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The History of Duncan Hines Cake Mix

Unlike Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines was a real person. Born in Bowling Green, Kentucky in 1880, Hines worked as a traveling salesman. During his travels, he became an amateur restaurant critic, recording details about his favorite establishments in a notebook. He even took kitchen cleanliness into account! At the time, there were very few ways for travelers to find trustworthy recommendations, so Hines self-published a guide called Adventures in Good Eating in the late 1930s. He updated it regularly and soon became one of the country’s most trusted sources for recommendations for good, clean restaurants. By the 1950s, restaurants that met the rigorous standards for his approval had even begun to display signs saying, “Recommended by Duncan Hines.” Although Hines was famous for his good taste and trustworthy advice, he couldn’t really cook. So how did he become the namesake of one of America’s most famous boxed cake mix brands? In the late 1940s, Hines teamed up with businessman Roy Park. Park reportedly approached Hines for his endorsement, and although Hines was a notoriously hard sell, Park convinced him by offering him full control over the products that carried his name and pointing out that the arrangement would allow Hines to “upgrade American eating habits” and make his name “more meaningful in the home.” Park and Hines formed a new company called Hines-Park Foods and by 1950, Hines had approved 150 products for distribution under his name. (Notably, that was only around one-fifth of the total number of products that he tested). Duncan Hines Ice Cream — available in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, and marketed as being high in butterfat — was the company’s first big success, but boxed cake mix became the Duncan Hines legacy. Boxed cake mix had already been invented back in the 1930s by John D. Duff of P. Duff and Sons. In 1951, Duncan Hines Cake Mix debuted. Reportedly, there were two original flavors: 3-Star Cake Mix (a vanilla mix that could be baked into yellow, white, or spice cake) and Devil’s Food Cake Mix. The mixes were created by food scientist Arlee Andre, who worked for Nebraska Consolidated Mills. Duncan Hines boxed cake mixes quickly became popular and shortly after they debuted, Hines-Park Foods merged with Procter & Gamble and Duncan Hines cake mixes became available nationwide. Today, Duncan Hines cake mixes are one of the most popular boxed cake mix options available on grocery store shelves and come in a variety of popular flavors, including the original Devil’s Food Cake Mix as well as newer flavors like Strawberry Supreme, Red Velvet, and Triple Chocolate.

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