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Why I Do Not Buy Premade Desserts

Why I Do Not Buy Premade Desserts

You may be stunned to see the long lists of ingredients in packaged, premade desserts. See below for some examples. I used to buy grocery store desserts whenever I was having a party, needed treats for my kids’ schools, or just because. After figuring out palm oil was making my son sick, I slowly started learning how to bake everything from scratch. 

Since then, I haven’t bought a ready-made dessert or bakery item from the grocery store. Originally, the reason was because there is palm oil in most everything; my son wouldn’t be able to eat it. Due to the environmental concerns with palm oil, I stopped buying them even when the treats wouldn’t involve him.

In addition to palm oil, there are plenty of reasons to not buy ready-made grocery store bakery, no matter how tempting they may look and convenient they may be. See my list of reasons below.

The next time you are at your local supermarket or store like Walmart, Target, Meijer, Costco, Sam’s Club, etc., take a look at the ingredients on premade cookies, cakes, pies, and other desserts. Like me, you may be surprised to learn how many ingredients they contain. 

Ingredients in Store-Bought Cupcakes

I went to the website of a retailer who is transparent enough to list their ingredients on their website. (I appreciate this so I don’t want to call them out on it!) This is what is in their premade Chocolate & Vanilla Mini Cupcakes.

Ingredients in the cake part:

Sugar, Water, Eggs, Bleached Enriched Wheat Flour, Soybean and/or Canola Oil, Cocoa Powder Processed with Alkali, Modified Cornstarch, Whey (Milk), Leavening Blend (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Cornstarch, Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate), Mono- and Diglycerides, Salt, Emulsifier (Propylene Glycol Mono- and Diesters of Fats and Fatty Acids, Mono- and Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Citric Acid), Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavor.

Ingredients in the icing:

Icing Sugar (Sugar, Cornstarch), Vegetable Oil Shortening (Canola Oil, Palm Oil, Palm Kernel Oil, Monoglycerides, Polysorbate 60), Corn Syrup, Water, Margarine (Soybean Oil, Palm Oil, Water, Salt, Whey [Milk], Soy Lecithin, Monoglycerides, Natural Flavor, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D3), Nonfat Dry Milk, Cocoa Powder Processed with Alkali, Butter (Cream, Salt), Modified Cornstarch, Mono and Diglycerides, Salt, Natural Flavor.

palm oil in sprinkles

Palm oil is common in sprinkles

Ingredients in the sprinkles:

Icing Sugar (Sugar, Cornstarch), Palm Kernel Oil, Modified Cornstarch, Cornstarch, Sunflower Lecithin, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Red 3, Shellac, Polysorbate 60.

There are DOZENS OF INGREDIENTS in these mini cupcakes! The ones that contain palm oil are:

The palm oil ingredients in the cake: 

  • Mono- and diglycerides
  • Propylene glycol
  • Mono- and diesters of fats and fatty acids
  • Mono- and diglycerides — listed again

Palm oil in the icing:

  • Vegetable oil shortening (all of these: palm oil, palm kernel oil, monoglycerides, polysorbate 60)
  • Margarine (all of these: palm oil, monoglycerides, vitamin A palmitate)
  • Mono and diglycerides
  • Natural flavor — not sure

Palm oil in the sprinkles:

  • Palm kernel oil
  • Polysorbate 60

As companies look for ways to save money, they are using palm oil more and more. It’s a cheap ingredient. 

Ingredients in Premade Dessert Bars

I looked at a package of Raspberry & Lemon Dessert Bars. While “raspberry” and “lemon” sound good for you, look at all of these ingredients. I bolded the ingredients that contain palm oil.

Ingredients in the raspberry dessert bars:

Cake base ingredients:

Bleached Enriched Flour, Sugar, Food Starch-Modified, Dextrose, Soybean Oil, Cellulose Gum, Defatted Soy Flour, Eggs, Leavening, Mono- and Diglycerides, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Propylene Glycol Mono- and Diesters of Fatty Acids, Salt, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Vital Wheat Gluten, Whey, Xanthan Gum

Raspberry filling ingredients:

High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Corn Syrup, Red Raspberries, Food Starch-Modified, Dried Apples (Apples, Calcium Stearate), Blue 1, Cellulose Gel, Cellulose Gum, Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Preservatives (Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate), Red 40, Salt, Sodium Citrate, Butter (Cream, Natural Flavoring), Margarine (Palm Oil, Water, Salt, Mono- and Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Sodium Benzoate, Artificial Flavor, Beta-Carotene, Vitamin A Palmitate, Eggs.

