How To Make Boxed Cake Mixes Taste Homemade

Doctoring boxed cake mixesSometimes I have the darnedest luck! After a considerable amount of research and reading on this topic I had so many cake choices I wanted to try….I couldn’t decide. I finally decided on a Crumb Cake (gluten-free version) because I thought my boys would like it. Well leave it to me to screw it up! lol. Oh well….tomorrow is another day.

Thankfully my incompetence at baking doesn’t change any of the great ideas I came across. I am amazed at all the simple tips and tricks there are out there that can take a boxed cake mix from ordinary to extraordinary!

All it takes is a little thinking outside the box about what’s in the box…..

Here are a few of my favorite “doctored up” cake mix ideas:

  • A fail-safe method to make all cake mixes better is to substitute buttermilk for all the liquid the box calls for. Because it’s so thick, you might have to add slightly more volume of buttermilk than a direct one-to-one ratio.
  • Or….just substituting whole milk for the water will also make a big difference. It makes it more dense and more like a homemade cake.
  • Devil’s food or chocolate cake mix is improved by substituting brewed coffee for the water, ounce per ounce. Just make sure it’s not too hot. Also, throwing in a handful of chocolate chips is another easy way to amp up a boxed mix.
  • Lemon yogurt (in lemon, butter, yellow, spice or white cakes mixes) makes a great substitute for some of the liquid called for on the box. Use 6 oz lemon yogurt, 2 T. oil and 2/3 cup water or buttermilk, then add the eggs called for on the box. Plain or vanilla yogurt will go with any cake mix flavor.
  • Add grated fresh carrot to carrot cake mix.
  • Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1 to 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice to any of the yellow or white cake mixes. All commercial cake mixes are very sweet, especially if they are frosted, and this helps balance the flavors.
  • When making the basic cake (white, yellow, chocolate, etc.), sift the powder mix first. Then use applesauce instead of oil and add vanilla no matter what flavor cake you’re making.
  • Add 2 T. of mayonnaise to the batter and it will taste more like homemade.
  • Add pudding mix (ie. lemon cake mix, lemon pudding).
  • Add melted butter for all or part of the oil.
  • Add “real chocolate” shavings in chocolate cakes.
  • Use “Baker’s Joy” to spray baking pans, then sprinkle with a finely ground nut and sugar mix instead of flour.
  • To any flavor cake mix, I add 1/4 to 1/2 cup self-rising flour and 1/2 cup sugar. Sift these ingredients together into the mixing bowl. When adding the liquid ingredients, add an extra tablespoon or two of water or milk to make the batter the right consistency. It makes the cake rise more and gives it a really smooth texture.
  • Turn yellow cake mix into orange by using orange juice instead of water, add a tsp or two of extract for more orange flavor and put some orange zest in.
  • Use use coconut milk (full fat) to replace the liquids in both chocolate and vanilla cake mixes.


As I mentioned at the beginning of this post…I decided to try one of the “doctored up cake mix” recipes I found…Crumb Cake By Sue. Unfortunately I managed to forget A CUP OF SUGAR from the crumb topping. Let’s just say it wasn’t one of my best baking efforts. But if I HADN’T forgotten the cup of sugar…I’m almost certain it would have been delicious! lol. So don’t write off the recipe because of my inability to follow a recipe…I’m sure Sue was telling the truth when she said, “hands down – this is the best thing you can do with a yellow cake mix!”

Crumb Cake By Sue

Crumb Mixture

1 lb butter or margarine
2 Tsps. Vanilla
4 Cups Flour
2 Tsps. Cinnamon
1 Cup White Sugar  <=== very important. Don’t omit! :-)

In a large pot on the stove, melt the butter and add the vanilla and then mix in the remainder of the ingredients. Spread out with a large spoon and/or a spatula on a cookie sheet to dry out a little. Then make the cake.

Make 1 box of yellow cake mix according to recipe on the box. Put the cake in a 11 x 17 pan. Bake the cake half way through the baking time (about 15-20 minutes). Sprinkle crumb mixture on top of the cake and continue baking until the end of the baking time. Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a rack, then dust generously with powdered sugar.


