There’s something to be said about the convenience of a boxed cake mix. Its dump-and-stir process is appealing to anyone ― amateur bakers, skilled professionals in a rush or anyone in between. While there’s no shame in getting a little help from Betty Crocker sometimes, we don’t want people to know we took a shortcut. Luckily with a few simple tricks, techniques and tweaks, you can fool anyone into thinking you’ve been in the kitchen all day making a cake from scratch.
1. Add additional eggs
Add one more egg than the box says to transform your baked goods into superior desserts. The additional egg adds more fat to the batter, creating a richer, moister taste while also providing structure for a more tender cake.
2. Use butter instead of oil
Most boxed cake mixes call for a neutral oil, such as canola or vegetable. Next time, try using melted butter in place of the oil in a 1-to-1 substitution. Not only will your cake get a buttery flavor boost, but it will also have a firmer, denser texture.
3. Replace water with milk or coffee
Using whole milk instead of water (with a 1-to-1 substitution) in the recipe will result in a richer, denser cake that tastes homemade. If you’re baking a chocolate cake, try swapping the water for hot coffee. The coffee will deepen the flavor while the hot liquid will help the chocolate bloom. The same goes for boxed brownies.
4. Go crazy with mix-ins
Amp up your baked goods with flavor boosters like lemon or orange zest, chocolate chips, sprinkles, chopped nuts, almond or vanilla extract, leftover candy, crushed cookies, seasonal jams or even soda.
5. Whip it good
One common mistake with boxed cakes is not mixing the batter enough. For best results, whip the cake at medium speed for at least 3 minutes, until the texture and color of the batter have changed. It should be thick, creamy and light in color without any clumps of flour. This will help make sure the ingredients are completely incorporated to create a tender cake with minimal crumbs.
6. Add sour cream or mayo
Yes, you read that right. Incorporating sour cream or mayonnaise into your batter will add moisture while giving it a little bit of tang. Try out this hack with sour cream yellow cake, chocolate cake or even cornbread.
7. Add instant pudding mix
Next time you want to mask the boxed mix taste try adding a packet of instant pudding mix to your batter. It bumps up the flavor while keeping the cake super moist and soft. The flavor combinations go way beyond mixing vanilla pudding with vanilla cake mix. Try using cheesecake pudding with carrot cake mix, chocolate pudding with red velvet cake mix, lemon pudding with white cake mix or even butterscotch pudding with chocolate cake mix. Here’s a simple recipe to give this trick a whirl.
8. Brush cooled cake with simple syrup
Professional bakeries brush cooled cake layers with simple syrup (it’s just water and sugar, boiled until the sugar has dissolved) to help seal in moisture. The liquid seeps into the cracks and crevices of the cake keeping it moist and adding flavor. This trick will also work if you’ve accidentally overbaked your cake and it turned out dry. Here’s a quick tutorial on how the pros do it.
9. Make your own frosting
Ditch that canned frosting (and its chemical taste) to make your own buttercream. You’ll be surprised at how easily it comes together and what a difference it makes to your cake. With four simple ingredients, you can make a fluffy, decadent and delicious frosting that tastes like it came from a bakery. For best results, use high-quality butter and pure vanilla extract.