Ingredients in the lemon bars:

Sweetened Condensed Milk (Milk, Sugar), Bleached Enriched Flour, Sugar, Food Starch-Modified, Dextrose, Soybean Oil, Cellulose Gum, Defatted Soy Flour, Eggs, Leavening, Mono- and Diglycerides, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Propylene Glycol Mono- and Diesters of Fatty Acids, Salt, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Vital Wheat Gluten, Whey, Xanthan Gum, Eggs, Sugar, Margarine (Palm Oil, Water, Salt, Mono-and Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Sodium Benzoate, Artificial Flavor, Beta-Carotene, Vitamin A Palmitate, Water, Lemon Juice Powder (Corn Syrup Solids, Lemon Juice Solids, Lemon Oil), Lemon Juice

Topping sugar ingredients:

Dextrose, Food Starch-Modified, Palm Oil, Titanium Dioxide, Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Calcium Propionate, Artificial Flavor, Vanilla Extract.

Both the lemon bars and the raspberry bars each contain multiple palm oil ingredients.

Why I Don’t Buy Grocery Store Desserts

See if any of these reasons to not buy grocery store bakery resonate with you. While this is a list of why you shouldn’t buy premade desserts, bookmark these reasons to bake from scratch.

1. They typically contain palm oil

Here are some reasons why manufacturers use palm oil in desserts:

  • Replaces the artificial trans-fats the FDA banned from adding to foods (in 2018)
  • It’s cheap
  • Creates desirable mouthfeel
  • Helps with texture
  • Can remain solid at room temperature
  • Versatile ingredient
  • Helps increase shelf life
  • Helps bind ingredients
  • Considered “natural” and “plant-derived”
  • Is vegan and vegetarian

You may have luck with biscotti and with some smaller bakeries who supply packaged desserts to your store. However, the majority will contain palm oil in one or more forms. Learn more about uses for palm oil in premade desserts (and everything else) and why they are so prevalent. 

2. It’s easy to make your own using real ingredients

Start with some easy no-bake carrot and date energy bites or other bliss balls to get started.

3. Excess packaging vs making homemade

If you avoid palm oil for environmental reasons, you may also be concerned that most desserts you find at the grocery store come in plastic containers.

Producing and packaging store-bought desserts have an environmental impact. It also contributes to environmental pollution. The plastic packaging is often non-recyclable and ends up in landfills. Even if it is recyclable, it’s often dirty from the the dessert and thrown away.

4. They contain LOTS of ingredients

Premade grocery store desserts have lots of ingredients. There are several reasons for this. Many ingredients are used to enhance shelf life. Most desserts also need to be shelf stable and many need to be shelf stable at room temperature. Companies add ingredients to help preserve their shelf-life.

In addition, to save money, companies often use chemical ingredients to mimic the real thing. These require additional ingredients to make.

Some examples of this:

  • Making cheap frosting; using ingredients to mimic butter
  • Making imitation chocolate using oils instead of using real cocoa butter
  • Using chemical food dyes instead of getting color from real fruits and vegetables
  • Using imitation vanilla

When you bake from scratch, typically you will use fewer ingredients than when you buy the same item at the store. When you use real ingredients, you often need less of them because they are the real thing instead of a cheap alternative.

5. They contain artificial ingredients

Many pre-packaged desserts contain a significant amount of artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors to extend their shelf life and enhance their appearance.

These additives can be used to dye the cake or cookies, the filling, and the frosting. They can also be added to the toppings, like sprinkles and jimmies, and other toppings and add-ins.

6. Quality and freshness

Store-bought desserts often lack the freshness and quality of homemade or bakery-fresh treats. They are typically mass-produced and can sit on the shelves for several days or weeks before someone buys and consumes them.

7. Extra sugar and fat 

Commercial desserts are often laden with excess sugar, fats, and more. When you bake at home, you can control some of these ingredients. At the very least, you can swap out for higher quality options. Consider alternatives such as:

  • Agave
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Real peanut butter, nut butters
  • Real butter
  • Organic sugar
  • Organic, fair trade cocoa
  • Pure vanilla extract

Instead of buying a premade cake with chemically-created filling, you can make your own and include fresh strawberries, etc. You can make frosting from scratch using real butter. You can learn how to make whipped cream from real ingredients.

