Are you someone who feels bad about using a boxed cake mix? If that’s the case, you’ve come to the correct spot! In this post, which I’m labeling “The Ultimate Guide” to doctoring a boxed cake mix you’ll receive tips, tricks, and lots of fun ideas you’ve probably never thought of!
How to Make a Cake Mix Taste Better?
Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury… and everyone else. They are all excellent brands. Beginning with a box of cake mix is an excellent place to start. But sometimes you just need more. To make your cake taste like a scratch cake, you must take it to the next level. (Yum!)
It doesn’t matter what flavor you choose–chocolate cake mix, yellow cake mix, white cake mix, or even something different, like a spice cake mix–you can still spice it up even more with just a few additions. And believe me, these little changes may make a big impact.
You’ll be astonished at how simple it is to make a boxed cake mix not only taste better, but also feel better in your tongue. After all, homemade cakes do have a fuller texture you can’t achieve with a boxed mix using the recipe on the back of the box.
Best of all, you’ll walk away from this experience convinced that there’s nothing wrong with boxed mixes. They’re fantastic…and not only in a hurry!
Why I Use a Boxed Mix?
Over the past fifteen years I’ve baked for weddings, funerals, anniversaries, baby showers, bridal showers, and much, much more. Birthdays, too. A plethora of birthdays.
Every cake I made began with a packaged mix. I’ve never found a from-scratch recipe that I enjoy as much as these doctored cake mixes.
I use them for a variety of reasons, but primarily because I want a consistent product. When baking from scratch, recipes might go wrong. Measurements might get distorted. But with a boxed mix I’m pretty much guaranteed the cakes will turn out the same every time.
Working with packaged mixtures also saves money. These are reasonably priced. Best of all, they’re quick. I can mix up several cakes in a row. . .lickety-split!
With that in mind, I’ve put up the definitive guide on doctoring a boxed cake mix. I’ve laid out my top twenty tips for jazzing up a mix to make it extra-special. No one will recognize the difference if you take the time to manipulate your mix! They’ll be so wowed by your cake that the words, “This is surely from scratch” will be on the tips of their tongues.
Top Twenty Tips to Help You Doctor a Boxed Cake Mix
You want to learn how to cook Box cake better? A box cake may be made to taste like a bakery cake! We’ve got all of the cake hacks, tips, and techniques covered.
Let’s dive in to my ultimate guide for doctoring a boxed cake mix. In no time, you’ll be feeling like an expert!
TIP ONE: Determine Quantity
Determine how many cake mixes you will need for your project ahead of time. I usually triple-layer my cakes and here’s my (basic) formula for determining how many boxes of mix to buy:
- 1 boxed mix will make three 6-inch cakes
- 2 boxed mixes will make three 8-inch cakes
- 2.5 boxed mixes will make three 9-inch cakes
- 3 boxed mixes will make three 10-inch cakes
- 5-6 boxed mixes will make three 12-inch cakes
Understanding how many people your cake can serve is essential. A standard cake mix will serve 10-12 people (approximately, depending on how the cake is split). Increase that figure by the number of boxes in your recipe.
TIP TWO: Know your cake brands and how/when to use them.
I choose Pillsbury for tiered cakes since it is a denser cake. Duncan Hines is lighter/fluffier and does well for layered cakes but I still prefer Pillsbury. Use only name-brand cake mixes. This is something I attempted once. Never, ever again.
The taste may sometimes influence brand selection. It is all up to you, dear buddy! Duncan Hines is my go-to for lemon cake. My own taste for spice cake? Betty Crocker’s recipe. Chocolate cake is a favorite, although I like Pillsbury’s Devil’s Food chocolate cake mix. Others just do not taste the same to me. You will have favorites. They’ll be much more delicious with a few added additions!
TIP THREE: Bake in professional pans
I know. This might not seem like a “beef up the mix” suggestion, but I promise you’ll feel so much better about your finished product if it has straight edges and is presented on a cake board (or on a pretty cake dish). This means you’ll have to separate yourself from the old 9 x 13 casserole dish, but the finished product will be worth it, I promise!
TIP FOUR: Add more eggs
Here’s a quick little trick: Most boxed mixes call for 3 whole eggs. Use four entire eggs instead, and don’t be afraid to go large. When I bake, I normally use extra big eggs. Your cake will be improved even if you add an additional egg yolk or two.
