How to Make Box Cake Mix Taste Homemade


They say there are two types of people – those who bake and those who cook. This great divide stems from the philosophical difference between cooking and baking. One welcomes spontaneous improvisation, while the other requires planning and precise measurements.

If the thought of measuring spoons gives you anxiety, this article is for you. Boxed mixes are a secret ingredient to some of the best bakes for seasoned at-home bakers and professionals. These mixes eliminate tedious measurements and let you jump straight into the enjoyment of baking.

While a box cake mix provides a solid start, a few simple cake mix hacks can totally transform that mix into a crowd-stunner that looks and tastes completely homemade. And, yes, adding a few simple ingredients counts as “from scratch” in our book.


Upgrade the Liquid

Most mixes call for water and/or oil because both are convenient ingredients found in most kitchens. You can swap these ingredients from something more traditional, like melted butter instead of vegetable oil, to elevate the flavor of your cake, muffins, or brownies.

Cream and dairy also make a wonderful replacement for water in the directions. Heavy cream or whole milk adds a creaminess to chocolate cake mix. And, buttermilk adds depth and richness to vanilla cake mix. You can also use a plant-based milk alternative, like coconut milk or oat milk.

When replacing liquid, use a 1:1 ratio for your replacement – ½ cup of water for ½ cup of oil.



Adjust the Eggs

Eggs are in various quantities in various desserts. Along with whole eggs, many recipes call for egg yolks to thicken the dessert (think a custard) or egg whites to add airiness (like a meringue). A recipe may use any combination of whole eggs and parts to achieve the perfect texture and taste.

Most boxed mixes will adapt well to egg ratio alterations. Try adding an egg for a richer flavor, an extra egg yolk for body, or an extra egg white for lightness. If adding an egg white, try whipping it first and folding it into your cake batter for optimal results. 

If a recipe calls for egg whites only skip adding any egg yolk! The fat in the egg yolk will react to the proteins in the egg white and prevent the mixture from fluffing up.


Add Moisture

As with from-scratch baking, you can add moisture to your boxed mix with clever additions that add flavor. Yogurt and sour cream are game-changings in cakes, creating an addictive crumb that will fool anyone into thinking you are a professional. Ricotta cheese and mascarpone are also great additions that can change the moisture level with a hint of added texture.

Adding a box of instant pudding mix can also transform the flavor, moisture, and texture of your cake. While it sounds weird – dry on dry equals moisture – this trick works wonders and will produce the creamiest melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake around.

On the healthier side, apple sauce and cottage cheese are also great options in a wide range of cakes and muffins. Crushed pineapple can also be used and makes a particularly good choice in spice cake mix, like carrot cake or hummingbird cake.

For moisture additions, we suggest adding no more than ¼ to ½ cup to a single boxed mix.



Experiment with Add-Ins

If you love the spontaneous improvisation of cooking you will love this trick. You can practically go wild adding toppings and other ingredients for texture and flavor. Here are a few of our favorite options:

Citrus Zest and Juice

One of the easiest ways to elevate a standard white cake mix is with citrus. This easy trick will liven up the cake with flavor and freshness for a tastes-like-homemade lemon cake. Orange also makes a great addition to chocolate cake.


A variety of spices can easily change a boxed mix. A range of spices and standard blends, like chai or pumpkin pie spice, pair well with many boxed mixes. You can also try adding a surprising hint of heat to a classic chocolate boxed mix, like the cinnamon and cayenne in these Mexican Chocolate Brownies.


While many boxed mixes already contain flavoring, incorporating additional extracts will do wonders for the flavor. Vanilla extract and almond extract are favorites in yellow cake mix or white cake mix, but many work in boxed mixes. While not an extract, instant espresso powder adds a rich depth to any chocolate cake.

Textural Add-Ins

This is where your creativity can really shine. Classic additions, like chocolate chips, sprinkles, coconut, or nuts, will never disappoint. And, unexpected elements, like pretzels or potato chips, will layer in salt and texture to balance the sweetness.



Elevate the Presentation

There are many ways to change the presentation of a cake, with varying levels of difficulty. But, this article is focused on baking hacks, so we’re going to keep it nice and easy. No piping tips or spinning cake stands are required.

One of our favorite ways to elevate a boxed mix is to change the dish. This simple swap can turn that measurement-free bake into a Pinterest-worthy dessert. For brownies try a cast-iron skillet instead of a baking dish. Silicone pans or cake molds can be used for cakes or cupcakes and even come in cute shapes. 

A homemade frosting, buttercream, or glaze is also helpful for your final presentation. We love a homemade cream cheese frosting or a quick lemon zest glaze to impress (with very little work). And, never underestimate the elegance of a quick dusting of powdered sugar at the end. It’s sure to inspire several “you made that!” comments from the crowd.

Put those baking tips and tricks to the test with our latest recipe: Mexican Hot Chocolate Brownies!