Make Boxed Cake Taste Like Bakery Cake

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Have you ever followed the recipe on the back of the cake mix box??  Like followed it perfectly, added every ingredient, and NEVER, EVER added anything that wasn’t supposed to be there? 

I used to be that person, but now I have found a much better way to make cakes.  My box cake mixes now make delicious, bakery-like cakes with just a few easy changes and additions.

How to make your box chocolate cake mix taste like bakery cake

First, let’s address the most important question….

What is the best brand of cake mix?

Truthfully, I have never found a difference between any of the major cake mix players. Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury all make stellar cakes, and additions like the ones in this post can be added to any of them, as well as generic, store brand mixes.

Simply put, you can be like me and grab whichever one is currently on sale and you’ll be just fine.

Regardless of which box cake mix you use, there are some simple things you can do to bring out the deliciousness.

(Just as an FYI: This post may contain affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase from one of them, I get a commission. No extra cost to you. Read more about that here.)

Butter is better

Instead of oil, I used unsalted butter.  I have also used salted.  Either one will work and produce the same result.

You will substitute in equal amounts, too, so if the recipe says 1/2 C oil, you’ll use 1/2 C of butter.

You may be asking yourself why you would change from oil to butter. Well, how much better does it taste than vegetable oil?  Exactly. Butter gives cake a moistness and flavor that oil just can’t add.

Milk does a body good

Instead of 1C of water, I use 1C of milk. One of the liquid’s jobs in cake baking is to get the batter wet enough for the chemical reactions to take place. While milk adds no noticeable difference in the end product and does nothing to aid the reactions, I just like milk more than water.

what about whole milk vs skim milk?

Whole milk, as you probably know, has a bigger fat content than skim or 1-2%. In baking terms, this means that the end product may be more moist if using full fat milk.

I always use 1% milk, because it’s what I have on hand. I have never had a problem with my cakes being dry if I add the right ingredients and monitor my baking times.

How to make boxed cake mix taste homemade text above yellow cupcakes with white icing and multicolored sprinkles

the more eggs the moister

I use 4 eggs instead of 3.  Adding eggs gives the cake a richer flavor and makes it moister.  (More moist?)  It also makes the cake fluffier and lighter.

A few additional additives for box cake mix

You can add a dollop of sour cream to your cake mix to up the moisture factor.

When I initially heard this, I thought for sure it would add a funny taste to my cake.  However, you can’t even tell it’s in there by taste. The cake, however, is so much richer with an extra 1/2C or so of sour cream.

Add pudding to your cake mix

I don’t mean Sack Pack pudding.  However, adding a box of instant pudding (just the powder, not the made pudding) can be a fun addition to your yellow cake.  What’s better, the combinations of cake+pudding are endless.  

Not only can you add almost any pudding flavor to yellow cake mix, but there’s also options such as:

Red velvet cake mix and chocolate pudding

Strawberry cake mix and cheesecake pudding

White cake mix and french vanilla pudding

Just make sure the color combination works.  I can’t imagine strawberry cake mix and chocolate pudding would make a pretty cake color.


Let your ingredients get to room temperature.  

Your eggs and butter will do better if you let them get to room temp before using them in your  cake. I don’t know why. I’m sure there’s a reason.

(10 minutes and 4 topics later via the Google)

Room temp ingredients like eggs and butter form an emulsion (think oil and water) that traps air.  When baked, this makes fluffy baked goods. (Yeah science.)

For BOX CHOCOLATE CAKE MIXES, I add a few additional things

Cafe Bustelo Instant Espresso Powder

This little package contains pure awesomeness when it comes to baking with chocolate flavors.  It makes your cakes and cupcakes taste SO MUCH BETTER. 

How to make your box chocolate cake mix taste like bakery cake with Cafe Bustelo instant espresso

It also makes your coffee better 🙂

I don’t know what it is about it (again, probably something to do with science and enhancing the flavor), but one of these will make your chocolate cake or cupcakes POP!!

I also add coffee to my milk in the initial ingredients. For example, if the recipe calls for a cup of milk, I use a half a cup of milk and a half a cup of coffee (NOT HOT COFFEE!!!)

Well, there you have it.  Easy peasy little things you can do to make your chocolate cake/cupcakes taste better.  Trust me, the people eating them will thank you.

They will also be amazing by your baking prowess.

recap: box cake mix hacks for bakery cakes

  • Use more eggs
  • Use butter instead of oil
  • Use milk instead of water
  • Add sour cream
  • Add pudding mix
  • (For chocolate cake) Use Cafe Bustelo Instant Espresso
  • (For chocolate cake) Use coffee with your milk

If you need an amazing icing recipe, might I recommend this blueberry buttercream icing. It works especially well with chocolate cupcakes.

If you’re looking for more things you can easily do with boxed cake mix, check out my Cake Batter Blondies or Easy Banana Bread recipes.

a few of my favorite things

Here are some of my favorite things for baking. Click the pics to check them out.

"How to make your boxed cake mix taste homemade" text below yellow cake with white icing and sprinkles

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