TIP FIVE: Wedding cakes call for a different approach
If you’re making a wedding cake (or a pristine white cake) reverse what I said above. Instead of whole eggs, use four egg whites (only). This will ensure that the color remains dazzling white.
TIP SIX: Chiffon your cake
You can take the egg whites to a whole new level by whipping them separately until they form soft peaks, then gently folding them into the cake batter. You’ll end up with a really light and fluffy cake. My Strawberry Lemonade Cake is a fantastic illustration of this. Chiffon cakes go well with whipped cream-based frostings, such as my Raspberry Whipped Cream.
TIP SEVEN: Pass the Milk, Please!
To make your cake richer, replace the water with whole milk. The fat in the milk adds moisture and taste to the cake. If you don’t have milk handy, use evaporated milk or even a little heavy whipping cream. You’ll end up with a thick and delightfully dense cake. It’ll taste just like a baked cake!
Buttermilk is a nice ingredient that adds a twang. If you’ve ever eaten a “velvet” cake (for example, red velvet or white velvet), you’ve unknowingly consumed buttermilk. This one easy ingredient results in a rich cake with more flavor than a regular box cake mix.
(I just wanted to add that I baked some pink velvet cupcakes today and they were delicious!)
Some recipes even call for melted ice cream in place of water. Use coconut milk if you need to avoid dairy.
TIP EIGHT: Other Interesting Additions
Other ways to add fat/moisture to the cake and give it a better flavor would be to add a half-cup of sour cream, yogurt, or even mayonnaise to the mix. (I recently baked a lemon cake using yogurt that was delicious!)
I know that some people add a can of soda in place of the eggs, water, and oil, but I haven’t tried that one, either. But that seems intriguing!
Just remember to utilize products that are at room temperature! If you read my 8 Cake Baking Tips post you know how critical this is.
TIP NINE: Butter/Brown Butter
Replace the vegetable oil with softened or melted butter. Just don’t add it to the mix while hot.
In terms of butter, if you want to give your yellow cake a caramel taste, use brown butter instead of oil or plain butter. (Don’t be shy about using salted butter. This improves the taste of the other components.) Brown butter is also excellent in icing. I like it so much that I wrote a full article on it! Check out my recipe for Brown Butter Frosting.
I include them in every packaged cake I make. Use traditional vanilla and/or almond extracts for fancy cakes, but remember that a little goes a long way, especially with stronger flavors, like almond. If you’re making a white cake, you’ll also want to use clear extract. There are other extracts to test, but I mostly use maple.
TIP ELEVEN: Instant Pudding
One of the easiest ways to add additional flavor to your cake is to add a box of instant pudding. Vanilla, chocolate, butterscotch, lemon, cheesecake, pistachio, and York Peppermint are among the most popular flavors. The pudding will thicken and enrich the batter. One of my favorite recipes (Mint Oreo Trifle) includes York Peppermint pudding mix in the filling.
TIP TWELVE: Alternative liquids
Another option for flavoring is to use juice or other similar liquids. I make my carrot cake with a cup of orange juice. To make a lemon cake, I add lemon juice to a white cake mix. Coffee creamer is another option to explore. I like French Vanilla or Italian Cream. The taste of the cake will be improved by replacing part of the water with creamer.
TIP THIRTEEN: Reach for the Spices!
Speaking of adding flavors, don’t be afraid of spices! I often use cinnamon. I also like pumpkin pie spice. You’ll see these spices in my Apple Spice Skillet Cake, as well as my Cookie Butter Cupcakes.
Additional spices to think about include clove, ginger, and nutmeg. They are all fantastic for fall-themed cakes. A white cake may be transformed into a chocolate cake by adding cocoa powder. Coffee is a wonderful addition to chocolate pastries. Half of the water (or milk) should be replaced with a cup of coffee. This will amplify the chocolate flavor. I added coffee to the chocolate cupcakes that I paired with my Raspberry Whipped Cream Frosting.
TIP FOURTEEN: Sweet additions
Add a cup of chocolate chips, chopped Oreos, sprinkles (lightly mixed in so the colors don’t run), or chopped pecans. (This is particularly yummy if you make your cake with brown butter and a dash of maple extract.)
Lemon zest may be added to a boxed cake mix. Alternatively, orange zest. Instead, a cup of chopped Biscoff biscuits. You can also add chocolate chips (or any flavor of chips, for that matter) but coat them in flour first so that they don’t sink to the bottom of the batter while baking.
