How to Make A Box Cake Mix Taste Better

better boxed cake mix My roommate, Leighann, has been super supportive of all the Pinter-Testing going on in our kitchen…even when the ultimate product is a complete mess! So, when her birthday rolled around a few weeks ago, I wanted to do something special for her.

Of course, I headed to Pinterest to see what I could come up with!

I knew we were going out to dinner with some friends, so I decided to make a cake for dessert when we got home. Now, those of you know know me know that baking and I have a tendency to…well…disagree from time to time. Jessica is a much better baker – she must have inherited that gene from our mom, Sharon! I’m more of the cook – the girl who likes throwing things into the pot to see what happens, not the girl who likes precise measurements.

Anyway, I saw this pin about how to make a boxed cake mix taste like they come from a bakery, so I decided to try it out. Thanks to Lynn Reves, who originally pinned this recipe and to Fabulously Frugal for posting it!

Even I can handle this simple recipe! Essentially, it’s still just a boxed cake mix! Here’s how you do it:

  1. Replace the oil in the recipe with real butter.
  2. Replace the water in the recipe with milk.
  3. Add one (or two) more eggs than the box calls for.

That’s it! Then, just mix and prepare the cake according to the directions on the box.

Does anyone out there have a favorite cake mix brand they use? I like Pillsbury Moist Supreme cakes, but will sometimes get Betty Crocker instead. For me, it usually depends what’s on sale, but I never go store brand even though they’re cheaper. They just aren’t as good.

Here’s the result, decorated and waiting for us to get home to eat it:

Happy Birthday Cake

Yes, I like funfetti sprinkles. Who doesn’t??? You know you’re jealous of my mad cake decorating skills.

Even though I’m a few weeks late on this blog…happy birthday, Leighann!

Happy Birthday Leighann

The verdict? The cake was super good – definitely moist and rich. I know, however, that the substitutions added a TON of calories to the cake. So, I probably won’t do this every time I make a cake mix, but on special occasions, it’s a good way to make the cake taste even better.

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Allison is one of the co-founders here at The PinterTest Kitchen. She also works as a content marketing consultant and freelance writer - find out more at

70 thoughts on “How to Make A Box Cake Mix Taste Better

  1. To save on calories use unsweetened applesauce for the oil and use the juice from a can of unsweetened fruit (peaches, fruit cocktail) for the water for flavor.

    • Sure. Most box cake mixes call for either oil or margarine. But the point of this specific post was looking at how to make a box cake mix taste like a cake from a bakery – and that means using real milk, real butter, and more eggs. If you’re going to sub out the butter, it will very likely change how rich it ultimately tastes.

      • I tried this when I was making strawberry cupcakes (but had to use a mini loaf pan, we had just moved) and they came out bread-y. I will try again with a chocolate cake and round pans (which I’ve given in and bought since I still can’t find anything). I’m glad you posted your results. I will try again.

  2. I actually did this using all “real” ingredients, it came out like those big-box store bakery cakes – spongy and almost bread-like for consistency. I even tried baking it a little less time to see if it was over baked, still the same thing. I’ve tried Betty Crocker’s SuperMoist & Pillbury’s Moist Supreme cake mixes with this and they’ve always come out the same way. Usually I’m a very good baker, but the cakes made using the actual directions on the box were much, much better in my family’s opinion.

  3. I bake on a pretty special basis and after trying many different ways. ( I love to experiment in the kitchen baking) I have found that using real butter has the best results. I don’t use milk… I use sour cream in EVERY flavor. I also throw in a whole pack of pudding. (choosing the flavor of the cake) Tonight I decided to make coconut cupcakes.. So I used coconut flavored pudding, Unrefined coconut oil a little coconut extract and 1/4 cup of flour and a little water… oh and five eggs. My cupcakes are always VERY moist and don’t need a filling. BUT i make either a pudding filling or a cream based pudding.. sometimes for a pie based pudding flavor I will use like cherry pie filing or other kind of filing. I love to put the little surprise in the middle.

  4. I tried this twice and both times my cake and cupcakes sank in the middle. Any thoughts? I only added one extra egg, maybe I should have added two?

    • Hi Melinda,

      I think cakes tend to sink when either they aren’t done enough or when the oven temp is too low. So I would try leaving it in a few minutes longer. You can also buy those thermometers that let you check oven temp to see if yours is running a little on the cool side. Maybe someone else here can make some more suggestions!

    • When your cake is done (I usually turn oven off about 2-5 mins before actual time) leave the oven door cracked to the heat can escape slowly. This will help with your cakes not sinking and cheese cakes not to crack. Cooling too fast is what makes them do this.

    • Melinda,
      Nine times out of ten I have had a cake fall because of children or pets running through the house. Unless your house is builr on a concrete slab your floors will give, and any kind of shake can cause cake to fll.

  5. how does this compare in finished height? is it a lower/shorter cake? is it consistent texture throughout? does this give it the structural integrity to stand up to layering?

    • It was pretty much exactly the same as a regular cake, just a little richer-tasting and a little more moist. You could definitely do two layers with this, but not sure about more. I think cake mixes in general are a little fluffy and hard to do layering with, though. I think if you had a denser version to start, it would probably remain about the same. If you do any experimenting, let me know how it turns out!

