Cake Mix Hacks and Ideas

Cake mixes are so easy to use and with the right hacks, you can actually make quick and easy desserts that taste homemade, just like they’re made from scratch.

Cupcake pans with batter in a bowl.

The good thing about cake mixes is that they’re hard to mess up. Unlike scratch cakes, they’re super forgiving, unless of course, you add way too much liquid or something extreme.

Generally, though, you can get away with trying out all kinds of additions and still come out with something that tastes amazing.

Bowl with cake batter and whisk with text overlay.

Table of Contents:

Now let’s get into all the ideas and hacks you can do with cake mixes. (By the way, these are in no particular order, so find some ideas you like and try them out.)

Make brownies out of a cake mix:

Top view of brownies from a cake mix.

If you don’t have a brownie mix on hand or the ingredients to make brownies from scratch, you can just use a chocolate cake mix.

It only takes adding a few ingredients to a cake mix and you’ll have quick brownies in a pinch.

Here are some cake mix brownie recipes to try out:

Make cake bars out of a cake mix:

Cake bars on a white plate with a fork.

Cake bars are super easy to make using a cake mix.

Here’s how to make cake mix bars:

  • Take basically any cake mix and add to a mixing bowl.
  • Add 2 eggs.
  • Add half a cup of melted butter.
  • Mix well.
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes.

You can use any flavor cake mix and don’t forget to add in chocolate chips and sprinkles!

Here are a few cake mix bar recipes to try out:

Doctor up a cake mix to make a homemade-tasting layer cake:

Chocolate layer cake with chocolate frosting.

Instead of following the box mix directions exactly, you can experiment by making these changes:

  • Try replacing the water with milk or a combo of milk and sour cream.
  • Try replacing the oil with melted butter at 1 1/2 times the amount of oil called for on the back of the cake mix box.
  • You could even add in a cup of flour and sugar to extend it so that the cake layers bake up higher, or so you can fill three, 8-inch round cake pans instead of two.
  • Add an additional egg.
  • Add flavorings from extracts, pudding mixes, jello mixes etc. (We’ll talk a little more about this below.)

Here are some recipes for doctored cake mix layer cakes:

Make cake mix into a pound cake:

Baked pound cake in a blue bundt pan.

You can add just a few ingredients to a cake mix, bake it in a bundt pan and it’ll turn out just like a pound cake, but even better.

Some pound cakes turn out too dry and dense, but when you start with a cake mix, you’ll end up with a super moist cake.

Here are some recipes for a cake mix based pound cake or bundt cake:

Try using a different pan:

Different types of baking pans with a black background.

Instead of just going for the average layer cake pans, or making cupcakes, try baking cake mix batter in different types of pans to change things up a little.

Here are some pan options:

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Add fruit puree, jam, lemon curd or pie filling:

Cake with fruit as filling.

This will add a new flavor dimension to any cake mix. Just add to the prepared cake batter or you could just use as a filling between two cake layers.

Here’s one to try: Chocolate Cherry Bundt Cake

Spruce it up with fresh fruit:

Layer cake with fruit in filling and on top.

Bake a plain vanilla or yellow cake mix in a bundt pan and add fresh fruit on top of the cooled cake, then add whipped cream or just sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Add in fresh or frozen fruit, chocolate chips, chopped cookies, crushed candies, or chopped nuts:

Layer cake with nuts and frosting.

Once the cake mix batter is mixed well, you can fold in fresh fruit, chocolate chips, chopped cookies or nuts.

I love Oreos in white, vanilla cake or red velvet cake and adding mini semi-sweet chocolate chips to a chocolate cake mix is the easy way to make a double chocolate cake.

Top with homemade buttercream or glaze:

Chocolate buttercream in a bowl with wooden spoon.

When you top a doctored cake mix cake with homemade, from-scratch frosting, it just takes it over the top and likely no one will know you started everything off with a cake mix.

Homemade buttercream or glaze isn’t hard to make and you can really fancy up a cake mix cake by adding it.

Here are a few buttercream and glaze recipes to try:

Make the mix into cookies:

Coolies in a white bowl.

This is just about the easiest way to make cookies. You can really make any flavor you want. Some recipes call for extra ingredients like cream cheese, but other recipes just call for a few more ingredients like eggs and butter.

