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.
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.
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).
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?