Left to their own devices, box cakes usually turn out ho-hum. But do not let that stop you from buying them. In this guide, we will discuss simple ideas that are proven to make box cakes taste like homemade or like a cake made from scratch. Many of these tips can even take the ordinary box cake mix to a whole new level.
Now that the Holiday season is almost upon us, let’s get down to baking some delicious box cakes!
A few basic ‘box cake hacks’ to begin with
- Always keep basic box cake mixes like Devil’s Food mix, yellow mix, white mix, lemon and orange, and spice mixes on hand.
- Use salted butter. Many box cake mixes call for unsalted butter. In reality; the little amount of salt in the butter balances the excess sweetness characteristic of box mixes. Avoid using cold butter; go for melted butter as it is a lot easier to mix with the dry cake mixes.
1. Go in for the best extracts
Box mixes mostly use artificial extracts. So add some good quality extracts such as pure vanilla, coffee extract, almond, orange, lime, or lemon extracts. These certainly enhance the taste of ordinary cake mixes.
2. Spice ‘em up
Keep cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, poppy seeds, and ginger powder on hand. Buy them in small quantities and keep them refrigerated to preserve their freshness. Use these in your mixes; even a tiny amount of fresh spice can enhance your box cake’s flavor considerably.
3. Add fresh lemon or orange zest
When you add fresh lemon or orange zest to box cake mix, you can enhance the cake’s flavor many times over. Here is a great Lemon – cornmeal cookie recipe using box cake mix:
- 1 package white cake mix
- ¾ cup of butter melted
- 1 tbsp grated lemon peel
- 1 large egg
- ½ c granulated sugar
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- Preheat oven to 350 F
- In a large mixing bowl, add cake mix, butter, egg, and lemon peel and beat on medium speed for 1-2 minutes.
- Mix in the cornmeal with a spoon.
- Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and then roll each ball in granulated sugar.
- Place the balls on a lined cookie sheet and flatten each ball with your hand or spatula.
- Bake 9-12 minutes until done.
- Remove and cool completely before storing.
4. Add instant pudding
To make any box cake mix taste homemade, add ½ of a 3 oz. box of instant pudding to the cake batter. The pudding will keep your cake moist and delicious, giving it that homemade taste.
5. Make pancakes
To the box cake mix, add a bit of water until it is pancake batter consistency. Pour on a hot, oiled pan and make the pancakes. Serve with your favorite toppings, syrup, fruit, etc.
6. Add canned fruit/dry fruits/nuts
Delicious white cake add-ins include raisins, dried cranberries, currants, and prunes. Canned fruits like pineapples, blueberries, peaches, mandarins, and pears in sweet syrup also work well. Always keep strawberries, raspberries, and peeled peaches in the freezer.
If you plan to add nuts, you can use frozen or refrigerated ones. Always thaw the nuts before use. You can also lightly toast them before adding to the cake batter. Roasting brings out the flavors and enhances the cake’s taste greatly.
7. Add sour cream/buttermilk/yogurt/cream cheeses
This is a great way to make a box cake moist and fluffy. Low-fat buttermilk is readily available in supermarkets. You can also use powdered buttermilk. Sour cream gives a full-fat, rich taste and a velvety texture to the box cake mix. Plain, lemon, full-fat, or low-fat yogurt is a great addition to any cake mix; simply use your imagination. Full-fat cream cheeses add richness, moisture, and tenderness to otherwise dry cake mixes.
8. Add coconut
Fresh coconut works the best, but this isn’t feasible for busy cooks. So, always keep frozen unsweetened coconut handy. It thaws in minutes and can be used as a cake garnish.
9. Add a dash of rum to a yellow cake mix
Apart from rum, other boozy things like sherry and bourbon can also enhance a plain old vanilla box cake mix. Here is a great rum cake recipe.
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 4 eggs
- 1 box of instant Jell-O mix
- ½ cup each: rum, water, and canola oil
- Powdered sugar for dusting.
- For the sauce – 1 stick butter, ¼ cup rum, 1 cup white sugar, ¼ cup water
- Beat cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, rum, water, and oil in a mixer on medium speed.
- Once the mixture is smooth, pour it in a Bundt pan and bake in an oven pre-heated to 325 F. Cake will take about an hour to bake. Test the center for doneness with a toothpick.
- In the meantime, make the sauce. Over low heat, melt butter, sugar, water, and add the rum. Heat until the sugar is dissolved.
- Remove the Bundt cake pan, and pour the sauce over the cake (still in the Bundt pan).
- Do not remove the cake.
- Cover the Bundt pan with a foil and leave the cake overnight.
- Next day, invert the cake on a plate, dust powdered sugar and enjoy!
10. Add apricot nectar
- 1 package lemon Jell-O
- 1 box of lemon supreme cake mix
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup of vegetable oil
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 can apricot nectar
- Preheat oven to 325 F
- Beat together Jell-O and oil. Add the cake mix and half of the apricot nectar.
- Beat for two minutes.
- Add the remaining nectar, the eggs (1 at a time) and beat again.
- Pour the batter in a tube pan and bake for about an hour.
- Make a sauce with lemon juice, sugar, and beat the ingredients until the sugar melts. Pour the sauce over the cake while still hot.
- Leave overnight before cutting.
11. Add chocolate
This is the best way to doctor a box cake mix. Keep German chocolate or white chocolate on hand. German chocolate can be grated into box cake mix batter with excellent results. Chocolate chips are an excellent addition to cake mixes like marble or simple cheesecake. Add unsweetened cocoa powder to Devil’s cake mix for a superb punch. Instant coffee powder also makes boxed chocolate cakes taste homemade.
We hope you try out these box cake hacks and simplify your holiday baking. Check out these easy ways to decorate a cake.