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)

  5. Comet says

    For ANY cake boxed or home made:

    Sift first! OR else you get those awful chunky lumps that will NOT dissolve during mixing

    After pouring into prepared pan let the pan sit on counter for a few minutes then: Shake back and forth for a few seconds to distribute the batter evenly then:

    After getting the batter in the pan make sure the pan is parallel to the counter and hold it about 6″ above–then drop the pan flat onto the counter a few times! Have a fork or toothpick handy to pop any bubbles that will rise. This gets all those annoying bubbles from mixing out; makes the cake smooth with no “tunnels” and smooths the depth of the cake so it is more even all around–makes for less trimming or plain old scorched edges!

    Also—to make your dark cake edges nicer use a flour and cocoa mix to flour the pan–if you don’t have cocoa on hand steal a small amount of the cake mix!

    Don’t try to frost while hot or warm (unless the recipe calls for this) wait til cake is completely cool–even over night. Brush ALL crumbs off top and sides. Place the BEST side UP–if you want a smooth join for the middle and the cake puffed use a bread knife and use the cake pan as a guide (or use two pieces of–something!) -the same height you want the cake to be to guide knife–to make a nice flat surface. Try to use the cut surface for one of the inner (middle) sections as it will be crummy. This works to split the layers for a multi layer cake too.

    For smooth frosting–on completely cooled and brushed and cut cake frost center and place layers. On outside place frosting in the joined cake “seams” smooth with spatula or wet finger. Then use a few drops of water or milk to dilute a small amount of frosting. Use this to “skim coat” the whole cake very lightly. Let sit and harden for a while and then frost over this with your final coat. Decorate.

    This prevents any crumbs from getting into your “Top Coat” and making it look spotty and lumpy.

    To keep a frosted cake base nice place some wax papers strips under where the cake will be going on your plate. Make sure they can be removed by sliding out from the cake! If you have a complete disaster on the base edges–use fruit or flowers to hide the damage! OR cookies or decorative candy–people will think you planned it that way and be in awe of your cleverness.

    IF your “jelly roll” type cake gets too crisp and you don’t have time to bake another one–remove from paper backing–you DID line the pan, right??? LOL!!!–and cut into equal equal size rectangles. Stack and frost between layers. Frost top and if you have enough frosting do sides if you like. You can brush the layers with liquer or warm jam or flavored syrup first. Call it a torte and people will again think you are amazing. Do not ask how I know this!

    A little bit of cocoa and or powdered sugar dusted on anything makes it look special. To make chocolate curls use your vegetable peeler on the edge of a slightly warm block or bar of chocolate.

    To make a “fan” or free form crumple decoration use dark chocolate and a few Tsps of corn syrup. Melt in micro or double boiler and then pour onto piece of wax paper or parchment (NOT foil) Let cool to point where you can “push” the edges and they will hold their shapes. For a fan work with a long smooth knife or long cake spatula and gently push at an angle from edges. For a crumple use a knife or spatula to push at random angles–I have done this as a sheet and then peeled the backing off and molded it or twisted it into a dome–you can also drape it over a metal bowl to shape when it is partly cooled. You can also cut shapes from this–the darker the chocolate the firmer these will be.

    There are an amazing amount of simple things you can do with this sort of stuff that will make people think you are brilliant when all you did was melted some chocolate or sprinkled some creme de menth on a cake layer!!!!

    • says

      Mig….I made mine with a gluten free cake mix. The CAKE part was great….it was the crumb topping I screwed up on. lol. I did use two cake mixes though because a gluten free cake mix only fills an 8 x 8 cake pan size.

  6. Landon says

    Great ideas. Here is a super idea for those watching their calories & fat.

    Take any cake or brownie mix & add one can of diet soda. No other ingredients, just the dry mix & soda. Mix & bake as directed. Seriously, that is it. It works & it is yummy. Any flavors can be mixed, but typically light colored mixes pair well with the flavors in light colored sodas, and dark mixes with dark sodas. Fruit flavored sodas can be mixed with any cake mix flavor.

  7. CTY says

    I doctor cake mixes to mimic scratch recipes all the time. It all started when I lost my Mother-in Law”s Cocoa Apple Spice recipe. She has passed now and I keep hoping I will find it one day stuck to another recipe. My best attempt at faking this recipe (Cissie forgive me). A spice cake mix, applesauce to replace oil, one grated Granny Smith apple, 1/2 C cocoa powder, sour cream to replace water listed on box, 1/2- 3/4 C mini chocolate chips, 1/2 tsp apple pie spice & eggs as the box suggests. I use a Fluffy White Icing recipe & fold in mini chips to that.

