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Hi, I’m Mike!

I’m the photographer and recipe developer behind Mike Bakes NYC. To learn more about me, click here!

How to Make Box Cake Mix Better

How to Make Box Cake Mix Better


It’s my birthday today. And if you asked me how old I am... give me a minute. Or two. I never seem to remember how old I am anymore (probably because I don’t find it all that important) but I’m 26.

I don’t feel 26 though. I remember thinking, when I was like 16, how mature and adult-like 26 year olds seemed. 10 years later, however, and I find myself calling my mom to ask how many stamps I need to put on something before mailing it or if she’ll make my dentist appointment for me. (Am I the only one???)


ANYWAYS, because it’s my birthday I thought this yellow cake with brown butter buttercream would be the perfect thing to share with you today. (It’s mostly because of the sprinkles. To me, sprinkles = celebration).

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! Adding oil, water, and a few eggs to a packaged 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 there are plenty of ways to make box cake mixes better; 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!


Tips for Making Box Cake Mixes 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 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 and yellow cake), or even a stout beer (for chocolate cake).

Add an Extra Egg:

Boxed cake mixes tend to be lighter in consistency, but if you're craving that thicker, moister cake, then all you have to do is add an extra egg to your mix. 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 either softened or melted butter, and you'll get a drastically better cake.

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 ½ to 1 teaspoon 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 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 cake mix cake, top with a homemade frosting. It doesn’t have to be fancy or time-consuming, but a homemade frosting definitely makes a difference.


Yellow Cake (from a box) Hack


Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 35 mins
Total time: 50 mins


  • 1 box of yellow cake mix (Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines preferred)*

  • 5 egg whites

  • 3 egg yolks

  • ⅓ cup butter

  • 1 cup milk

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • granulated sugar, for dusting cake pans (see below)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and sugar cake pan(s) and then set aside.

  2. Separate five eggs, reserving three of the yolks. Place five egg whites in a clean bowl and use a stand mixer or hand mixer to beat the egg whites into stiff peaks. Set aside.

  3. Combine the cake mix with the butter (replacing the oil), milk (replacing the water), three egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Careful not to overmix.

  4. Fold the whipped egg whites gently into the cake batter until just combined. (If you beat or stir the cake batter too vigorously, the egg whites will deflate.) Pour the batter carefully into greased and sugared pan(s).

  5. Bake on the middle oven rack according to package instructions for your pan size.

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