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8 Tricks That Make Boxed Cake Mix Taste Like Homemade

Ask ten different people how they feel about boxed cake mixes, and you'll likely get ten different answers. Some baking purists will berate them and throw them in the same category as garlic presses and knife sets sold on infomercials. Many people will say that they prefer not to use mixes, but keep one in the pantry just in case. And I dare you to find a college student that doesn't sing their praises.

Whatever your stance on cake mixes, you can agree on one thing: they can always stand a little improvement. Thankfully, mixes are incredibly easy to soup up; substitute an ingredient here or add an ingredient there, and you'll have all the flavor of a homemade cake, with all the ease of a boxed mix. Here are eight awesome ways to make your boxed cake mix taste homemade.

1. Replace Water with Dairy

The average cake mix calls for the most boring of liquids: water. Instead of using water, use a dairy product. Replacing the water with milk will make your cake instantly taste homemade, while using buttermilk will make it taste rich and creamy. Just replace the water with the same amount of milk, or a little bit more buttermilk (because buttermilk is so viscous, you need to add more liquid than the recipe calls for).

Sour cream and devil's food cake mix is an unbeatable combination, and softened cream cheese can be magical, too.

2. Break Out the Coffee

Coffee is another prime replacement for water in your cake mix (use the same amount of coffee as you would water). Because coffee and chocolate is a match made in heaven, this is a must try hack for a chocolate cake mix (but, to be honest, I also really like it with a basic yellow cake).

3. Use Your Favorite Soda

In case you haven't noticed a theme by now, one of the best ways to modify cake mix is to replace the water. Adding soda to cake may sound bizarre, but it really does amplify the flavor tremendously, without being overbearing. I recommend replacing the water with a dark soda, like Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper, but a fruity, citrusy soda will also make for a delicious cake.

4. Add a Little Mayo

"Mayonnaise" and "dessert" aren't words that you typically see placed together. But add a dollop of mayo (two tablespoons is perfect) to any cake mix, and you'll instantly see an improvement in the texture. Mayo makes cake mix incredibly luscious and homemade tasting.

5. Bring Some Lemon to the Party

Lemon is one of the best ways for improving most desserts, so it's no surprise that it goes so well with cake mix. Avoid adding lemon to chocolate cakes, but add lots to a yellow cake. You can add lemon juice or lemon zest (or both!); the tartness will help cut the inherent sweetness of the mix, while the lemon flavor will shine through and add new flavor to your cake.

6. Swap Vegetable Oil for Butter

I love butter so much that you should be careful listening to me when I say to use it. I'll always say that butter is the secret to making a dish better. But with a cake mix, it really makes an enormous difference. Cake mixes 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.

7. Add an Extra Egg

There aren't a lot of things out there that beat a nice, rich cake crumb. Boxed cake mixes tend to be lighter in consistency, but if you're jonesing for that thicker, moist 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 extra egg will make when you bite into that rich cake.

Image by Nancy/Coupon Clipping Cook

8. Raid Your Cabinet

There's no secret to making a great cake. You can add anything you want, and so long as you like the ingredients, you'll get a good end result. So raid your cabinet and add any flavorings you want to your mix; spices, extracts, nuts, chocolate or butterscotch chips, and bananas will always elevate your cake mixes.

Try Pumpkin Purée or Melted Ice Cream, Too

There are endless ways that you can play with cake mixes. The listed suggestions are my favorite, but there are lots of others that I haven't yet tried: a user on Reddit suggests mixing a can of pumpkin purée with a box of cake mix (and nothing else) for awesome muffins, while Oh Bite It recommends using your favorite melted ice cream as the liquid component. Sounds wild!

Do you have any tricks for improving cake mix?

More Cake Hacks

Learn how to bake these lovely cakes inside real eggshells or how to make a no-bake ice cream cake in less than ten minutes. You can also improve your cake-slicing game to keep it extra fresh.

Photos by Brady Klopfer/Food Hacks (unless otherwise noted)

11 Comments

I volunteer at a school and have boxes of Chocolate and White cake. These are the "commodity cakes mixes. They don't rise well and the white tastes bad.

I need a way to improve these mixes. They just call for 7 cups of water. I usually just use 5 since it would be to much for the long trays we use to bake the cake in.

Remember this is a school so I can only use certain flavors as the kids are picky. Oh and no nuts.

Have you tried adding pudding mix to your cake mixes? Start with butterscotch for the white cake to improve the flavor, but get creative: there are a lot of instant pudding flavors out there. As for the rising, cake mixes are pretty foolproof, so it might be an uneven oven or the rising agents in the mix may be expired (which is still okay to eat but makes the chemicals that cause the cake to rise less effective).

Use some decaf coffee in the chocolate to improve the chocolate flavor. (Make SURE it's decaf!) maybe get some better unsweetened cocoa powder and add just a little bit to the batch to make it taste better. Not sure what else the boxes call for. Add more egg(s) to increase rising and cook at lower temps is what I find works at home. For a place like a school the ovens do cook differently.

As for the vanilla, add vanilla flavoring if you want straight vanilla and also. Maybe add some milk instead of water for the vanilla and taste test the batter. If your kids like coconut you could get some cans of coconut milk, refrigerate them and then flip upside down and use the liquid that pours out (plus some coconut and vanilla extract to keep it sweet and creamy) and keep the thicker stuff that stays in the bottom you can actually whip up with some powdered sugar to make a whipped frosting or add to whatever frosting you normally use and whip that up to make it go farther and have a coconut taste. I made a french vanilla coconut cake that way and it was a hit! I even put toasted coconut and put it on the outside.

keep in mind these are just ideas. adding pudding does help a lot but you have got to add an extra egg per box of pudding you use or it.. doesn't turn out so great in texture.

I've never had a texture problem when adding pudding, I don't add extra eggs.

Never had any problems with it. Adding the small box of pudding with no extra liquids moistens the cake perfectly.

Betty Crocker tastes like a box of chemicals. I don't think you can fix that.

I totally Agree with you cake mixes just dont taste good anymore you could offer me a whole cake or a single Zebra cake and i would pick the Zebra I am going to try some of the tips above I love cake but who can afford a $9.00-$13.00 Deli cake

I always add instant jello pudding to mine and always use butter. Flavors of pudding depend on type of cake I make but they are always a hit. BUT even plain yellow cake with vanilla pudding and milk chocolate frosting is super good and change it up with coconut cream it's amze

So sorry that I followed the above advice when making my Easter bunny cake on Sunday. The cake texture was not nearly as good as it has been for so many years using my Betty Crocker pudding in the mix white cake mix prepared per pkg directions. I added milk and mayo per above instructions.....cake was not nearly as moist and fluffy......was much denser. I think the General Mills kitchens have their cake mixes tweaked quite well. Maybe following the above hints improves a generic mix, but I have never used any generic mixes. If I am not making a cake from scratch I use Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines mixes and follow instructions with exception of adding an extra egg. Won't be following your advice again??

I imagine it depends on the type of cake, not necessarily the brand (but could be that too). Mayo only sounds good to me in chocolate cake. And it might be better to use one tip at a time unless you know it'll work together. Milk and mayo together might have been too much. Best to experiment with tiny cakes to see which combos work best before serving to guests. At least, that's what I do. I'll put anything in a cake if I have it lying around, but I won't necessarily make people eat it. :)

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