If baking is an art, and I’m no artist, then am I doomed to always baking simple box cakes and cupcakes?
I have spent hours in the kitchen mixing different flour blends trying to come up with my own recipe for the best moist cake only to be disappointed when I took my first bite. First, last and straight to the trash they went. Over and over again.
Then, I discovered that I have the unique ability to tweak recipes. Give me a recipe and I will follow it almost. It’s quite funny actually, but most of the time following my instincts on substituting ingredients in a recipe works.
Before I gave up on baking once and for all I decided to apply this skill to baking with cake mix.
Baking with box cake mix doesn’t have to be boring or uninspiring. Instead of baking a cake or cupcakes from scratch, I take box cake mix and add or substitute a few things to make it taste homemade.
I had success with the handful of substitutions I tried and developed a sweet tooth for more. I researched the web for more of the best tips to make cake box mix taste homemade. These tips will not only make your box cake recipe taste better it will save you time too.
I verified these ingredients with reputable sites, bloggers, foodies and cooks. Go ahead and try this out for yourself.
Please share in the comments how these substitutes worked for you and let us know if you have an ingredient to improve box cake mix not included on this list.
Ingredient Tips to Improve Cake Box Mix (or Cupcake Mix)
Adding milk to cake mix instead of water adds moisture and density to the cake. The richer the milk the more moisture the cake will have. Unless you are cutting calories, go with the full fat version of buttermilk, regular milk or coconut milk. Lower fat milks you could use include: skim milk, almond milk, soymilk or light coconut milk. Use chocolate milk to add chocolate flavor to yellow cake mix.
The carbonation in the soda helps the cake rise and gives it the airy texture found in homemade cakes. Use flavored soda like root beer, lime or orange to give cake a different taste.
Want to make fruit-flavored cake? Substitute water in your cake box mix for fresh juice. Avoid using canned fruit juice because the food additive methyl silicone prevents cakes from fully rising, according to Duncan Hines.
- Lemon Zest
Use about 1 tablespoon of lemon, lime or orange zest in your cake to bring out a fresh citrus flavor and aroma. Add the zest to yellow cake or chocolate. An easy way to make orange cake is to add 1 tablespoon of orange zest and replace water with orange juice. No one would suspect box cake mix used!
- Extra Eggs
Fluffy cakes don’t come out of cake box mixes, do they? They do if you add an extra egg or two. For richer flavor and puffiness you can’t go wrong with adding more eggs. I recommend adding 1-2 additional eggs.
Butter makes everything taste better and does wonders with box cake mix. Add butter instead of oil to your mix for additional flavor.
- Vanilla Extract
Add ½ – 1 teaspoon of vanilla to your mix. Vanilla goes great with yellow, white and angel food cake mix.
- Almond Extract
Give your cake a nutty flavor by adding 1 teaspoon of almond extract or turn white or yellow cake mix into an almond cake by adding 3 teaspoons of almond extract to the mix. For more almond flavor, add to taste almond extract to the frosting then top frosting with chopped almonds.
For a low-fat alternative, substitute oil or butter with applesauce. Applesauce adds moisture without the fat and is not noticeable in the flavor of the cake. Substitution is a 1:1 ratio. Find more helpful tips on using applesauce in cake box mixes here.
An easy way to turn yellow cake into banana cake is adding some mashed ripe bananas to the mix. They not only add a ton of flavor, they also add moisture. Add 2-3 medium bananas (ripe) to the box cake mix for flavor. You can also use bananas as a low-fat substitute for oil in the cake mix by using this ratio: ½ cup of ripened mashed bananas for every 1 cup of oil the recipe calls for. Find more information on bananas substitutions on Global Post.
This is an easy two-ingredient recipe. Mix one 15-oz can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix) to your yellow cake mix and bake. For pumpkin pie spice cake, this highly reviewed recipe by Allrecipes recommends using spice cake mix. According to some reviewers, the two-ingredient cake recipe can be improved by adding two eggs for a fluffier cake.
Turn yellow or white cake mix into chocolate cake by adding ¼ – ½ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder to dry cake mix. Follow the instructions on the box.
- Orange Juice
Replace water with fresh orange juice and add 1 tablespoon of orange zest to make orange cake. Avoid using canned fruit juice. You can substitute the total amount of water for orange juice or for a hint of orange flavor use ¼ – ½ cup of juice and the rest water. For example, if the mix calls for 1 cup of water use ¼ cup orange juice and ¾ cup water.
The secret to moist cake is mayonnaise. Surprising isn’t it? Well, many cooks swear by this. Hellmann’s recommends 1 cup of mayonnaise to the mix for a SUPER moist chocolate cake. Find the recipe and variations for yellow cake here. Why mayonnaise and not eggs? According to The Kitchn, the oil in mayo makes the cake tender while the vinegar punches up the flavor.
Adding liqueur to cake mix gives it an elegant flavor, but you want to start with small amounts. Reduce the amount of water or milk in the recipe by the same amount of liqueur used. Alternatively, you can add the liqueur to a simple syrup and brush on the cake once baked for added moisture and flavor. Simple syrup is one part water one part sugar. For a small cake, boil ¼ cup water and ¼ cup of sugar and heat until sugar dissolves. Allow mixture to cool then add between 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup of liqueur to mixture. Brush simple syrup on cake.
- Pineapple Cake
Similar to the pumpkin two-ingredient recipe, making pineapple cake is as easy as adding one 20 oz can of crushed pineapple with juice and all to angel food box cake mix.
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