Are any Duncan Hines Cake Mixes or Frostings Vegan?

Recently Nick wanted to know if any Duncan Hines cakes mixes or frostings were vegan. I was doubtful but it turns out that many varieties are:

Duncan Hines website lists products and ingredients. I was surprised that many of the cake mixes and some of the frostings seemed vegan when I first looked them over.

I did however spot two other ingredients that could possibly be animal derived: Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids AND Mono & diglycerides. Both ingredients are noted on the internet many time over as food additives that could be animal derived OR vegetable derived. In most cases, I have always suspected that these ingredients are more cheaply made in the lab using vegetable oils, but I fired off an email to Pinnacal Foods asking if they are suitable for vegans just to check (and to see if they would respond).

They wrote me back in a few hours:

Reference #: 9275483
Dear Valued Consumer,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding Duncan Hines Cake Mix. We genuinely appreciate your time and loyalty to our brand.
Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids: These are mixed partial esters formed by reacting polymerized glycerols with fatty acids from a vegetable source (oil). Mono & diglycerides in frostings & cake mixes: These are part of our vegetable oil shortening and are not from animal source. It is Kosher pareve.

At Pinnacle Foods Group Incorporated, we are proud of the wide array of products that we have to offer our consumers. Pinnacle Foods brands are rich in history and heritage (over 1,000 years combined!), each one with a different and interesting story. You will find many of your all time favorite food brands which span across a variety of categories. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack, Pinnacle Foods has your entire day covered! To learn more about our brands and promotional activity, we invite you to visit us online at www.pinnaclefoodscorp.com.

If there is anything additional we can assist you with, please do not hesitate to contact us again in the future.
Sincerely,
Phyllis Thompson
Consumer Relations Representative

Now I know this leaves the question about sugar. Whether or not the sugar used in commercially produced foods is processed with bone char comes up in the comments fairly frequently here. Claire Gosse of vegancooking.com did an excellent short video detailing her research of several sugar refineries in the US and Canada last year.

Like with everything in life, we make choices about what is important to us. You may choose not to consume sugar that is produced using bone char, and that’s okay. There are alternatives on the market, especially for individual use. These are the sugars you, the consumer, should be supporting and using. Going forward, we will call out products that contain ANY sugar, but we won’t necessarily call them “not vegan” just because they contain sugar.

Now, the next issue we need to address is the process of making a cake from scratch…but I’ll leave that for another day.


40 comments for “Are any Duncan Hines Cake Mixes or Frostings Vegan?

  1. Linda Hammonds
    January 13, 2012 at 11:42 am

    I noticed that all but the chocolate mixes have Red 40. Isn’t that non vegan?

    • @isitvegan
      January 13, 2012 at 11:52 am

      From my research, red #40 is one of those products that was always RUMORED to be non-vegan. “Made of squished up bugs.” But it appears to be made from coal tar (equally as yummy sounding?), not bugs.

      updated: here’s a link from the VGR: http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/faqingredients.htm#red

      • mary
        October 10, 2013 at 6:13 am

        Red #4 is the one that’s from bugs.

  2. Paul
    January 20, 2012 at 3:38 am

    great stance on sugar. you really hit the nail on the head, “…life, we make choices about what is important to us” is so true.
    sugar, whether bone-char produced or not, is not made from animals per se; it’s from sugar cane or beets so it is vegetarian, imo, at the least (unless you eat the bone-char) if not vegan.
    on the other hand, honey, imo, is definitely not vegan (unless you define it as such in your book and then in that case it’s your book not mine) as it is an animal product.
    for me, being vegan is all about the maximum avoidance of animal-based products of any and all kinds, whenever possible. i am sure that one can’t be 100% as there are unknowing instances of cross-contamination, by-products and other cases like materials such as film, rubber, etc that are made from animal parts, and then there’s animal testing, too… but one can certainly be mindful to what one does and do what is correct for them regarding what they know.

    • SmarterVegan
      April 19, 2012 at 5:39 pm

      Paul, you sound very silly. Honey isn’t an “animal product”, it’s made by bees, which are classified as INSECTS.

      Gee, hope you’ve never killed a cockroach.

      • Paul
        April 20, 2012 at 5:13 am

        @Smarter Vegan: silly i may be but my vegan lifestyle choice is based both on ethics & morals and reality.

        i don’t think animals & animal products are disgusting or not tasty however i chose not to eat or wear them.

        i avoid honey as, in my book, i classify insects as animals (not as plants or minerals).

        that said, i am sure every step i take, every fresh produce i eat, water i drink, and every breath i inhale some microscopic critters so i wont ever be 100% vegan, i just try for that.

        re: cockroaches and other insects, i usually capture them then liberate them.

        ehh, i guess you could say i am a freak and weirdo but as popeye says i am what i am.

        to thine own self be true?

        • Taryn
          September 15, 2012 at 7:15 pm

          I like Paul!

          Thank you so much for this great list!

