There’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple and sticking to the directions on your box cake mix. It’s classic and delicious—not to mention budget-friendly in terms of both money and time. But if you knew just how easy it was to take a box cake to the next level, it might be tough to resist the temptation to try it.
Unlike with, say, cinnamon rolls, there’s no single box cake hack that stands out above the rest. Instead, we’ve compiled a few different methods that various bakers swear by. Feel free to choose your favorite or test out all three.
1. Milk, Melted Butter, and an Extra Egg
A box cake’s biggest selling point is that it only requires a few basic ingredients, one of which is usually eggs. Adding just one extra egg can give you extra richness in every slice.
And if you already have milk and butter in your fridge, why not use them, too? Instead of oil, mix in an equal quantity of melted butter (or more: Dinner then Dessert recommends doubling the butter). Swap out the water for any milk, dairy or non-dairy.
“Whole milk will add extra decadence to your cake,” former pastry chef Pippa Allen wrote for Insider. “But I also love using buttermilk for chocolate cake mixes or coconut milk for a tropical spin.”
Another way to enrich a chocolate cake mix, per The Pioneer Woman, is to use coffee instead of water.
As Allen pointed out, mayonnaise is mostly just eggs and oil—two ingredients that a typical box cake already contains. Replacing the water with mayonnaise makes for an especially moist final product. Hellmann’s endorses the hack with recipes of its own for “super moist” yellow and chocolate cake.
3. Sour Cream and Instant Pudding Mix
Sour cream helps produce a denser cake batter well-suited for a Bundt pan, and a package of dry instant pudding mix can deepen its flavor. These two aren’t necessarily a one-for-one swap with existing ingredients, so it’s best to pick one recipe and stick to it. Here’s a county fair-winning one from Allrecipes that uses devil’s food cake mix and chocolate pudding mix. Prefer vanilla? These options from Beat Bake Eat and Cookies & Cups might be more your speed. Together as Family’s recipe can work with any kind of cake mix and instant pudding mix (assuming they match or complement each other).