When it comes to cake, and most other foods, I believe that homemade is best. But no one can deny the convenience of boxed cake mixes. And with a few simple hacks, box cake mix can be made much better! Follow these steps at home to transform store-bought box cake mix from bland and dry into a fluffy, moist, bakery-style cake.
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I have quite a few homemade cake recipes on my blog. But I'll be the first to admit that adding oil, water, and a few eggs to a box cake mix is a lot easier than hauling out all of the ingredients you’d need to make a cake from scratch. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to combine the convenience of boxed cake mixes with the flavor of homemade cake?
Well… it turns out YOU CAN! There are plenty of box cake mix hacks out there to make box cake taste like a gourmet bakery cake. My research turned up plenty of tips and tricks, which I naturally had to test out for myself, and I’m here to share the results with you guys as well as my favorite box cake mix recipe!
How to Make Box Cake Better
Replace the Water
The average cake mix calls for the most boring of liquids: water. Instead of using water, substitute whole milk or your favorite non-dairy milk (almond, oat, and coconut milk work especially well). The milk adds fat, which results in a better flavor and density in your cake. If you want to make your cake extra rich, swap out the milk for buttermilk. Because buttermilk is extra thick, use a few more tablespoons than the recipe calls for. You can also think 'outside of the box and use other non-dairy liquids: Try swapping out the water for soda, juice (orange juice is great with vanilla / yellow cake), or even a stout beer or coffee (for chocolate cake).
Add an Extra Egg
Boxed cake mixes tend to be lighter in consistency, but if you're craving that thicker, moister, denser cake, then all you have to do is add an extra egg to your mix. The additional fat in the egg yolk helps create a more tender and moist cake that is full of flavor. The extra egg also helps the cake have a more stable texture, which is great if you want to bake it up as a layer cake instead of a sheet cake or cupcakes. Prepare to be shocked and amazed at the difference one egg will make when you bite into that rich cake.
Replace Vegetable Oil with Butter
Cake mixes almost always call for vegetable oil as their fat; needless to say, butter has a lot more flavor than vegetable oil, and it makes for a much better texture. Just replace the oil with an equal amount of melted butter, and you'll get a drastically better cake with a more complex flavor. Want to go one step further? Use brown butter instead! Just note that the process of browning butter cooks off moisture from the butter, which means it reduces in quantity. This means that you'll want to start with an additional 1-2 tablespoons (14-28 grams) of butter before you brown it!
Add Some Extra Flavor
The vanilla powder added to your boxed cake mix might be lacking in flavor; boost your cake’s flavor by adding anywhere from 1 to 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Making a spice cake? Add a little rum, almond, or orange extract as well. If you're making a white or yellow cake, add a teaspoon or two of fresh lemon or lime zest, or a bit of juice. And don't forget about all of those ingredients in your pantry that you would use in cookies, brownies, or other cakes. Throw in a handful of chocolate chips or nuts to take your cake to the next level.
Use Homemade Frosting
Now, I’ll admit to liking canned frosting— but not on cakes. To elevate a box mix cake, top it with homemade frosting. It doesn’t have to be something fancy or time-consuming, but a homemade frosting definitely makes a difference.
Looking for Cake Recipes Made From Scratch?
Check these out:
- Peanut Butter Brown Sugar Layer Cake with Chocolate Fudge Buttercream
- Apple Cider Layer Cake with Spiced Salted Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Red Velvet Snack Cake with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting
- Brown Butter Snack Cake with Brown Butter Buttercream
- Cookies n Cream Snack Cake with Cookies n Cream Whipped Cream Frosting
*Originally posted on January 9, 2019*
*Post updated on January 23, 2023*
This is great! Thank you!!! When doubling the butter amount to amp up my cake, how does this effect the baking time??
You likely won't have to adjust the baking time at all! If it needs longer, it'll only be by maybe 5-10 minutes.
NOW you tell me! ...oh if only I had read the WHOLE article, ,not just the egg bit. I added an egg, but I missed the extract, the rum, the melted butter...sigh...I guess I have to makeANOTHErcake. 🙂
Hi Mike, I’m making boxed cupcakes and I have left over egg whites from my banana pudding I made yesterday. Box calls for 3 whole eggs and I need to know if I can add these egg whites to my cupcakes or will it hurt the cupcakes!?
It would be helpful to know how many egg whites you have leftover! There are a few options available to you but regardless of what you choose, you'll likely have some portion of egg leftover (unless you currently have 2 egg whites). You could 1) add one extra whole egg (4 eggs total), 2) use 3 whole eggs with 1-2 additional egg yolks, or 3) use 3 egg yolks and 5 egg whites. If you go with option 3, you'll separate your yolks from the whites and beat the egg yolks directly into the batter; then you'll whip the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold them into the batter last before adding the batter to your cupcake pan! If none of those options help you get rid of the leftover egg whites you have, here are a few common recipes that often use just egg whites: meringues, pavlova, chiffon cakes, macarons, marshmallows, marshmallow fluff, and frostings. Hope this helps! 🙂
Have you ever used mayonnaise in a box cake mix? If
So what are proportions of all the ingredients?
Cookie from Mississippi
Did this go through?
I've never tried using mayonnaise, personally! Let me know how it goes if you try it! 🙂