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How to Make Box Cake Better

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Take the best box cake mix. Now make it better.

Yes! It is possible to make box cake mix better and taste like a bakery cake — or better yet, even taste homemade. Here are the tricks, hacks, and techniques for a better cake mix cake. 

How to Make Box Cake Better

It would be great if we could always make a chocolate layer cake from scratch whenever we wanted. But sometimes, time and life intervene and a boxed cake mix is the best option. No problem.

Start With the Best Box Mix

The first step in hacking a box cake mix is to start with the best mix. Not all brands are equal.

After comparing multiple articles about best chocolate cake mixes, the all-around best box chocolate cake mix is Ghirardelli’s Double Chocolate Premium Cake Mix. Though not widely available in all grocery stores, it is available online at Amazon (for an oddly expensive price, as of this publication) and Walmart.

Runners up alternated between Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker devil’s food cake mixes. (Betty Crocker also makes a strong showing in the vanilla cake category as well.)

Best Chocolate Box Cake Mix Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Cake Mix

Make Box Cake Better With Special Ingredients

Now the fun part. Here’s where you get to take a simple chocolate cake box mix and make it “homemade” using a few simple ingredients you probably already have.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Replace water with buttermilk or milk. Buttermilk will add slight tang and make the chocolate stand out. Both milk and buttermilk will add a little more richness.
  • Add 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract for better flavor and aroma
  • Add 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder. Espresso heightens the flavor of chocolate. You won’t taste coffee, just more chocolate.
  • Add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Salt helps bring out sweetness and makes the overall flavor more dynamic.
  • Add mini chocolate chips. For one standard box cake mix, add 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips. And do seek out the mini; standard chips will taste too chunky.

How to Make Box Cake Better

Change Up the Directions

Most box cake mixes give the simplest possible directions, figuring (rightly) that customers are going for speed. However, mixing the cake a little differently will get you a better result.

  • Sift the dry ingredients. This will shorten the time needed to make the batter smooth. The more you stir, the more gluten you can develop, which makes the cake tough.
  • Beat the eggs and add them to the liquid. Same reason.
  • Stick to the smaller cake pan. If the recipe gives you the option for an 8″ or 9″ cake, go with the 8″ cake. This will give you more height, and look better generally.
How to Make Box Cake Better
(Shh…this is actually a Duncan Hines cake mix!)

Summarizing Your Cake Mix Hacks and Tips

Making your box cake better comes down to three things: 1) the best mix, 2) ingredient enhancements, and 3) a good method. With these tips and hacks — plus making it look good with the right buttercream and decoration — you’ll bake up the best box cake mix ever.

Oh — and make sure you check out this article: How to Hack Box Brownie Mix

How to Make Box Cake Better

Now that you’ve baked the best box cake ever, here’s some more cake love:


  • Suzanne

    I just joined your website. I have found my first newsletter hugely helpful already, especially improving cake mix ?. I have an old recipe from an American friend – add pudding mix and oil to cake mix. Thanks. Suzanne, Vancouver, Canada?

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Suzanne! Thanks so much for joining Unpeeled! It’s funny you say that. I have heard something about adding pudding mix to cake. I bet it makes it very moist. I’ll look into this more, but let me know if you try it out!

  • Sharron Biccum

    Hi am new to your website and like what I see. Was recommended by Once upon a chef.
    Can’t get Ghiradelli brand could you suggest a substitute. Thanks Sharron

    • Unpeeled

      Hi and welcome! I love Jenn at Once Upon a Chef, and am so glad that you found me through her. If you can’t find Ghirardelli, Betty Crocker’s devil’s food cake mix gets the next-best reviews overall. Good luck!

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