One of the easiest and most reliable ways to bake a cake is to use a box mix- we all know this. Box mixes are cheap, they are easy to put together and they almost always come out perfectly.
So why mess with perfection?
Well, maybe you want a cake that is a little bit more creative. Maybe you want to jazz up that box mix so no one knows your cake was really made by Betty Crocker. Or maybe you just think that box mix cake can be just a little bit better.
If you are thinking any of these things, then here is the blog post for you!
I will highlight a few delicious and easy hacks that will make your box cake mix even more amazing.
If you really want to get creative, try turning that cake mix into brownies!
1 – Bye Bye Water
Most box cake mix recipes have water. Water just won’t do if you want a nice rich cake. So ditch the water and replace it with whole milk (be sure to check out the differences in milk and buttermilk in cake).
Adding whole milk will give the cake more fat and therefore a better mouth feel and smoother taste. If you don’t have whole milk, two percent or skim will do just fine- anything is better than plain old water!
Avoid heavy cream or half and half as those are a little too rich (too much fat can mess with your recipe is a negative way so stick with the milks rather than the creams).
If your recipe asks for one cup of water, simply use one cup of milk. Tada- a box cake that tastes like it is straight off a bakery shelf just by changing one ingredient!
2 – Coffee in Cake?
If you are making a chocolate box cake, you should definitely replace the water with coffee. Adding coffee to the cake will enhance the chocolate flavor and make the cake taste even more luxurious.
Surprisingly, you will not taste coffee at all, just more chocolate! Replace the water in the recipe with an equal amount of coffee for this simple hack.
This is also such a great way to use leftover coffee…
3 – More Eggs!
Most box cake mixes ask for one or two eggs to be added but what if you put in just one more? What would happen? Magic, that’s what.
Adding an additional egg will make your cake more moist and dense in a great way. The extra egg will thicken the cake and make it taste like it was made from scratch, no box in sight!
Crack just one extra egg and your cake will be transformed.
Be sure to check out these egg substitutes in cake if you prefer to not use eggs!
4 – Zesty
Sometimes, just one tiny extra ingredient can make the world of difference when baking. In this case, I’m talking about adding lemon zest to your box mix cake.
A teaspoon of lemon zest will take your basic, vanilla box cake from just okay to extraordinary. Bright fruit flavors will shine in every bite of cake and add your personal touch to the cake.
While lemon zest is awesome for vanilla cakes and white cakes, orange zest is a better fit for chocolatey cakes.
5 – Waffles?
This little trick is more about how to get your cake faster. After you mix and measure, you are probably going to want to eat your cake immediately- no one wants to sit around while the cake bakes!
The simple solution to getting to eat cake right away is to pour the batter into a waffle maker. Waffle makers are fairly inexpensive and you can easily order them on amazon if you don’t already have one. They’re definitely a fun tool to have in your kitchen and there are a lot of baking hacks you can use them for.
Waffle makers will cook the cake batter in about 3-5 minutes and produce golden brown cake waffles.
No more waiting for cake- from opening the box to taking the first bite will only take about 10 minutes total thanks to this awesome hack.
6 – Slow Cook It
Scoop the cake mix straight into a slow cooker along with any can of fruit filling (a can of cherry filling for a chocolate cake mix, a can of strawberry filling for a strawberry cake mix or maybe a can of pumpkin to a vanilla cake mix).
Turn the slow cooker on and walk away. Four hours later you will be eating one of the most moist cakes you have ever tried!
Slow cookers seal in moisture so as the cake cooks, no moisture is escaping, which happens when a cake is baked in a regular oven. The fruit filling also adds a ton of moisture to the cake.
Soft and gooey, this is a whole new way to ‘bake’ a cake!
7 – We Want Butter!
Most box cake mixes will ask for oil to be added in but know what is better than oil? Butter. Plain and simple, butter is always better.
Replacing the oil with butter will add a more complex flavor to the cake mix and also a nice richness that you just can’t get with oil.
When using butter, you will want to melt it before adding it to the batter. You also should use twice as much butter as oil. If your box says half a cup of oil, you’ll need 1 cup of butter.
Easy enough swap for a richer cake!
8 – Spicy
Most box cake mixes are pretty plain and simple. A white cake here, a vanilla cake there… there really isn’t too much variety. A quick fix for this monotony is to throw some spices in to the mix.
Choose your spices depending on the flavor profile you are looking to achieve. Is it fall and you want a cake full of warm aromas? Grab some cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg or allspice (maybe all of the above!) and add a dash of each to your mix.
A little chili powder in your chocolate cake will create a Mexican chocolate cake with a nice kick to it!
There are tons of spices you can play with so get creative!
9 – Extract
A splash of vanilla extract goes a long way in cake mix.
Sometimes, boxed cake mixes can lose their flavor after sitting on store shelves for so long. By adding vanilla extract, you will bring those flavors back to life as vanilla will enhance all the tastes around it.
But don’t stop at vanilla, try adding almond extract or maple extract to your vanilla cakes. A drop or two of mint extract in a chocolate cake will delight your taste buds and a touch of lavender extract in a strawberry cake will definitely be deliciously unexpected.
Hurray for the ease and creativity of extracts!
10 – Anything Else…
Box cake mixes are so wonderfully basic that you can pretty much throw anything into the batter that you want. Peanut butter cups, chocolate chips, cookie crumbs, fresh berries, pumpkin puree…you name it and you can add it to a box cake mix.
While yes, some ‘mix ins’ may give the cake a different texture (frozen berries, for example, will add moisture and make the cake more dense), they are so easy to add into the cake batter to get a cool, new type of cake of your own creation.
Open up your cabinet and see what you have! I’ll take a handful of chocolate chips paired with some chopped strawberries in my box cake mix please!
After reading all of these great box cake mix hacks, I am certain you will never look at a plain box of cake mix in the same melancholy fashion. There are so many ways to make your box mix better that it is almost silly to ever make cake from scratch again!
Now it is time to put on your chef’s hat and think of what kinds of cake to make first. Break out that box mix and just follow the ‘recipe’ as a loose guideline-you can think of some amazing new cake flavors thanks to these great hacks!
Which hack is your favorite? Have any of your own? Let us know in the comments below!
For more cake baking hacks, check out our article about making cake with missing ingredients.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.