Verdict: With a moist, flavorful, and consistent result, the Duncan Hines mix takes the cake.
As a professional baker, I have strong opinions about what makes a good cake.
I may not use cake mixes, but I’ve definitely seen the stuff in the box fool people time and time again, especially if you play around with the mixes with add-ins and icing recipes.
As for the chocolate cake, I think the end product really needs to deliver that chocolate flavor, which Duncan Hines did best. It nailed that melting flavor without being dense or overly sweet. It was moist all over and cooked evenly.
Although Pillsbury also had a good flavor, it seemed to suffer from the cardinal sin of cake: dryness. The layers were noticeably more domed than the others – as a result the edges of the cake were dry and crumbly even though the center was perfectly cooked. It also resulted in a less clean final slice of cake when frosted.
Betty Crocker’s cake had a great moist texture that was perhaps even better than Duncan Hines’. But it was quite bland – I didn’t taste much chocolate and it depended on the icing to make it delicious.