11 Tricks to Make Boxed Cake Mix Taste Homemade

Don't have time to make a cake from scratch? We'll show you how to make cake mix taste homemade.

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pouring buttermilk into cake mix
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Switch the Water for Buttermilk

Most box mixes ask you to add eggs, oil and water. To make the cake more interesting, replace the water with some rich and tasty buttermilk instead. Use the same amount as you would water for the best, creamiest results. You won’t regret it!

Want to make your own? This is how to make buttermilk at home.

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single slice of a lemon layered cake
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Add Some Special Layers

You’ll want to bake your cake in 8- or 9-inch round pans for this. Then, use a long knife to cut the cooled cake horizontally, spread a layer between each slice and reassemble! You could use homemade lemon curd, a spread like Nutella or even a creamy custard.

This is our favorite brand of cake mix.

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Top view of black coffee in white cup with sugar for breakfast
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Give It a Caffeine Kick

Why not add a hint of coffee to your chocolate cake mix? Substitute the water with brewed coffee, or mix water with instant coffee granules, whatever you have on hand. The flavor will be rich and indulgent!

Check out our favorite instant coffee products.

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Small bottle of McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract with baked cake in background
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Use Flavor Extracts

Taking your standard cake mix to the next level has never been quite so easy. If you have some flavor extracts in your kitchen, you have the answer! Choose some unique combinations—such as vanilla and ginger—to create an original cake. Be sure to look up the differences between different types of vanilla extract.

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Homemade mayonnaise being whipped in a glass bowl
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Add Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise in a cake? No, we haven’t lost our minds! Surprisingly, this secret ingredient could take your cake to the next level of delicious heaven. Adding a spoonful or two of the stuff to the mix before you bake will greatly improve the texture.

This is why mayonnaise makes the perfect chocolate cake.

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Pouring cola water into the glass.
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Use Soda, Not Water

This idea is an oddball for sure–but it works. Replacing the water with cream soda, Coca-Cola or Pepsi can help you create a sweet and tasty cake in no time at all. It will be so moist and rich, you won’t believe it!

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Various Nuts in bowls
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Throw in Some Nuts

Who doesn’t love nuts? When you’re mixing the batter for your cake, simply grab a handful of walnuts and throw them into the mix. These extras make for a fantastic crunchy texture and add a cool homemade element to the dessert. You can experiment with different types of nuts, too!

Don’t forget to chop your nuts before you add ’em.

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melting butter in a pan on the stove
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Melt Some Butter

Is there anything more delicious than freshly melted butter? If the box recipe calls for water or oil, substitute it for some buttery goodness instead. This makes a huge difference in flavor! This is our favorite brand of butter.

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Chocolate pudding in wooden spoon on the cooker
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Add Pudding Mix

Mixing two different box desserts together? Yep, it works. This brilliant video by TikTok user @willcookforcake showed us what we should have been adding this whole time: pudding mix! While she uses vanilla in the video, it’s best to use a flavored pudding mix that fits your flavor (like chocolate pudding in a chocolate cake). Then again, if you’re into some experimentation, feel free to use whatever flavor you want.

So why does this work? It helps to add extra moisture and density. This is especially great for larger cakes.

Check out these cake recipes that start with pudding mix.

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spoon in sour cream container
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Add Sour Cream

If you’ve ever made banana bread before, it’s likely you’ve dealt with whisking in a good amount of sour cream. Much like using mayonnaise, sour cream adds a supreme amount of moisture into your cake that you’ve desperately been missing. The best part? It should almost always be in your fridge, ready to go!

Here are some sour cream substitutes just in case.

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Woman's hand decorating cake with white chocolate
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Frost to Perfection

Last but by no means least… it’s time to decorate your cake. Don’t have the time to make homemade frosting? Just mix a can of store-bought frosting with an 8-ounce container of whipped topping. The result is soft, creamy and easy to spread! Here are a few tips for cake decorating.

Charlotte Grainger
Charlotte Grainger is a creative feature writer, with a flair for food, health and lifestyle pieces. Her work has been seen in a number of national publications including Beyond Words Magazine, Reader's Digest and Psychologies. When she’s not typing away, you can find her trying out new recipes or binging Netflix shows— sometimes simultaneously.
Melany Love
Having always wanted a career in writing, Melany couldn't have found a better place than Taste of Home to begin. When she's not scribbling in her notebook or working at her computer, she can be found experimenting with new recipes or relaxing with a book and her cats.