Stick to these tips on how to make box cake better, and your cake will look and taste homemade. Even cake snobs will ask for seconds!
To a busy parent or an inexperienced baker, a boxed cake mix is a true ally.
It may be frowned upon by serious bakers, but hey, it gets the job done, and quickly and effortlessly at that.
Whether you’re in a rush to produce a delicious dessert or can’t bake for the life of you, this article’s for you.
From improving texture and flavor to frosting suggestions, these tips will help fool people into thinking your easy box cake took hours to make.
1. Choose a Good Boxed Cake Mix
You can’t expect great cake if the source is mediocre. Pick a good brand to get a good-quality cake.
There are tons of brands and varieties to choose from, but these are my top choices.
If we’re talking about versatility, this General Mills cake mix is the best. With this white cake mix, you can pretty much do anything – from cupcakes to round cakes to sheet cakes. It also comes with instructions for 5 types of cakes and 6 cookies.
It gets a 10/10 for moisture, and because it has a plain look and flavor, it works as a great blank canvas for any color of flavor you can imagine.
At $24, it’s definitely worth it.
Chocolate cake is the most requested cake at home, so I make sure I always have a box of chocolate cake mix in stock.
Duncan Hines has a ton of cake mix flavors, but out of the ones I’ve tried, the fudge chocolate cake stands out.
Yielding an insanely moist, fudgy, and decadent chocolate cake, the Duncan Hines cake mix is seriously the best.
It gets bonus points for having instructions for cake waffles as well as low-fat recipe alternatives at the back of the box.
Jiffy is most famous for its cornbread mix, but its yellow cake isn’t bad, either. In fact, I think it’s the best out there!
This cake mix yields a ridiculously moist and tender yellow cake. Just like the Gold Medal white cake, the Jiffy yellow cake is also versatile.
From angel food cake to trifle to cobbler, there’s nothing this cake mix can’t do.
The best part is you’ll only need two ingredients to transform the mix – water and egg.
Because of its unique texture, color, and flavor, red velvet cake is a relatively complicated dessert.
That’s why I’m so impressed with the Betty Crocker mix. It’s able to create that crumbly texture and chocolate-vanilla flavor so impeccably.
Plus, with this cake mix, you don’t need to add food coloring or beet juice to achieve that perfect red hue. It already does the job for you.
For lemon lovers, this cake mix is the way to go. The burst of lemon flavor in this cake is undeniable! It’s not overwhelmingly tart, though.
The contrast of sweet and citrusy is perfectly balanced.
It’s a pound cake, so expect a nice, dense texture that’s also wonderfully moist.
Drizzled with a simple glaze of sugar, lemon, and butter, it tastes definitely homemade.
You also get instructions for making jam tea cake at the back of the box, for variety.
2. Replace Water With Milk
Usually, cake mix instructions will tell you to add water, but where’s the excitement in that?
You need liquid to saturate the ingredients of a cake mix and turn it into a batter.
While the obvious choice for liquid is water, it’s not the best. Water-based cakes are cheaper, for sure, but they’re dry.
So, instead of water, use milk instead. I like using full cream milk for maximum flavor and moisture, but you can also try 2% or skim.
I’ve never used dairy-free milk, so if you have, please let me know if it works!
You can also use buttermilk. This alternative is great for adding moisture to the cake.
If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can make your own by combining a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice for every cup of milk.
Stir the mixture with a spoon and let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes. When it starts to curdle, your buttermilk is ready.
3. Add Additional Eggs
Eggs aren’t only responsible for binding the wet and dry ingredients. They also help lift the batter and add richness to the cake.
That said, if you want your cake to be extra light and airy, add more egg whites to the batter.
You can also go the extra mile and beat the whites first until stiff peaks form before you add them to the batter.
Cake mixes are normally plain-tasting, so for extra richness and flavor, egg yolks are the way to go. Just a single yolk makes a significant difference!
4. Add More Fat
Again, don’t just settle for water. Add more fat to the batter in the form of milk or buttermilk and oil and butter.
These basic ingredients won’t only add richness and flavor to the cake, but moisture as well. Say goodbye to dry and dull cakes forever.
5. Try Some Sour Cream
Just like milk and buttermilk, sour cream transforms simple cake mixes into fantastic cakes.
With sour cream, you don’t only get a moist cake, but a flavorful one as well. Two birds with one stone, am I right?
This not-so-secret hack is what professionals use to make cake mixes seem homemade. I’ll bet you didn’t know pros use cake mixes, too!
6. Use Melted Butter Instead of Oil
Cake mixes sometimes call for oil, but I highly recommend you use melted butter instead. Not even the best oil can beat the flavor of good butter.
The richness of butter masks the artificial flavor of a cake mix. It also gives the cake a soft and fluffy texture.
Don’t go for margarine or butter compounds. Stick to real, high-quality butter so for maximum cake flavor.
If you have the time, I also highly suggest you brown the butter before adding it to the batter.
Brown butter has a toasty and nutty flavor that tastes like no other!
To brown butter, just cook it in a pan over medium heat, stirring constantly until golden brown, about 5 to 8 minutes.
7. In a Chocolate Cake Replace Water with Coffee
This one’s my favorite technique when making chocolate cake.
If you’re not a fan of the flavor of coffee, don’t worry, it won’t taste like coffee at all.
Coffee amplifies the flavor of chocolate, giving your cake a deeper chocolatey goodness.
Adding hot coffee also yields a fudgy cake. Plus, the heat helps dissolve lumps, resulting in a smooth, well-combined batter.
8. Add a Pudding Mix
Whenever I buy box cake mixes, I always get Jell-O pudding, as well.
Together, they make a rich and dense cake that’s so good, it tastes like it was made from scratch.
Any flavor of pudding works. You can use the same flavor of pudding as the cake mix, but you can also mix and match to get more complex flavors.
For instance, I like using banana pudding in my white cake mix. They just go so well together!
9. Add More Flavors
- Top the cake with fresh fruit, berries, jam, or preserves for a fruity twist.
- For a chocolate cake, add chocolate chips to the batter for a fudgier cake.
- Infuse the batter with extracts – almond, vanilla, banana – you name it.
- Drizzle the cake with vanilla glaze. It’s a simple mix of powdered sugar and water. Easy!
10. Add a Simple Syrup
Simple syrup makes cakes sweeter and insanely moist. It’s the perfect solution if your cake – whether from a box or homemade – turns out dry.
It’s a mixture of equal parts sugar and water boiled for 1 to 2 minutes.
You can end there or take it up a level by adding citrus peels, spices, or liqueur.
Drizzle it over your cake and voila. The cake will soak up the syrup nicely, giving it extra moisture and flavor.
11. Use a Good Frosting
I saved the best for last! A cake isn’t a cake without frosting.
Even the driest, blandest cakes will taste amazing if you use the right frosting. Here are some of my favorites:
- Buttercream. It’s smooth, silky, sweet, and buttery. It’s also very stable, which is perfect if you want to decorate your cake. It’s also easy to make – just beat together softened butter, powdered sugar, and a bit of milk.
- Chocolate Ganache. It sounds fancy and complicated, but really, it’s just a mix of melted chocolate and cream. Pour it all over your chocolate cake for a dreamy, decadent treat.
- Glaze. This one’s perfect for dense cakes such as pound cakes. Because it’s just a mix of water and powdered sugar, it’s so easy to give it flavor. Any extract works! I also like to add a splash of lemon juice – it’s perfect for lemon pound cakes.
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