As an avid baker, I’m tired of being embarrassed to admit that I am a huge fan of cake mix. There’s no doubt that homemade cake has superior flavor, but there's also no denying the ease of a quick and ready-to-go mix. Cake mix is there for you, whether there are store shortages or you just need something fast. But it’s even better when you can have the convenience of a boxed cake mix with the personal touch of homemade cakes. Any cake mix can be enhanced by using just a few tricks – here are a few to try.
Get Creative with Your Liquids
Most cake mixes call for water in the ingredients list, but you can substitute water with something with more depth and richness, like milk (dairy or non-dairy). The added fat in milk will yield a moister cake, improving both the flavor and density for your dessert. If you aren’t into milk, try swapping other liquids like juice (best with vanilla/yellow cake mixes), coffee or stout beer (especially for chocolate cake mixes) to add some extra flavor to your cake.
My favorite hack (or as I like to think of it, sorcery) is to mix a 12-ounce can of soda with a standard cake mix. I omit the eggs and oil in this case. The carbonation in soda causes its fizz, making it a great leavening agent, which lends a light, moist texture to baked goods.
Switch Up Your Oil
It goes without saying that butter has a lot more flavor than vegetable oil, and simply substituting softened or melted butter for the oil will give you a cake with a much richer flavor. Butter leads to a much better texture, too. But if you want to stick with oil, try turning your vanilla or yellow boxed cake mix into an olive oil cake by substituting olive oil for the vegetable plus a tablespoon of grated lemon zest.
Put an Egg in It
Most boxed mixes call for adding three eggs; the eggs act as an emulsifier and help bind the other ingredients together. For a special occasion, opt for four eggs instead of three to enhance the richness of the cake. The extra fat from the egg yolk will create a cake with more substance that tastes a little more luxurious.
Add Flavored Extracts
A little more vanilla is never a bad thing, so consider boosting the flavor of any boxed mix with a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Or, go the extra mile and try making your own Mezcal Vanilla Extract. While vanilla is always an excellent tried-an-true option, any extract can enhance the flavor of your cake. Play around with using other extracts, like almond, peppermint, lemon, coconut, banana or orange, depending on your preferences.
Mix it up
Cakes with mix-ins always taste more special, so consider stirring in a cup of a chopped, dry extra ingredient like chocolate chips, sprinkles (for that celebration vibe), shredded coconut, blueberries, dried pineapple or nuts. You can (and should) also add mix-ins to your frosting, or use them for decorations on top of the frosted cake.
Turn It Upside Down
Line the bottom of your prepared cake pan with slices of your favorite fruit – apples, peaches, pineapple and strawberries work well here. Pour the cake mix on top, and you’ll have an upside-down cake.
Put Some Pudding in it
Combine pudding mix with cake mix for additional flavor, moisture, and texture. This trick gives any cake mix a more homemade feel and taste because of the added fat from the dry pudding mix.
Use Homemade Frosting
Lastly, once you've let your cake cool down, add that homemade touch by making a homemade frosting to elevate any cake. Try some of our best homemade frostings to make your cake next-level.
This article was written by Alexandra Domrongchai from Food & Wine and was legally licensed through the DiveMarketplace by Industry Dive. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.