Here are a few more quick and easy doctored up recipes that caught my eye:

Pumpkin Bars.  Spice cake mix, use four eggs instead of three, add a can of pumpkin and a quarter of a cup of applesauce (or oil if you prefer), omit water. Bake as directed on the box.

Apple Spice Cake.  Spice Cake mix, add 3 eggs and 1 can of Comstock Apple Pie Filling. Mix and pour into 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 C sugar mixed with 1/2 t cinnamon. Bake according to box directions. Serve with whipped cream.



Melted Ice Cream Cake. Take a box of white cake mix and add two cups of melted ice cream (melt it first, then measure) and 3 eggs. Mix for 3 minutes on medium speed. Pour into a greased 9 X 13 pan and bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Frost however you like.


Pineapple Angel Food Cake. 1 box angel food cake mix, 1 large can crushed pineapple (undrained). Mix in large bowl and pour into greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350 until springs back (45 minutes or so). Frost or serve with strawberries and whipped cream

Improved Angel Food Cake.  1 Angel Food Cake Mix, add one raw egg white, & substitute orange juice for the water.


Creme de Menthe Cake. Prepare a box of white cake mix batter according to directions. Add 3 Tbsp of green creme de menthe (the ice-cream syrup) and mix until color is uniform. Bake in a 9 x 13 pan according to directions. Cool completely. Frost with a jar of hot-fudge ice cream topping. Finally, mix 3 tablespoons of the creme de menthe syrup into a container of Cool Whip. Spread this over the hot fudge topping.


Doctored Yellow Cake Mix Cake. 1 box yellow cake mix (DO NOT use cake mix with pudding in it.), 1 can fruit cocktail packed in fruit juice (15-16 oz). Put cake mix into mixing bowl, add eggs only. DO NOT ADD WATER OR OIL. Add can of fruit cocktail with liquid. Beat with electric mixer. Pour into a greased bundt pan, bake according to package directions. No frosting needed. Very moist.


Rootbeer Cake. Follow directions on the box of butter yellow cake mix with pudding in the mix. Add 1 1/4 c. rootbeer instead of water, 1/2 c. butter softened (in place of oil) and 3 eggs. Frost with your favorite icing.




Kind of sheds a whole new light on the possibilities that exist in those boxes in your pantry huh? Let the experimenting begin!


Do you doctor?



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  1. Leisa says

    Another easy good recipe—
    Mix a yellow cake mix with 1 small can pumpkin. Bake as directed. After
    baking poke holes in the cake. Pout a can of sweetened condensed milk
    over the cake. When it has cooled spread Cool Whip over the top and
    sprinkle with toffee bits.

    So yummy!!! So easy!!!

  2. Jill Mount says

    This is going to be one of my favorite of your posts! I had changed how I make box cake recipes – extra egg and milk several years ago. This will take those ideas to a whole new level. Thank you!!!

  3. Angelia Betscher says

    The 15 oz. can of pumpkin plus box of cake mix (no other liquid or ingredients required) is a really moist and favorite recipe in our house (made into mini-muffins)! Our favorite is Spice Cake with the pumpkin and add cinnamon chips (like chocolate chips made by Hershey’s). The Devils Food Chocolate cake with pumpkin is very yummy too!

    Love your site! You’re the bomb!

  4. Sue says

    I just made some “Fun da Middles” ( and they were AWESOME, but a box only makes a dozen cupcakes. So far I haven’t been able to find any homemade recipes for these things, does anyone have any ideas? It sounds like a regular cake mix COULD work, with less liquid so the filling doesn’t fall to the bottom. I’m not sure where to start with the filling though, since it bakes right along with the cupcakes. (which is a lot easier than baking the cupcakes and THEN filling them)

    • Landon says

      Oh, these are easy to make. My kids love them. I don’t remember the recipe right off the top of my head, but if you Google ‘surprise cupcakes’ you’ll come up with lots of recipes.

    • Jessie B says

      Just put a Hershey’s kiss in the middle of the cupcake. Boxed cake works fine with these. My favorite is chocolate cake with mint Hershey kisses. Nom nom nom.