpers). The results were to be announced live on air from Nana’s Kitchen café located in Most Marvellous in Northampton.
Since I hardly need a reason at all to bake a chocolate cake, I was certainly up for the challenge, and spending the morning in an emporium filled with chocolate cake, vintage kitchenalia and a lovely group of fellow food bloggers seemed like the perfect excuse to me!
We were each asked to make our cake using a stand mixer, bake it in advance and bring the finished cake to the Most Marvellous café, ready for judging.
Despite this really being the biggest excuse to eat a whole load of decadent chocolate cake in fashionable surroundings, the judges took their task very seriously. On the day, as each cake was presented to the judges by the baker, they tasted the cake and assessed it in terms of overall appearance, flavour and texture. One by one, the slices were demolished – at times, a second slice was requested. The judges were very fair and were critical only to taste, meaning that they were actually very complimentary of our baking skills and efforts!
Here are the bakers and the supermarkets we were assigned in alphabetical order, with a round-up of what we spent per cake and the cost per slice – very helpfully calculated by Rosie. Give a girl a chocolate cake and a spreadsheet…
|Supermarket||Baker||Cost Per Cake||Cost Per Slice (10 slices per cake)|
|Aldi||Jayne from Made by Jayne||£6.78||68p|
|Asda||Karen from Lavender and Lovage||£7.14||71p|
|Co-op||Ren (me) from Fabulicious Food!||£10.32||£1.03|
|Lidl||Rosie from Freycob’s Cakes||£7.03||70p|
|M&S||Rachel from Mozart’s Girl||£12.50||£1.25|
|Morrisons||Most Marvellous Coffee Shop||£9.61||96p|
|Sainsbury’s||Carmella from Carmella’s Kitchen||£8.63||86p|
|Tesco||Vanessa from Goddess on a Budget||£11.71||£1.17|
|Waitrose||Fleur from Homemade by Fleur||£9.39||94p|
A silver medal for me!
|1st Place – Morrisons||Baked by Nana’s Kitchen coffee shop||This was the 4th most expensive cake at £9.61 per cake|
|2nd Place – Co-op||Baked by me, Ren!||This was the 3rd most expensive cake at £10.32 per cake|
|3rd Place – Sainsbury’s||Baked by Carmela||This was the 6th most expensive cake at £8.63 per cake|
Based on the statistics alone you can see that if you shop at Aldi you would be able to make the cheapest cake, whilst buying the same ingredients at Marks and Spencer would mean spending the most. This, we could have possibly guessed, but some of the other supermarkets’ positions were definitely more of a surprise to me.
I think that the experiment did demonstrate that if you bake regularly, whether for blogging, personal enjoyment or say, perhaps, for the school cake sale, you could be adding up to £12.50 to your shopping bill to buy the very basic ingredients of a chocolate cake. Even higher, if you consider that you cannot purchase packets of ingredients of the exact size required for a single cake.
If you regularly buy branded ingredients, or for example, luxury dark chocolate, the cost of your little hobby can definitely spiral! And that’s to say nothing of buying organic, free range eggs, other organic ingredients or perhaps speciality flours.
I shopped at the Co-op for the challenge and was particularly impressed by their own-brand dark chocolate, which is £1.09 for 100g and is Fairtrade. In future, I will think twice about buying more expensive chocolate bars for cake baking as the taste of the Co-op own brand chocolate was clearly good enough to stand up to rigorous judging and tasting and make it to second place!
For home baking, I would never consider switching to cheaper eggs and will always buy organic, free range eggs.
This little challenge has certainly convinced me to reassess where I shop for ingredients as well as to think about what I buy. It probably is worth stocking up on own-brand ingredients from a supermarket you are happy with whilst looking out for offers on the more expensive items such as dark chocolate.
Costing up the cakes in this way also put buying a slice of ‘homemade’ cake in a cafe into perspective, given that you also have to take into account their time, electricity and shop overheads.
Finally, perhaps most interesting of all, was the discovery that shopping at higher-end and more expensive supermarkets does not necessarily mean that you will end up with the best tasting cake!
I really enjoyed taking part in the challenge and it is always a pleasure to make one of Vanessa’s recipes. I have used a version of this cake for Chocolate, Vanilla and Black Pepper Cupcakes, which adds beetroot to the cake mix and produces a really moist cake that lasts for days.
My chocolate cake making tips – for a flatter top, flip the cake over onto its bottom and pour the ganache topping over the top before it starts to set. Also, check the cake regularly after 40 minutes to check when it’s ready.
Thank you to Vanessa for inviting me to take part and to our lovely judges who were very kind. It was also lovely to meet up (in some cases for the first time) with such a lovely bunch of chocolate-cake-fuelled fellow food bloggers! Of course, we all had to have a little browse and a shop, too…
And I made Vanessa’s lovely cake again for Easter!
Were you surprised by these results? What was the best chocolate cake you’ve ever made?
A write-up of the event also featured in the Northampton Chronicle & Echo, too.