    DIY Cake Mixes (yellow & white)–to mix up and store. I know there are many out there– but these are tried and true: An awesome site

  8. susan says

    Cake mix cookies:
    Box of cake mix
    1 whole egg
    1 egg yolk
    1/2 cup melted butter
    1-1/2 tsp vanilla
    i have done yellow cake mix with choc chips, choc cake mix with white chips, spice cookies, lemon cookies.
    use a medium scoop, put balls on parchment paper, bake at 350 for 10ish minutes. i usually take them out when i see a little brown at the edges. if they look puffy, flatten gently with pancake flipper as soon as you remove from oven while still on the parchment paper. cool and keep in a ziplok or sealed container. chewy, yummy, easy

  9. Kathy says

    I was interested in her creme de menthe cake, but didn’t know there was an ice cream sauce. I tried to google it, but didn’t come up with anything. Anyone able to help? My kids would love this.

  10. Bruna Betamin says

    Dear Jill,
    I found your site today, and I think I spent the whole afternoon reading it. You have precious tips here. Sorry for my english, I’m brazilian, and a learner.
    I liked your site so much that I wanted to hug you, as this is impossible, I would just say that you got a Brazilian fan.

  11. Katy says

    I’m a cake decorator, and I always rely on doctored box mixes because of the reliability and consistency of a box mix. My go-to recipe is the White Almond Sour Cream (WASC) doctored recipe – you can see it here:

    Instead of the “1 tbsp flavoring”, I typically use 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp butter OR almond extract. The WASC recipe acts as both a flavor enhancer and a mix extender – it will give you roughly 1.5 times the amount of batter that you would get otherwise from that box. I’ve been most happy with Betty Crocker mixes for my work, and everyone loves them – never had a bad comment come back to me!

    P.S. no one will ever know you started with a box mix if you always use HOMEMADE icing – none of that canned stuff – there is no comparison between the two! :-)

  12. says

    I love your site but when I tried to see how to do some of the previous gift sites, I could not find the how-to parts. The picture enlarged but no directions were visible. I must be missing some sort of instructions in there somewhere.

  13. Katina says

    My secrets to making cake mix taste homemade: Substitute olive oil for the corn oil and use room temperature eggs. Once cake is done use melted apricot jelly and brush all over all the layers of the cake while it is still warm. This traps loose crumbs, traps moisture, which keeps cake fresher longer, and it gives the cake an extra unexpected oomph of flavor!

  14. Carol says

    I love your site and have learned so many tips and tricks.

    I have to ask… all these tricks work with the new “downsized” cake mixes? I have so many recipes I can’t use any more since the 3 major cake mix companies downsized and “reformulated” their cake mixes from 18.25 oz. to 15.25-16.5 oz. mixes……less mix in the box really messes with recipes.

    Any hints and tips to fix that?

    Thanks Jillie for your fantastic blog…… :)

    • Denise says

      I noticed the new size too, but have not had any issues with the measurements. The added ingredients that are called for have stayed the same, i.e, eggs, oil and water.

      Hope this helps.

    • says

      I do not have the same results with the new “downsized” cake mixes. I have a favorite “doctored” pound cake that is my “go to cake” and it no longer is the same texture. Less mix DOES change the results of the cakes. There is something wrong if you have not noticed the difference. I am new to this web site and only discovered it because I am so frustrated with the downsized cake mixes and the results.

  15. Chris says

    I don’t do much cake baking any more as both of my kids are grown and have there own families and a whole cake would go to waste at my house. However I do make a cake every once in a while using a good moist yellow cake mix and it’s really easy and every one loves it. It’s called a Cherry Dump Cake, however it’s more like a cobbler and it’s really good hot out of oven with Vanilla Ice Cream.

    You need one large can of crushed pineapple in the lite or heavy syrup. One can of cherry pie filling. Dump both of these into a sheet cake pan and mix them together. Then take your yellow cake mix and sprinkle the entire mix over the cherries and pineapple mixture. Now take one to one and a half sticks of butter and cut them into little pats and place them all over the top of the cake mix. Place this into a 350 degree preheated oven and bake until the top turns a light golden brownish color. Serve cold or hot, but I love it hot out of the oven with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. This recipe reminds me of the home made cobblers that my grand mother use to make.

    • Jan says

      Dump Cake is the easiest thing you can do with boxed cake mix! I found an awesome recipe on Pinterest for Pumpkin dump cake. I added pecans and it was heavenly.
      Thank you, Jillee for all your great ideas!