        • Sherry Vegan-Blythe
          February 14, 2013 at 9:33 am

          Awesome philosophy Paul and my family and I can relate and don’t think you’re weird at all <3

        • February 20, 2014 at 11:43 am

          Paul-you are SPOT on!! thanks for this list btw…I just got a fantastic recipe for Pineapple Angel food cake (hubbys b-day is next week!) and although I’ll be making it from scratch, in a pinch, it was nice to see a list of Vegan ready-make cake info. ps..I also refer to bee’s as animals, some “people” just don’t get it!

      • Ehcmier
        November 23, 2013 at 6:21 am

        Never learned your nomenclature, did you? Insects are classified, and rightly so, as part of the Animalia Kingdom. Insects are not plants, fungi, algae, bacteria, or other single-celled life, and have a great deal in common with animals.

  3. pat artman
    May 30, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    have used your cake mixes for years and loved them—-now how do i make a vegan cake? can applesauce be used instead of the eggs? thanks

    • @isitvegan
      May 30, 2012 at 9:30 pm

      You’ll have to send your regards to Duncan Hines. We are not affiliated.

      Applesauce is a good replacement for sweet/fruity cakes. Banana also works there. And you can always use egg replacer (the product) for other flavored box cakes. Homemade cake is the same story, but with way more options.

    • Ryan
      July 21, 2012 at 8:42 am

      you can also use 10-11 ounces of soda (regular soda, not diet) in place of eggs, oil and/or water. just cake mix and soda. you can also do one can of pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix), which is great with a spice cake mix. both options are very simple, delicious and most importantly – VEGAN!

      • August 23, 2013 at 3:45 pm

        I happen upon this by chance. I am looking for an easy (junk-foody) type cake dish that is also vegan to take to a bbq. I am also not big on cooking so I needed something easy. I found a recipe for 2 ingredient cake: 1 box of spice cake mix and 1 can of pumpkin, mix and bake at 350 for 25 minutes. I will make a practice cake before the one I take to the bbq. Thanks for posting this useful info!

    • Denise
      September 12, 2012 at 9:30 pm

      I add a can of soda. I dump the mix in a bowl, pour the can of soda in, mix well and pour into the baking pan. I following the baking times recommended on the box of mix. Whatever the flavor of the soda you add will enhance the flavor of your cake. You can get real creative an experiment with different flavors.

  4. Maria
    October 17, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Why is the Whipped Vanilla not vegan but the others are?

    • @isitvegan
      October 17, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      That one is good to go too.

  5. November 16, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    “SmarterVegan” should change their name.. Insects, bees included ARE indeed part of the Animal Kingdom. That’s like saying since fish are not mammals they are not animals either. Last time I checked bees have brains, eyes, lungs, organs, nervous system, can feel pain. Smart people know that insects are part of the animal kingdom. If you’re not smart, you usually have half a brain to look it up and verify the facts herein stated.

  6. Amanda M
    March 8, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    THANK YOU for getting clarification on the “..diesters, mono..”! I’ve had a box of Duncan cake mix in my cupboard that I haven’t touched since going vegan, due to those suspect ingredients. Now I don’t have to run to the store for more flour to make a cake from scratch for hubby’s b’day tomorrow! :D

  7. vegan4life
    March 12, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    I found the best, yummiest and easiest way to make a boxed cake mix. All you have to do is add a package of silken tofu to the mix and about 3-4 tablespoons (as needed) of soy milk or creamer to the mix, blend well and bake! It’s SO delicious! You use the silken tofu and milk in place of all the ingredients that the box instructs you to add such as milk, eggs, oil, etc. It comes out exactly as it would if it were made the non vegan way. I read this on a dieting website. Try it and you’ll be really shocked at how good it is.

    Paul, I agree with you 100%. I always tell the same thing that you said to everyone who questions me about being vegan. In this world, it is impossible to be completely vegan, but living a vegan lifestyle means to me that I try to avoid using animals or animal “by products” in any way that I can. That includes insects! I also trap and release them. :-)

    Thank you so much for the list of vegan cake mixes!

  8. June 24, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    This article is so so helpful. I transitioned to a primarily vegan diet a year and a half ago and would find myself compromising when it came to special occassions, like eating cake or baked goods. It is so nice to know I can get a vegan cake mix without having to go to a speciality store. Thank you!

  9. vegan4life
    June 24, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    Not only is this article helpful, this website is amazing! Thanks to the wonderful owner of this site, people can come and ask what is or isn’t vegan. It can get confusing at times, but with time you really get used to reading labels and finding accidentally vegan stuff!

    I personally found this site when I searched to see if ready made cake mixes were vegan. I signed up for the email updates and I find the questions to be interesting and the answers are always so well researched and informative. Thanks again for running such an awesome site! :-)

  10. Tangie Smith
    September 12, 2013 at 10:12 am

    I totally agree with you, Paul. Many vegans won’t eat honey since it comes from bees. Some may see that as too strict. It depends on your beliefs. Also, I recently discovered figs are not vegan. Apparently, figs contain dead wasps! You can read more here: http://insufferablevegan.com/tag/are-figs-vegan/. Again, avoiding figs and honey may be extreme to some but technically they are NOT vegan.

