It's hard to argue with the convenience of a box mix cake, especially when you're short on time and/or cake-baking expertise. But if you want it to taste like you really made it from scratch, try one or more of these easy upgrades. Just hide the box when you're done. We won't tell.
How to Make a Box Mix Cake Taste Homemade
1. Add More Eggs
To get an extra rich and moist cake, stir in two extra egg yolks along with the eggs the recipe calls for (save the egg whites to make these delicious meringues). For a lighter and more airy cake, use only egg whites (and save the egg yolks for crème brûlée). Remember, taking out the yolks decreases the amount fat in the cake, so make sure to replace it with 1 tablespoon melted butter for every yolk removed.
2. Walk Away from Water
Water tastes like, well, water! Swap it out for another liquid, preferably something with flavor and fat. Substitute whole milk or your favorite non-dairy milk (almond and coconut milk work especially well). The milk adds fat, which results in better flavor and density in your cake. Want to make your cake extra rich? Swap out the milk for buttermilk, and now you've really got something special! Because buttermilk is extra thick, use a few more tablespoons than the recipe calls for. Think "out of the box" and use other non-dairy liquids: Try swapping out the water for soda (colas are the best), juice (orange is great with vanilla and yellow cake), or even a stout beer (for chocolate cake).
3. More Fat, More Flavor
Most box cake recipes call for vegetable or canola oil. The only trouble is, these oils have almost no flavor. Replace the oil with an equal amount of melted butter (and a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter), to boost richness. For an extra decadent cake, add two tablespoons of mayonnaise. Think that's crazy? Remember, mayonnaise is just eggs and oil – two things already in your cake! For a tangy twist, add up to ¼ cup sour cream or full fat yogurt.
4. Amp Up the Chocolate
Boost the flavor of a boxed chocolate cake mix by adding hot water instead of tap. The hot water helps to "bloom" the cocoa (just like adding hot water to coffee grounds). Speaking of coffee, instead of making your cake mix with hot water, try replacing it with strong brewed coffee. Coffee and chocolate is a match made in heaven, and will really pop the chocolate flavor.
5. Top Up the Tasty Bits
The vanilla powder added to your boxed cake mix might be past its prime. Bump up the flavor by adding ½ to 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Making a spice cake? Add a little rum, almond, or orange extract as well. If you're making a white or yellow cake, add a teaspoon or two of fresh lemon or lime zest, or a bit of juice. And don't forget all of those goodies in your cupboard that you would use in cookies, brownies or other cakes. Throw in a handful of chocolate chips, nuts, or dried fruit to make your cake extra special.
6. Love Up the Layers
After baking and cooling your cake, slice it in half or thirds, and add something special to those layers. For extra moisture and flavor, you can brush each layer with simple syrup, jam or marmalade, or even a bit of your favorite booze (like coffee-flavored liqueur for tiramisu cake or a bit of rum for a spiced orange cake). Of course, those extra layers are perfect for more frosting and icing (which results in a better frosting-per-bite ratio). But don't forget about other delicious layering ingredients like chocolate ganche, buttercream, fresh seasonal fruit, flavored whipped cream, or lemon curd.
7. Poke Around
Another way to soak your cake in flavor is to poke holes in the cake, pour a flavored mixture over the top, and let it soak into the holes. This video for Coconut Poke Cake shows you how it's done:
Find more cake mix cake recipes, and 7 clever ways to use cake mix (that aren't cakes).
More About Baking Cakes
• Here are 12 little ways to take your cakes from good to great.
• Can't figure out what pan size you should use? We've got answers.
• Learn the right way to measure ingredients so your recipes turn out the way they're supposed to.