I’m a former pastry cook, and I think cake mixes are a great low-effort but delicious dessert.
To amp up a boxed mix and make it taste homemade, I’d add sprinkles, extra eggs, or extracts.
You can also take the cake to the next level by topping it with homemade frosting.
As a former pastry cook, I stand firmly in the belief that pie is vastly superior to cake. But when an occasion necessitates a cake, boxed mixes are a great way to deliver a surefire success with minimal effort.
Read on for some of the best hacks I’ve learned for making boxed cake mixes taste homemade.
Try using melted butter instead of oil
It’s no secret that butter makes everything better.
Instead of using the oil the boxed recipe calls for, simply swap it for the same amount of melted butter.
It’s an easy way to create a delectable cake that tastes homemade.
Adding an extra egg makes a cake super moist
For an extra-moist cake, add one more egg than the boxed recipe calls for.
The fat in the eggs lends richness to the final product, making it a more decadent experience.
If you really want to go over the edge, throw in an additional egg yolk, too.
Using milk will result in a richer flavor than water
If you have dairy or nondairy milk in your fridge, sub the water the box calls for with it.
Whole milk will add extra decadence to your cake. But I also love using buttermilk for chocolate cake mixes or coconut milk for a tropical spin.
For special occasions, put a little extra effort in by making your own frosting
I am a huge advocate of cutting corners — it’s why I love boxed dessert mixes. But if you’re whipping up a cake for a special occasion, put in a little extra elbow grease by topping it with homemade frosting.
Even if you use only this one piece of advice, you’ll trick people into thinking you went all out on your dessert.
Mayo is the secret ingredient for richer cakes
If you’re not a Midwesterner who grew up on Portillo’s chocolate-cake shakes, mayo in a cake might sound gag-inducing. But hear me out.
The eggs and oil in mayonnaise are perfect for amping up the richness in your cakes. All you need to do is sub the oil for the same amount of mayonnaise, and I promise you’ll be a convert.
I prefer Duke’s mayonnaise, and I suggest skipping olive- or avocado-oil varieties for this application.
Brighten up your dessert with citrus
Zesting your favorite citrus fruits into your batter will add a subtle edge to your cake.
I love orange or lime zest paired with vanilla or coconut mixes, and lemon zest is also great in yellow or pound cakes.
Don’t let the juice go to waste either. Freshly squeezed orange juice can replace the water in a recipe, but if you use lemon or lime juice, be stingier to avoid a sour situation.
Added extracts can majorly boost the flavor of a cake
For an extra boost of flavor, add in a splash of your favorite extract.
Vanilla is always a crowd pleaser, and it pairs well with most mixes. But for a bakery-style birthday cake, I love almond extract in yellow or vanilla cakes.
When in doubt, add sprinkles
Funfetti cake is a crowd pleaser for a reason — who doesn’t love a little bit of whimsy with their dessert?
For a cake that will make everyone smile, gently fold rainbow or chocolate sprinkles into the batter. Just make sure to add them last so the colors don’t bleed.
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