Boxed cake mix is convenient, but usually the taste doesn’t hold a candle to homemade. However, there are easy and effective ways to improve cake mix so that it tastes not only homemade, but extra-special. With these clever ideas for doctoring cake mix, you get all the convenience of a mix, but with an outside-the-box taste.
From substituting the fat called for on the box or taking liberties with additions to even departing totally from the cake format, there’s plenty that you can do to “doctor” a boxed cake mix to make it shine. It’s fun, it’s delicious, and it makes you feel a little like Mr. Wizard in the kitchen. Get baking with these 19 ideas for how to doctor boxed cake mix!
To enhance boxed cake mix flavor:
1. For chocolate cake mix, use hot water
When making a chocolate cake mix, substitute boiling water for still water in your recipe. The boiling water will bring out the chocolate flavor even more. Treat the recipe as suggested on the box otherwise.
2. Use melted butter instead of oil
This is one of the easiest and most flavorful ways to improve a cake mix: instead of using the oil called for on most boxed cakes, use melted butter. The flavor will be far richer in the finished product. Note that the texture can be slightly more dense when butter is employed.
Note: Melted or liquid coconut oil can also be employed instead of vegetable oil.
3. Add an extra egg yolk for richness
Prefer dense, moist cakes to the light-as-air varieties? If you want your cake to be denser, add an extra egg yolk (or even two) to your cake mix, beyond the amount of eggs called for on the box. You’ll be rewarded with an extra-decadent finished product.
4. Use only egg whites for light vanilla cakes
On the flip side, if you like your cake feather-light, forget about those yolks and only use the egg whites.
Note: This is better suited to vanilla or “white” cake mixes.
5. Use milk instead of water
Many cake mixes call for adding water to the mix; next time, try substituting the water with whole or 2 percent milk. You’ll be rewarded with a slightly denser and far richer-tasting cake.
6. Use beer (or soda) instead of water
Fizzy liquid can make your cake buoyant and impart a flavor. To give your cake a tipsy turn, try adding beer instead of water to your next cake mix. A stout beer can make a chocolate cake malty and memorable; a lighter beer (or even hard cider or champagne) can add a fascinating element to a white or yellow cake mix.
If beer isn’t your style, try using a soda (lemon lime or cola) instead of the water in the recipe, and leave everything else the same. The cake will have a unique flavor that transcends conventional cake mix.
7. Add a little flavoring extract
Many cake mixes have vanilla flavoring included, but time on the shelf can dull the potency of the flavoring in the boxed mix. To easily give your cake mix a flavor boost, add 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, or another flavoring extract that is harmonious with your recipe. You’ll quickly and easily boost the flavor of your boxed cake mix.
8. Enhance chocolate cake mix with coffee
Substitute strong brewed coffee for part or all of the water called for in chocolate cake mix. Even as little as 1/4 cup of coffee helps give chocolate a flavor boost; more adds a buzzy, rich coffee flavor to your cake.
You might also enjoy our chocolate cake with coffee recipe.
9. Add a pudding mix
Incorporating pudding mix into your cake mix can give your cake a unique flavor and rich, moist texture. Most recipes for Watergate Cake feature pistachio pudding mix, but you could also try different flavor combinations in the same ratios as that recipe.
10. Two words: Mix-ins
Here’s one of the easiest ways to make your cake mix sparkle: mix something in. Prepare the mix per the package instructions, then before turning it into your prepared cake or cupcake pans, fold up to 1 cup of finely chopped fruit, coarsely chopped nuts, chocolate chips, sprinkles or candy into the batter.
Creative variations and cake mix hacks
11. Use soda and nothing else
There’s a nifty trend out there on the Internet: mixing a boxed cake mix with a soda, and nothing else. Turns out, carbonated beverages fill in for some of the leavening, which is usually left to eggs, so you end up with a light, airy cake. It’s as easy as mixing a 12-ounce can of soda and your cake mix together, and then baking per the times suggested on the package. and you can create some interesting flavor combinations (chocolate cake mix made with root beer, anyone?).
12. Make an easy pumpkin cake
Combine a 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree, a box of cake mix, and whatever spices you’d like, and bake for the times suggested on the box. You’ll be rewarded with a cake that is not only perfectly easy to make, but perfectly flavored for fall entertaining.
13. Melted ice cream cake
Ready for a cake that tastes like pure pleasure? Mix your box of cake mix with some melted ice cream, a few eggs, and bake. The resulting cake tastes just as amazing as you’re probably imagining. Epicurious offers a simple, straightforward recipe.
14. Cook it in a slow cooker
Making your cake mix in a slow cooker is not only an easy way to make cake, but it allows any flavoring add-ins that you’ve incorporated into your cake mix to really infuse into the flavor.
Transform your cake mix
15. Create a cake batter dip.
Make a decadently delicious dessert dip! While recipes abound on the internet, this is an easy method: combine 2 cups of full fat plain or vanilla Greek yogurt and 2 cups of whipped cream. Gently mix until combined. Stir in the cake mix, a little at a time, until incorporated. Garnish with sprinkles or as you see fit. This mixture is the perfect dip for graham crackers or cookies.
16. Three words: cake mix cookies.
Ever heard of cake mix cookies? Basically, what you do is add a little more fat and a little less liquid, and your cake mix batter becomes of a cookie dough consistency. My personal favorite cake mix cookie recipe features Funfetti cake mix combined with cream cheese, butter and an egg, which are mixed together and then baked. The cookies bake quite puffy, but flatten as they cool. They’re perfect cookies for making cookie sandwiches!
17. Make brownies
The dry ingredients in cake mix are a solid base for making brownies. By adjusting the wet ingredient additions, you can create brownies that are moist and takes the flavor of your cake mix up by leaps and bounds. Here’s an easy to follow recipe.
18. Try your hand at pancakes
Did you know that by slightly altering the ingredients added to a cake mix, you can transform it into pancake mix? It’s a fun way to create a sweet brunch dish, or a particularly decadent birthday breakfast. This recipe is simple, sweet, and fun to serve.
19. Make gooey butter cake
One of the most crowd-pleasing “doctored” cake mix recipes out there has got to be gooey butter cake. The cake mix is employed as an ingredient in the crust, which is then topped with a rich cream cheese mixture and baked to golden perfection. Be warned: these cake bars are extremely addictive.