I love to load up my cakes with yummy stuff like I’ve listed above. My Cranberry Hummingbird Cake and my Italian Cream Cake are two examples.
TIP FIFTEEN: Savory additions
Please bear with me. Yes, the cake is sweet, but adding a savory element can give an unexpected twist. As an example, add bacon to a maple-flavored cake.
TIP SIXTEEN: Healthy additions
Craisins, chopped, are another interesting addition (or even raisins). Other healthy additions might include diced apples, applesauce in place of oil, finely shredded carrots, coconut, or mandarin oranges. Stir in a few blackberries or blueberries, but coat them in flour first to absorb some of the moisture that will release as they bake. To the strawberry cake mix, add chopped strawberries.
TIP SEVENTEEN: Zebra stripe your cakes to get multiple flavors.
Make a chocolate batter and a white/vanilla batter, then zebra stripe them together so the tastes blend. (This was formerly known as marbling, but the zebra method now provides a delightful surprise when the cake is sliced.) See my Beautiful in Pink Ombre Cake article for additional information on how to zebra stripe your batter.
TIP EIGHTEEN: Homemade Frosting
The one thing that helps your boxed cake taste homemade is the frosting. Use a handmade buttercream (like my Dreamy Buttercream) or a stabilized whipped cream frosting instead of canned icing. I’m not a fan of Italian meringue frosting, but many others are, so you might consider it as a frosting choice.
I’ve got a really great recipe for Chocolate Frosting: Best Ganache Recipe. This decadent homemade icing will make or break the dessert.
TIP NINETEEN: Fillings
Add fillings between the layers of a boxed cake mix to make it more unique. After adding buttercream to your cake put a ring of frosting around the edge of the cake and fill it with whatever sounds yummy.
I use a lot of preserves (strawberry, raspberry, etc.) Lemon curd is another favorite of mine. But, I have made my own blueberry/blackberry filling in the past. (To thicken cooked berries before using, add cornstarch.)
Turtle filling (ganache, pecans, caramel sauce, and micro chocolate chips) or even chopped Oreos are by far my most requested fillings. Several of my cakes also include sliced berries between the layers. A very delectable icing and filling will go a long way toward making your cake appear and taste professional.
Talk about a great boxed cake mix hack!
TIP TWENTY: Presentation
Take a stab at decorating the cake in a way that draws the eye. Put a few lovely buttercream rosettes/swirls on top using a Wilton 1M tip. Top with a couple of biscuits or berries. Finally, using a piping tip, trim around the bottom border of the cake. After you’re finished, place your cake on a nice tray and serve.
“How does this doctor up my cake?” you may be wondering. Believe me when I tell that the eyes play an important role in eating. A visually appealing cake (one that looks like you went to a great deal of effort, even if you didn’t) will go a long way in winning over the crowd.
How to Doctor up a Box Cake Mix Like a Pro!
If you’re ready to try your hand at wowing the audience, see my Beautiful in Pink Ombre Cake article for plenty of unique ideas.
Don’t forget that packaged cake mixes are also ideal for cupcakes. If you’re in the mood to bake but don’t want to commit to decorating a whole cake, start small with these Butter Pecan Cupcakes. The flavor is excellent with the addition of spices, nuts, and caramel! People won’t believe you started with a boxed mix!
Since we’re on the subject of adding items to boxed mixes, have a look at my views on how to include carrots into your batter in my carrot cake cupcakes recipe.
Does one cake mix make 2 round cakes?
In general, one cake recipe yields two 8-inch round cake layers or one 13-inch cake layer. Sometimes it can make three, 6″ round cake layers, although those layers might be a little thinner.
How many 9 inch cakes will a box mix make?
Save this response. Display activity for this post. One standard box of cake mix (approximately 15-19 oz.) will make two 9″ layers.
How many cake mixes for a 12 by 18 pan?
How many cake mixes do I need and how long do I bake them in a 12×18 sheet pan? An 18×12-inch is about double the area of a normal 13×9-inch baking pan that one box of cake mix fits however the depth of your pan also needs to be considered. Check out our helpful wedding cake information to get all the information you need.
Is it cheaper to buy cake mix or make from scratch?
The box mix is about $1.50 cheaper and requires less effort, energy, and attention. And the taste isn’t all that horrible… Really not that noteworthy. Homemade cakes can sometimes be fussy, especially if you don’t make them very often, but dang! For taste and texture, nothing beats a handmade cake!