  16. says

    when making chocolate brownies – from whatever is the cheapest mix for a 9X13 – i routinely add 3 tablespoons of instant coffee powder. it makes the chocolate taste so much richer – and you can substitute the decaf coffee powder to avoid caffeine.

    and, here’s a wonderful quick mix to bake up when you have a bunch of people to feed. it’s so rich and cuts so nicely that you can get 36-48 ‘petit four’ size servings. it’s so easy and everyone will want your secret recipe.

    you need:
    1 brownie mix for 9X13 pan and the ingredients it calls for
    3 large hershey symphony bars (the kind with bits of nuts and toffee)

    make up the brownie mix and pour about half in the pan (i spray with oil)
    unwrap and place the three symphony bars across the pan
    cover with the remaining brownie batter

    bake as for the directions on the brownie mix box. cool (do NOT refrigerate). cut with a sharp knife. to make it very posh, place each serving in a small muffin paper.

    note: the reason you don’t refrigerate these is that the symphony bars will become hard again rather than nicely gooey. you want them nicely gooey ;-)
    jd in st louis

  17. alicia says

    I doctor up everything store-bought that I buy…my new favorite is doctoring up store bought pie crust-you crush up about 1 cup of cookies super fine (matching the cookie flavor to the pie-I used Gingerbread cookies for apple, for example), add about 1/4 cup sugar ,then “flour” your counter with them, lay a pie crust down, use your rolling pin to roll it out just a little, flip it, and roll again. Then after you put it in the pie pan, lightly brush with melted butter, add your filling, put the other pie crust on, and bake…sooooo good! I can make just about anything-give me a recipe and I can make it amazing-except for pie crust, fudge (unless I am attempting to make chocolate frosting, and forget about it for a bit!), and boxed macaroni and cheese :) Now I can add pie crust to my amazing list-even if it’s faked a bit!

  18. says

    I typically add cinnamon to any box chocolate/Devil’s food cake I make to bring out the chocolate notes in it. I also like to add at least a smidge more vegetable oil to any cake. My secret for yellow cakes is adding a teaspoon of cream cheese to it!

  19. rachel says

    i’ve been doing this a lot lately – i don’t have a lot of money, so it’s a quick and easy christmas gift for people that i’m not very close to, but still want them to know they are appreciated. besides, they don’t need to know how cheap and easy it is! my current 2 favorites:

    chocolate-pumpkin cake with chocolate-cinnamon icing. 1 box chocolate cake mix, substitute 1/4 cup pumpkin for every egg or cup of oil that the recipe requires. makes really dense, moist cake that’s really the consistency i prefer. icing is powdered sugar, cinnamon, and chocolate milk. you can add more milk for a glaze consistency, or less for thicker, stiffer frosting.

    orange cake with lemon frosting. 1 box yellow cake mix, one can orange soda. mix, pour, bake, done. i even found some orange extract last time i was at the dollar store, so i’ve started adding that. then the icing is milk, powdered sugar, and lemon juice, with just a drop or two of yellow food coloring (optional, obviously). i’ve been making these as cupcakes. they were a big hit with my boss’ grandkids!

    • Leslie Scantling says

      I had a question on the pudding mix when added… Do you have to substitute it so that you don’t have too much dry mixture or is it really just added with no additional liquid? It doesn’t dry the recipe out? Is it simply just a flavor additive? Thanks for the help! Leslie

      • Mary says

        Since the new downsized cake mixes are out I have used one 3 oz box of instant pudding mix to the dry cake mix then followed the recipe on the box. The cake is not dry at all and is light. Hope this helps

  20. sue says

    I made the Creme de menthe cake today! I’m eating it while I type this comment! The cake is great, very tasty. I used Creme de menthe (not the sundae topping). It has a bit of a kick but my husband liked it and he’s not very fond of mint!

  21. Demitri says

    Can I just say …. you ROCK! HARD!!! I found your site yesterday and I’m hooked. I swear my teeth are whiter from the DIY toothpaste after just 24 hours! Gonna try some of these cake creations. Keep up the good work!

  22. Olivia says

    I totally used your suggestions last night!!

    I Used 2% milk instead of Water (all I had)
    I used Butter instead of Oil.
    And I will admit after some serious debate with my self I tossed in 2tbs of Mayo.

    Holy cow the cup cakes I made are so fluffy and light and delicious!!
    Not to mention Moist! I also used food coloring and made tye dyed cupcakes for my girlfriends B-day today!!
    Thanks for another Wonderful idea!!

  23. Barbara says

    You have given me the information I was looking for. I had some sour cream freeze in the fridge so it is very thin but my thought was that I could substitute it in a cake recipe which I now have the courage to try.
    Your site should have a warning of being addicting!

  24. Major Vancura says

    The meaning of the phrase “ice cream” varies from one country to another. Phrases such as “frozen custard”, “frozen yogurt”, “sorbet”, “gelato” and others are used to distinguish different varieties and styles. In some countries, such as the United States, the phrase “ice cream” applies only to a specific variety, and most governments regulate the commercial use of the various terms according to the relative quantities of the main ingredients.

  25. Missy Menke says

    Hello! Was wondering if I can add the mayo & also mix in the self-rising flour & sugar in the same cake batter/mix… Really awesome tips & tricks! Thanks for sharing!!! :)

  26. carrie says

    I always replace water with pinepple juice when making my pineapple upside down cake. I use a cast iron skillet. melt a stick of butter in it. then put down my pineapple rings and brown sugar. i just use a pineapple cake mix replacing the water with juice.
    If it’s browning but not yet down, just lightly cover with oiled foil and check it now and then until done.

    people rave.


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