Bakers’ Favorite Ingredients for Improving Cake Mix

Bakers' Favorite Ingredients for Improving Cake Mix

  • I’m a former pastry chef and I think cake mixes are a great effortless yet delicious dessert.
  • To amp up a canned mix and give it a homemade taste, I would 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 chef, I am a firm believer that pie is far superior to cake. But when an occasion calls for a cake, boxed mixes are a great way to achieve surefire success with minimal effort.

Read on for some of the best tricks I’ve learned for making homemade-tasting boxed cake mixes.

Try using melted butter instead of oil

It’s no secret that butter makes everything better.

Instead of using the oil called for by the canned recipe, simply swap it out for the same amount of melted butter.

It’s an easy way to create a delicious homemade-tasting cake.

Adding an extra egg makes a cake super moist

cooking spatula eggs glass bowl

You can also add an extra egg yolk.


For an extra moist cake, add one more egg than the boxed recipe calls for.

The fat from the eggs lends richness to the final product, making it a more decadent experience.

If you really want to go overboard, add an extra egg yolk as well.

Using milk will give a richer flavor than water

If you have dairy or non-dairy milk in your refrigerator, add the water required by the box.

Whole milk will add extra decadence to your cake. But I also like to use buttermilk for chocolate cake mixes or coconut milk for a tropical twist.

For special occasions, go the extra mile by making your own icing

Chocolate cake

Even if you prepare the mixture as directed, homemade frosting adds flair to a cake.

Kristen Griffon

I’m a big believer in cutting corners – which is why I love boxed dessert mixes. But if you’re baking a cake for a special occasion, add a little extra elbow grease by topping it with homemade frosting.

Even if you just use this tip alone, you’ll trick people into thinking you’ve done everything for your dessert.

Mayo is the secret ingredient for richer cakes

If you’re not a Midwesterner who grew up on Portillo’s chocolate shakes, mayonnaise in a cake might sound dizzying. But listen to me.

Eggs and oil in mayonnaise are great for enhancing the richness of your cakes. All you have to do is replace the oil with the same amount of mayonnaise, and I promise you’ll be converted.

I prefer duke mayonnaise, and I suggest skipping the olive oil or avocado varieties for this application.

Liven up your dessert with citrus fruits

lemon zest

Lemon zest works well in yolk and pound cakes.

Régis Lagrange/EyeEm/Getty Images

Zesting your favorite citrus fruits into your batter will add a subtle touch to your cake.

I like orange or lime zest paired with vanilla or coconut blends, and lemon zest is also great in yolk or pound cakes.

Don’t let the juice go to waste either. Freshly squeezed orange juice can replace water in a recipe, but if using lemon or lime juice, be more sparing to avoid a sour situation.

Added extracts can greatly enhance the flavor of a cake

For extra flavor, add a splash of your favorite extract.

Vanilla is always a crowd pleaser and goes well with most blends. But for a bakery-style birthday cake, I love almond extract in yellow or vanilla cakes.

When in doubt, add nuggets

sprinkles added to vanilla cake batter in a bowl on a kitchen counter

Sprinkles can add a splash of color to vanilla cake.

Arina P. Habich/Shutterstock

Funfetti Cake is a crowd pleaser for a reason – who doesn’t love a little whimsy with their dessert?

For a cake that will make everyone smile, gently fold rainbow or chocolate sprinkles into the batter. Just be sure to add them last so the colors don’t bleed.