  6. this turned out excellent! I used it in a Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme cake mix and it was great. Just for comparison, i made another box of the lemon supreme at the same time–the “bakery” cake was SO much more moist and rich!

  7. Is the baking time longer? I’m baking this cake now and after 30 mins it isn’t done, so I’m baking it longer and keeping an eye on it.

  8. All this sounds really good – however, no one mentions adding a Tbsp. or so of real cocoa powder (Dutch process) to the chocolate box cake. I seem to remember hearing about that a long time ago but I’ve never tried it. Any comments?

    • I’m not sure. To be honest, I’ve never seen a cake mix that called for just egg whites (other than angel food). Test it out sometime when you have time to experiment (i.e. not the night before your kid’s birthday haha) and see how it turns out! The worst that happens is your cake is a flop and you ditch it for another recipe. In fact, make some cookies at the same time, and if the cake is gross, you’ll have a back-up…and if the cake is great, stick the cookies in the freezer for another day when you don’t feel like baking.

    • Yes, you can add additional egg whites though that doesn’t really add moisture to the cake. It will improve the texture.

  9. This is all great stuff! Thank you all. I am taking a cake decorating class, where we also have to actually make the cake too (who knew?) My tip: The eggs and butter should be at room temperature.

  10. I have been doing this for years, ever since I tried to make a cake one day, forgetting that the plumber was coming to fix a broke pipe in our building & the water was shut off. The extra calories are not that much when you remember that 1/2 C. of 2% milk is only 61 calories, for the whole cake, plus 77 calories per egg. And it adds a small amount of calcium, protein, B vitamins & iron, as well!

  11. So I plan on doing this. My box says use 3 eggs. So should I make it 4? Or do you think 4 would be to many? Not much of baker. Please and thanks!

    • I have the same exact question. My box cake calls for 3 eggs, 1/3 c of water and 1/3 c of butter or margerine. its a Pillsbury Moist Supreme.

      My plan is to subsitute the 1/3 c water with (1/2 and 1/2 mixed with 2% milk to total the 1/3 of cup. i’ll use butter instead of margerine , BUT as far as the eggs go- i really don’t see adding a 4th egg??? anyone out there that’s tried it either way?

  12. Thanks for this post. I will give these hints a try. I always alter my cakes a bit when I make them, only use jumbo eggs and adding pudding mix to the batter as my mother used to do. Trying to get a great tasting cake for just two. A regular size cake is too much for my 2-person family now. Any ideas?

    • Mmm…pudding in the batter sounds yummy!

      One option is to just make the full cake and cut it in half or thirds. Wrap in foil and freeze – that way you have a few “mini cakes” you can pull out whenever you’re in the mood. Same with cupcakes – make the full batch and put some in the freezer for later. When I do this, I freeze the cake and icing separately.

      Of course, making a cake is also an occasion to invite some friends over for dinner!

  13. When I make a chocolate cake, I add a small box of pudding to the mix and use chocolate syrup in place of the oil. Works great with sugar free ingredients too 🙂

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  15. I tried this and the milk and butter mixed into a consistency that was almost curdled. Maybe it was because i melted the butter? any advice?

    • Usually, melting the butter is not a good idea for baked goods (unless the recipe says differently). You should used butter that is softened enough so it can be beaten – try leaving it out on the counter for a few hours.

  16. I’ve worked in many Bakeries and it’s well known amongst them that they use Mixes as well and so does Cake Boss who starts off with White Cake Mix. It’s rare that a Bakery makes a Homemade because Homemade are dense and most people don’t want a dense cake especially for a Wedding.

  17. Super yummy and fluffy!, used Betty Crocker vanilla. I was a little skeptical so did half butter/half oil. All whole milk but kept eggs the same. I will always do this from now on!

  18. A tip for any on making chocolate cakes or cupcakes…instead of water use cooled coffee or espresso. It really brings out the chocolate flavor. Makes a huge difference!

  19. I want to make a berry Chantilly cake, but I want to use a box cake. I need to make it a sheet cake style , have feed 25 people

  20. Sorry about that , what box cake would be best for my challenge, because they use a tip of sponge cake , HELP !!!! It’s my grandmother’s 90th birthday & it’s her favorite !!

  21. I used heavy cream instead of milk/water and 5 eggs instead of the 3 the box asked for. It made 24 big cupcakes. The normal box recipe made considerably less than 24 and they aren’t that big. 🙂 My cupcakes rose well and have the most amazing soft, fluffy texture. And they taste amazing! Thanks for the tips! 🙂

  22. I’ve used your suggestions before with wonderful results. Today I am making a carrot cake for two of my dogs birthdays. Both dachshunds born a year and one day apart ( different breeders). I am sure with the changes made to the box mix by your suggestions, not only will my dogs enjoy it, my husband and I will too.
    Anita Harris
    And her two service dachshunds Nibbler and Kocoa.

    P.S. Will these changes work on boxed muffin mix as well?

  23. I would not give a dachshund cake. Even if it doesn’t make them sick and vomit, which it could, it is not good for them. Well, it is not good for humans either, but our digestive systems can handle it better than a little dog’s.

  24. Just an FYI: cakes fall/sink in the middle when you over-mix them. Mix up the ingredients just until combined, when you no longer see streaks of flour in your batter.

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