The possibilites are endless here because you could basically use any flavor cake mix and even add in chocolate chips, sprinkles, nuts etc.

Here are some cake mix cookie recipes to try:

Make into cake balls or cake pops:

Cake pops with sprinkles and milk jug.

Cake balls and cake pops are a little time-consuming, but they’re really easy to make.

Here’s how to easily make cake balls:

  • Prepare the cake mix according to the directions on the back of the box, bake and cool.
  • Crumble the cake mix in a bowl.
  • Add a couple of tablespoons of frosting and mix well.
  • The trick is not using too much frosting or the mixture will just get super mushy.
  • Roll about a tablespoon size of the mixture into balls and set in the fridge to chill for about 15 minutes.
  • Dip the cake balls in melted chocolate or almond bark and set them aside to fully harden. You may also store them in the fridge.

Here are some recipes to try:

Make cake mix into banana bread:

Sliced banana bread on a white plate.

Using a cake mix to make banana bread is the easy way to do it. You’ll already have the base and most of the ingredients in the cake mix itself, and you’ll just add in a few extra ingredients to get the easiest banana bread ever.

You could even jazz it up by adding white or semi-sweet chocolate chips to it.

Try out these recipes:

Make into cobbler or dump cake:

Cake peach cobbler in a blue bowl.

Use cake mix as a base to make a fruit cobbler. You can also make what’s called a dump cake which is even easier as you’re basically just sprinkling the dry cake mix onto the fruit filling.

Here are a few cake cobbler and dump cake recipes to try:

Change the flavor up with easy additions:

Sliced jello lemon cake on a plate with lemons.

An easy way to add flavor or change up a cake mix is to add a pudding mix or a jello mix to the cake batter. Just add the ingredients that the cake mix box calls for and add in a packet of instant pudding mix or jello and bake. Super easy.

You can even reserve a tablespoon of the pudding mix or jello mix and add it to the icing, that way the flavor will match the cake.

Another way to add flavor or change the flavor is by adding baking extracts and emulsions. There are tons of options for these, my favorites are coconut emulsion, vanilla bean paste, almond emulsion, and butter flavoring.

These will really punch up the flavor of a cake mix. Even if you don’t have fancy flavoring, you can always just add two teaspoons of vanilla extract and it will help you attain a more homemade taste. It even works in chocolate cakes.

You could also add flavor by adding spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. You can make an easy snickerdoodle cake just by adding a couple of teaspoons of ground cinnamon to both the cake mix batter and the icing.

Turn the cake into a trifle:

Berry and whipped cream trifle.

If you really want to get fancy or you’re just worried someone will be able to tell you’ve baked a cake from a box mix, then making a trifle is the way to go.

Here’s how to make an easy trifle:

  • Bake the cake according to the directions on the back of the box. (It’s easiest if you bake it in a 13×9 rectangle pan.)
  • Once baked, cool it completely.
  • Cut the cake into cubes. (Sometimes it helps to chill the cake so it doesn’t fall apart when you cut it.)
  • Layer the cake cubes in a trifle dish with pretty much anything you like. (Options below.)

Some ideas for trifle layering are:

For vanilla cakes: fresh fruit, lemon curd, jam, whipped cream, nuts, buttercream, crushed cookies or candies, white chocolate chips

For chocolate cakes: chocolate chips, caramel, toffee bits, crushed cookies or candies, whipped cream, chocolate syrup, nuts
The flavor combinations are endless.

Top view of cake batter and ingredients.

Tips & FAQs:

How do you make a box cake taste like a bakery cake?

You can do a few things to accomplish this.
Instead of following the box mix directions exactly, you can:
-Replace the water with milk or a combo of milk and sour cream.
-Replace the oil with melted butter at 1 1/2 times the amount of oil called for on the back of the box.
-Add in a cup of flour and sugar to extend it so that the cake layers bake higher or so you can fill three, 8-inch round cake pans instead of two.
-Add an additional egg.
-Add flavorings from extracts, pudding mixes, jello mixes etc.
-Add in two teaspoons of vanilla extract.
-Top it with homemade buttercream frosting.

What brand of cake mix is the best?

You can use any brand that you prefer. I personally like Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines.

Cake batter and cupcake pan with text overlay.

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