8. Taste

While this is subjective, many people find that store-bought desserts do not taste as good as homemade or bakery-made ones. They often have a generic, overly sweet taste and/or chemical taste.

I’ve found this to be true especially with frosting. Make your own frosting, and you will see what I mean. This is true for premade frostings on cakes, cookies, and cupcakes as well as canned frosting (also chemical-laden).

9. Cost

In the long run, buying pre-packaged desserts can be more expensive than making them at home. With homemade desserts, you’re paying for the raw ingredients, which are often cheaper and can make more servings.

NOTE: There likely won’t be a cost savings if you buy ingredients to make a dessert, and then never use the rest of them again. By the time you buy flour, sugar, vanilla extract, or whatever you need, it may be easier to buy premade. 

Therefore, if you have extra ingredients you bought only for making one dessert, and never use them in another recipe, it will be more economical to buy one-off desserts when you need them. 

10. Lack of customization

When you buy desserts from a store, you’re limited to the available options. If you have specific dietary restrictions or preferences, it may be difficult to find something suitable. It’s very difficult to find palm oil free desserts in stores.

11. Allergen cross-contamination risk

For individuals with food allergies, there is a risk of cross-contamination in mass production facilities where store-bought desserts are made.

You will likely need to find a grocery-store, packaged dessert from a smaller, perhaps local bakery. They will be more likely to differentiate themselves by being nut-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, etc. 

12. It’s not always supporting smaller, local businesses 

Buying premade desserts from national grocer (instead of a mom and pop grocer or from a local bakery, dessert shop, or independent operator) is one less chance to support local business and encourage your hometown economy. Please note, many ingredients bakers use contain palm so be sure to check.

Common Palm Oil Ingredients in Store-Bought Bakery 

Learn lots more in my post, desserts without palm oil, where I discuss how common palm oil is in baking ingredients. For now, here are common palm oil ingredients in bakery items. This includes all types of ready-made desserts, including tortes, dessert breads, and more.

  • Anything with “palm” in the name: 
    • Palm oil
    • Palm kernel oil
    • Organic palm oil
    • Fractionated palm oil
    • Hydrogenated palm kernel oil
    • Vitamin A Palmitate
    • Red palm oil
  • Polysorbate 60
  • Mono- & diglycerides
  • Monoglycerides
  • Vegetable mono- & diglycerides
  • Propylene glycol mono- and diesters of fatty acids
  • Propylene glycol
  • Natural flavor (undisclosed)
  • Sodium stearoyl lactylate
  • Calcium stearate
  • Shortening
  • Vegetable oil shortening
  • Margarine
  • Sorbitan monostearate

Premade Desserts Have More Ingredients than Homemade

I know these are terrible pictures but look to see how many ingredients are in these Apple and Cherry Turnovers; Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies; Cranberry Orange Muffins; and Chocolate Chip Cookies. In addition, all of them contain palm oil.

Apple cherry turnover ingredients

Ingredients in apple cherry turnovers

Pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies ingredients

Ingredients in pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies ingredients

Cranberry orange muffins ingredients

Cranberry orange muffins ingredients

ingredients in store-bought chocolate chip cookies

Ingredients in store-bought chocolate chip cookies

Making Desserts at Home

This is personal to me because my son can’t have palm oil. My household avoids palm oil as best as we can to be in solidarity with him and because of the environmental concerns. There is also plastic packaging and the environmental costs associated with it.

In addition, there are so many additional ingredients, including artificial ingredients and chemicals. These help preserve shelf-life; make products stable at room temperature; create mouthfeel; mimic other higher quality ingredients; and more. 

Even twenty years ago, this wasn’t the case with store-bought desserts. However, now with all the ways companies have “innovated” to save money, ingredients are inferior to what they were in the past.

For these reasons, I do not buy premade bakery and desserts from the store. Sometimes that means we go without sweets because I don’t feel like baking! But that’s okay too. (There’s always fruit!)

Learn more about baking at home:

Thanks so much for reading and being interested in this topic. Please look around my site for recipes and more info about finding products without palm oil.