Emily VanSchmus | 

Easy Hacks to Upgrade a Box Cake Mix

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A boxed cake mix is one of the cheapest ways to make dessert for a crowd. They can be as cheap as $1, so you can make a whole honking cake for under $3 once you add the required eggs and oil. But you don’t want your finished product to taste like it cost that little to make. Luckily, there are a few easy box cake hacks that’ll make your dessert feel entirely homemade. You can use some of these other baking hacks to make things easier in the kitchen, too.

Swap out some of the ingredients to easily make your cake more decadent. Try butter instead of oil or buttermilk instead of water for a richer flavor. You can also improve the texture of a boxed mix by adding more wet or dry ingredients, depending on the kind of cake you’re making.

Or make an entirely new dessert by combining a box cake mix with a can of pie filling for a cobbler-like dessert. No one will ever know it was made with only two ingredients. Seriously, these box cake mix hacks will have everyone asking for your recipe.

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Don’t use water.

a person pouring half and half in a measuring cup

Most boxed cake mixes call for one cup of water. But you can make the cake taste richer by substituting that for a cup of another liquid instead, like whole milk, buttermilk, or half and half. The heavier liquid will give the cake a denser texture, and it will pick up some of the flavor from the milk or cream, too.

 

Add extra eggs.

a person adding eggs into a mixer to make a boxed cake

Most boxed cake recipes call for two eggs, but you can actually double that for a cake that’s super moist and delicious. Add one extra egg yolk for each egg that the box calls for (skip the egg whites on the additional eggs to avoid the batter from being too runny). Be careful not to add too many extra eggs, though — more than one to two additional eggs and your cake will turn out more like a goopy custard.

 

Related: 15 Egg Substitute Hacks You Need for Baking

 

Add sour cream or mayo (yes, really!).

a person about to add sour cream into a mixer with boxed cake mix inside

Okay, we know this one sounds weird, but trust us! Because of the extra fat and oils, adding a little bit of sour cream or mayonnaise to a boxed cake will give it a denser consistency and a richer flavor. We promise no one will know, and your cake will not taste like mayo. Follow the instructions on the box, and then add half a cup of either one to the batter before you bake it.

 

 

Swap the oil for butter.

a person holding butter next to a box of cake mix

Instead of using vegetable oil for your cake, substitute it for the same amount of butter. This will give your cake a rich, homemade flavor and can make the texture a bit denser, too. If you want a REALLY decadent cake, double the amount of butter. (So if the box calls for half a cup of oil, use a whole cup of butter.)

 

Make it a Dump Cake.

ingredients to make a cherry dump cake on a counter

If you’ve never made a dump cake, you have to try it. It’s a cake that’s similar to a cobbler, but it’s ridiculously easy to make. You literally only need three ingredients: a box cake mix, two cans of pie filling, and butter. Dump the pie filling in a cake pan, sprinkle the boxed cake mix evenly over the top, and drop one stick of cubed butter on top of that. Bake it at 350 for 30 – 45 minutes for a dessert that’s so good, no one will believe you when you tell them how it’s made.

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someone spreading canned cherry pie mix to make a dump cake
two images of someone making a cherry dump cake
cooked cherry dump cake

 

Make homemade frosting.

homemade frosting in an electric mixer

If you don’t have the time (or the ingredients) to make a homemade cake and homemade frosting, you can get away with making the regular box cake mix and adding a quick homemade frosting on top. A rich, delicious frosting will totally steal the show and can add flavor and moisture to your regular boxed cake.

Grammy’s Butter Cream Frosting

  • 2 cups softened sticks of butter, whipped till light yellow
  • 5 cups of powdered sugar, add one cup at a time
  • 2 tbsp heavy whipping cream, add 1 tbsp at a time (include more, if needed for consistency)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • Pinch of salt
 

Add extra flavor.

an expresso maker brewing coffee at a home coffee bar

An easy way to upgrade your boxed cake mix is to add an extra flavor. Buy a chocolate cake mix and add in peanut butter, melted chocolate chips, or Nutella for a more complex flavor. Adding vanilla to any box cake mix will also enhance the flavor. If you use ½ cup of any of these, it shouldn’t change the consistency of the cake too much. You also could swap out the milk or water for a flavored liquid, like coffee. Use espresso and your favorite chocolate cake mix for a mocha-flavored dessert. Coffee is known to make chocolate flavor even more pronounced.

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Make it a layer cake.

a person making a layered cake

Mix up a box cake mix according to package directions (or use any of the hacks above for a richer flavor), but bake it in layers instead of as a singular cake. Then add frosting, jam, peanut butter, or Nutella in between the layers. People will be so impressed with the added flavor and texture, they won’t even realize Betty Crocker combined the dry ingredients instead of you. Pro Tip: level the cake with plain dental floss to make the layers flat and even.

 

Drop in more dry ingredients.

boxed cake mix and jello pudding mix sitting on the counter next to mixer

Boxed cakes are known for being pretty light and not super dense. There aren’t too many ingredients (which is great for simplicity), but the texture of the cake can be an instant giveaway that it’s not homemade. To give your cake a denser texture (like a pound cake), you can add more dry ingredients. Mix in ¼ cup of flour or half a box of instant pudding powder for a denser cake. Adding pudding powder can also add extra flavor, too! This method is ideal for shaped cake pans or bundt cakes. The cake will hold its shape better and come out of the pan easier.

 

Make cake mix cookies.

ingredients to make cookies with boxes cake and peanut butter chips

Did you know you can actually make cookies with a box cake mix? The ingredients in the mix are pretty similar to what you need to bake cookies. You’ll still add eggs and oil, but skip the water so it’s more of a cookie dough consistency than a runny cake batter. To make box cake cookies, combine one boxed cake mix, two eggs, ½ cup oil, and one cup chocolate chips. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Use a vanilla cake mix for standard chocolate chip cookies, or get creative with your flavor combinations. We like a chocolate cake mix with peanut butter chips and nuts.

making cookies with boxes cake and peanut butter chips
chocolate and peanut butter cookies next to a glass of milk

Related: 20 Drool-Worthy Holiday Cookie Recipes Anyone Can Make

 

 

Brighten the flavor with citrus zest.

a person zesting an orange over a bowl of cake batter

Grab your zester! Adding citrus zest to a cake mix not only adds a strong flavor, but it gives your cake an unmistakeable homemade texture. Add lemon zest to a lemon cake mix, or stir orange zest into a rich chocolate cake. You can even add lime zest to a white cake mix for a margarita-inspired dessert.

 

Yeah, you can make banana bread out of box cake mix, too.

brown banana pieces being put in sandwich bag

If you have mushy bananas, you need to try this box cake mix hack! Combine a yellow cake mix, three eggs, and three to four mashed ripe bananas. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes for a delicious banana bread. You can add chocolate chips or nuts to the batter before you bake it for added flavor and texture.

 

Bake your cake in a slow cooker.

A slice of pumpkin cake on a plate with a person scooping a piece on a fork in front of a crock pot

You don’t even have to turn the oven on for this boxed cake mix hack. Bake a cake in your slow cooker! When you cook something inside a slow cooker, it seals all the moisture in, so your cake won’t dry out as much as it would in an oven. As long as you have a baking tin that fits inside your slow cooker, you can bake it in that so it holds it’s shape. Or just bake the cake inside the slow cooker pot and scoop it out to serve it.

Mix the cake according to package directions, then bake for about an hour or until the sides of the cake easily separate from the pan. Since all slow cookers have different heat settings, you might need to experiment with this one until you get it just right.

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