how to make boxed cake mix taste homemade
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Once you know how to make boxed cake mix taste homemade, you’ll be buying it all the time.

Within the online bakingsphere there are bakers that would never dare touch boxed cake mix, since making cake from scratch can be so easy. I am in the respectful disagreement camp, because you know what’s even easier? Using boxed cake mix. Save your effort for homemade icing—where the prepackaged alternative doesn’t even come close—if you ask me.

A Cut AboveIf You Cut Cake in Wedges, You're Doing It All WrongBoxed cake mix is basically pre-measured flour, sugar, and leavener, with cocoa in the mix if you’re working with chocolate. (And sprinkles in the mix if you’re working with Funfetti.) The argument against it is that it has a detectable “not from scratch” flavor, which could come from other common ingredients such as corn syrup and stabilizers. For some, the soft, crumbly texture isn’t dense enough to be a satisfying cake, or others say there’s not enough moisture.

Whatever the complaint, the thing about boxed cake mix is, it can be easily improved by just not following the boxed instructions. Starting with boxed cake mix doesn’t necessarily end with that boxed cake mix flavor if you know how to improve upon it.

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How to Make Boxed Cake Mix Taste Homemade

Try any—or all—of these five easy hacks for taking boxed cake mix from ordinary, to, “I can’t believe it’s not homemade.”

Butter for Oil

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Hiiiiii everyone! 😄👋🏻 Sorry for disappearing off the face of the planet there for a bit. I was away for a few weeks visiting my sister in Sydney ☀️🌴 and the day after I got back the world basically shut down. It’s been a little crazy and tough to focus on anything as I’m sure many of you can relate to. Ryan and I are lucky (and grateful) in that our day-to-day hasn’t changed much — we both work from home and rarely leave the house as it is 😂 — but it’s been difficult not meeting up with my parents regularly for walks, and Zelda is so confused why she can’t say Hi to her friends 🐶😢 Anyhow, I have forced myself back into it this week, to get some normalcy back in my life. I have a couple of older posts that I’m redoing & refreshing starting with this simple recipe for making the most out of a box cake mix. I know baking ingredients are in short supply now, but I also know people have stocked UP on box cake mix because those shelves are empty too. If you have some of these in your pantry, don’t just follow the recipe on the box and be done with it. With a few simple additions you can take that box cake mix to the next level! Today, I’m sharing a long overdue update to one of the oldest posts on my blog – How to Make a Box Cake Better. This is a recipe I’ve been using for well over 10 years. These days, I mostly bake from scratch, but I used this recipe all the time when I was focussing on cake decorating with fondant. It bakes up a sturdy, moist, and delicious cake! So, if you have some box cake mix in your cupboard, give this recipe a try. I’d love to know what you think! I hope everyone is doing well, staying safe, and staying inside 😊❤️🍰

A post shared by olivia bogacki || liv for cake (@livforcake) on

Most cake mixes call for the addition of water, eggs, and oil. There are plenty of tasty oil-based cakes, especially olive oil cakes, but the kind of neutral cooking oil you would typically use in a boxed mix isn’t doing you any favors, or offering any flavors. Not only should you consider using melted butter, but according to Liv for Cake’s Almost Scratch Cake recipe, you should double the amount for a moist, buttery taste.

Take it a step even further and brown the butter to add a little butterscotch or nutty undertone to your cake. In French cooking terminology, brown butter is called “beurre noisette,” which even translates to hazelnut butter. It’s a subtle note, but a little subtlety goes a long way in improving the boxed mix outcome.

Swap Out the Water

evaporated and condensed milk


Same goes for the water element of the boxed mix instructions. The cake mix needs moisture to get it to its pourable or spreadable state, but you can simply trade water for milk to give it a little extra density without compromising the chemistry of the mix.

Buttermilk or orange juice can give your vanilla cake an interesting little tang, or cooled coffee can really enhance the chocolatiness of your chocolate cake without fully turning it into a mocha cake. Infuse tea—chamomile makes a really lovely addition—into the water or milk for big impact with low effort.

You can also swap out both the oil and the water in a single bound with one ingenious ingredient: a pint of melted ice cream. Any flavor.

Add Enrichment

Baking is a science, but beyond the flour to leavener ratio, you need not have any hangups about adding extra stuff to your cake mix to improve its texture, especially its density. A number of different ingredients can be added to up the richness factor of your boxed cake creation.

Instructions call for three eggs? Why not four? Those extra two seconds cracking that extra egg will be worth at least two “Can I get this recipe?” requests from whomever you’re sharing the cake with.

A half-cup of sour cream or mayonnaise can also enrich your cake. (If you’re already using buttermilk as per above, sour cream may be overkill on the tanginess factor.) I definitely had a “what the…” reaction the first time I learned of the mayonnaise cake hack, but mayonnaise is just oil emulsified with egg, so nothing that out of the ordinary from your usual baking suspects.

Add Flavor

Homemade Vanilla Extract recipe with vodka, rum, or bourbon


A little goes a long way with elements such as extracts and citrus zest for turning up the volume on your cake’s flavor, while drowning out any notions of “boxed flavor.” Vanilla works for sweet tones just like salt works for savory: it’s an amplifier. (But now that you mention it, an extra half teaspoon of salt also isn’t a bad idea.) Almond extract, used sparingly, adds depth to vanilla and chocolate cakes alike without turning it fully marzipan.

If you’ve used coffee as the liquid element for your chocolate cake, a tablespoon of instant espresso can deepen the flavor even further. Chocolate and coffee love each other. They are two beans in a pod.

Do be careful though not to be too carefree with the idea of mix-ins. Sprinkles (a la Funfetti) are light and lively, but baking chips, candy, or fruit can be too heavy depending on the final consistency of your cake batter. Those may require a from-scratch recipe designed to accommodate them. You may still end up with a delicious result, but heavy bits can end up with a coagulated layer on the bottom of your cake rather than an even incorporation.

Make Your Own Frosting

Homemade Salted Caramel Frosting recipe


No exceptions.

Check out our easy Frosting recipe collection for some ideas.

Related Video: How to Frost a Cake Like a Pro (Don’t Forget the Crumb Coat)

Header image by Chowhound

Pamela Vachon is a freelance writer based in Astoria, NY whose work has also appeared on CNET, Cheese Professor, Alcohol Professor, and Diced. She is also a certified sommelier, voiceover artist, and an avid lover of all things pickled or fermented.
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