    • Paul
      September 21, 2013 at 10:37 pm

      great points, Tangie, i think you hit the nail on the head when you say “depends on your beliefs”… and there certainly many levels and layers of vegan/vegetarians. that said, i doubt there is any human that can live 100% according to their beliefs 100% of the time either but perhaps it is our intention and effort that are more meaningful than our ideals. great link, too, i think i read that before and it also brings up some excellent points, as well!

      if memory serves me well (and a quick google search reinforces that) some figs are vegan and others are not

      http://www.thekitchn.com/strange-symbiosis-the-fig-and-126960

      “commercially produced fresh figs are from a variety that do not need pollination to produce fruit, thus no wasps involved. Dried figs on the other hand are usually from varieties that DO need pollination”.

  11. Joanna
    November 19, 2013 at 11:28 am

    What do you think insects are, plants?
    Insects are a sub-group of animals. Just like birds, mammals, reptiles, etc., they’re just different kinds of animals, but they are all animals.
    And there’s nothing wrong with choosing not to hurt insects, by your food choices or by your actions, not everyone kills cockroaches.

  12. Joanna
    November 19, 2013 at 11:42 am

    I don’t know about apple sauce, but I do happen to know some other easy ways to replace eggs in cake. Depending on the kind of cake, you could use banana, flax seed, soy/rice/coconut yoghurt or silken tofu. And there are also some egg replacers on the market, like no-egg, ener-g egg replacer, etc.
    The girls from Post Punk Kitchen have a nice article on their website about Vegan Baking, where they explain which one to use in which case (but I don’t know if I’m allowed to post a website here).

  13. Tzrdkd
    January 24, 2014 at 4:09 am

    This website is ridiculously helpful . Thank you a million times for this info !!

  14. Jaime
    January 27, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    Do you know if the white cake mix is vegan? I have a FAB sugar cookie recipe that uses only a cake mix and margarine so if I can find a white cake mix that is vegan…well, the world just might be a happier place! :)
    Thanks,
    Jaime

    • @isitvegan
      January 28, 2014 at 6:39 am

      According to the Duncan Hines site, the white cake mix contains whey. Not vegan.

      • vegan4life
        January 28, 2014 at 9:09 am

        I have seen (and bought) vegan white cake mix, but I can’t remember if it was betty crocker, duncan hines or which it was. There’s definitely one out there tho! Can you share the cookie recipe please? I would love to make vegan sugar cookies!!!!

      • vegan4life
        January 28, 2014 at 9:17 am

        What about these two? I bet they’d work just as well…
        Moist Deluxe Butter Golden Cake Mix
        Moist Deluxe Classic Yellow Cake Mix

        • Jaime
          January 28, 2014 at 7:19 pm

          I have only tried it with a white cake mix, but guessing that is so that the sugar cookies come out the right color. I would think the yellow or golden cake mixes would still yield great flavor, they would just be yellow in color. The Sugar cookie recipe is a pampered chef recipe. It sounds crazy with all the margarine, but I’ve made them about 10 times and they are amazing!

          Sugar Cookies
          4 sticks margarine or butter
          **(must be sticks, cannot substitute spreadable margarines or light versions)
          2 3/4 cups flour
          1 package white cake mix

          Preheat oven to 350. Microwave 2 sticks of margarine on high for 1 minute or until melted. Slice remaining sticks into 1/2 inch pieces; add to melted margarine, tossing to coat the pieces. Allow margarine to stand 3-5 minutes or until softened.

          Meanwhile, measure flour into large bowl. Add cake mix to flour, blend well to break up any large lumps.

          Whisk margarine until smooth. If necessary, return margarine to microwave for 10-20 seconds or until creamy and pourable (looks a bit like pudding or custard at this stage). DO NOT MELT COMPLETELY! Pour margarine, all at once, into dry ingredients. Mix until dry ingredients are incorporated and dough is smooth.

          Form dough into a ball and chill. Roll dough on lightly floured surface, cut shapes as desired.

          Bake 8-10 minutes until cookies are firm. (I don’t even let mine brown on the edges because I don’t like mine crispy at all!)
          Enjoy!

  15. Cherie
    March 16, 2014 at 2:45 am

    I’m still confused on sugar in icing or cake mix. I thought it was bone char, so some Duncan Hines mixes and icing are not vegan?

  16. daria
    March 29, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    If you want a couple good vegan cake recipes that you mix up in the pan, look to Shirley Corriher’s, Bake Wise, the gingerbread and chocolate cake recipes are killer. If you want to make a decent frosting/icing use earth balance or vegetable shortening. Many commercial icings use vegetable shortening…there are several good organic ones. The sugar is a choice you have to make. Also, many quick cakes or dump cake recipes during the 2 WWs and in between, (the depression) are vegan or can be modified to vegan in a snap. Eggs, butter and milk were hard to come by or were rationed, so clever cooks took the initiative to invent alternatives. Dates, bananas and applesauce are all great egg replacers.

  17. daria
    March 29, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    By commercial frostings, i mean your favorite local vegan bakery probably uses a crisco type vegetable shortening. Most have for years, it doesn’t get rancid when left out for a couple days on your counter.

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