13 ideas for making store-bought cake mix taste homemade

If life (or a long day in the kitchen) gives you torn cake, don’t despair. Make a trifle!

Photo: Greg DuPree

You may be one of those lucky bakers who have perfect success with every cake. Your layer cakes never dome at the center, your pound cakes never have a sad streak or crusty top, and your puddings are always thick and smooth, never watery or lumpy. Sadly, I am not one of those bakers. As much as I love to bake, especially during the fall and winter months when I bake the family favorite Fresh Apple Cake, I often have trouble with my Bundt cakes sticking to the pan. Is it the pan? Am I greasing it wrong? Is the cake sitting in the pan too long? After some sleuthing among the Southern Living Test Kitchen professionals, I came up with this cheat sheet of things to watch for when baking Bundt cakes.

Choose the Right Pan

Choose a pan with a non-stick coating, which allows a cake to come out cleanly, even from all the nooks and crannies of an elaborately designed Bundt pan. When deciding on a pan, choose one that is metal and not too dark. Aluminum pans are best because they conduct heat well, and a lighter-colored pan will prevent the over-browning that often occurs with the darker pans. Even though most recipes will tell you to grease and flour your pan (or use a baking spray) before baking, a nonstick finish will give you added protection against a cake sticking to the sides of the pan. Be careful of older non-stick pans, as a scratched and worn surface will no longer be effective and slick enough to release the cake without any tearing.

Prepare the Pan

Most recipes begin by telling you to preheat your oven and prepare your cake pan. Oftentimes (especially in summertime down South), your kitchen really heats up when the oven is turned on. Greasing a cake pan too early allows the oil to slide down the inside of the pan and pool in the bottom. Try waiting until after you have mixed the batter and then prepare the cake pan.

Use the Right Greaser

Use a pastry brush to grease the pan thoroughly with solid shortening. Make sure to paint all the crevices of the pan so the cake will release easily and the design will be sharply defined. Do not use butter; the milk solids in butter can act like glue, causing the cake batter to stick to the pan. After greasing, sprinkle some flour in the pan, hold it over a sink, and tilt the pan in a circular motion in order to distribute the flour evenly. Then flip the pan over and tap out the excess flour to prevent a buildup of grease and flour on the finished cake. Don’t forget to grease and flour the center tube of the pan.

Let the Cake Cool

After removing from the oven, place the pan on a wire rack and let cool; your recipe will specify the required time, usually from 10-20 minutes. This allows the cake to become firm enough to remove from the pan without breaking apart. At this point, you can carefully slide a table knife down the sides of the pan to release any sticking spots. After the required cooling time (cooling too long in the pan will cause the cake to be damp and stick to the pan), tap the pan firmly a few times and shake it gently to help loosen the cake. Invert the pan onto the rack, lift it off, and let the cake continue to cool on the rack.

If All Fails, Make It a Trifle

Ideally, the cake pan slid off without a hitch, and you are left with a gorgeously smooth Bundt cake. On those occasions where you did everything right and the cake still tore up (we all have those times, no matter how many cakes we have baked) just keep a stiff upper lip and turn that torn cake into a delicious trifle, complete with fresh fruit, sweet cream, or creamy pudding. Your guests will never know what really happened!

To avoid a messy fate, we tested a number of methods and found the best way to line your pan for a stick-free guarantee.

It’s all about pan prep

Your goal is to prevent your cake from sticking by creating a barrier between batter and pan (e.g., parchment, nonstick spray, or shortening and flour) prior to adding cake batter.

After testing a dozen different options for this article, I’m happy to report that all but one resulted in an intact cake: no sticking, no crumbling. That said, some required a bit more tapping and jiggling to get the cake to release. Below are the methods I settled on, in order of preference, starting with my top pick for guaranteed success. Results are based on how each performed using Chef Zeb’s Hot Milk Cake in a 6″ round pan (one recipe yields four 6″ cakes).

Parchment + pan spray is the clear winner in our cake pan prep trials.

The winner

Parchment + nonstick pan spray. Silicone-coated baking paper (parchment) is the cake baker’s best friend. Line the bottom of your pan with nonstick parchment, then coat the pan’s sides with nonstick pan spray. Some people espouse coating the bottom of the pan with spray before adding the parchment, then spraying the parchment as well; if you lean toward a “belt and suspenders” approach, feel free to do this.

Baked on parchment, your cake will drop right out of the upended pan onto its cooling rack, and the parchment is easily peeled off the warm cake’s bottom. Parchment rounds are handy for round pans; if you’re baking in a square or rectangular pan, choose half-sheet parchment cut to size.

We especially recommend the parchment-pan spray combination for cakes with sticky add-ins, like meltable chips or bits of chocolate or caramel, fresh or dried fruit or anything else (mini marshmallows?) that can become sticky when warm.

Here are some of the many cakes I baked to draw the conclusions in this article. What a delicious exercise!

The runners-up

Cake goop stays soft even when stored in the fridge, making it quick and easy to use.

Cake goop. If you choose not to use parchment, homemade “cake goop,” known to seasoned cake bakers everywhere, is a super alternative. Made by mixing equal parts (by volume) vegetable shortening, flour, and vegetable oil, goop is simply painted onto your pans with a pastry brush (or rubbed on with a paper towel). Make up a batch* and store it in the fridge; it’ll stay spreadable and ready to use even when chilled.

*1/2 cup (92g) vegetable shortening, 1/2 cup (60g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, 1/2 cup (99g) vegetable oil. Mix until smooth.

Here’s a tip: My fellow blogger, Rossi, says you can substitute cocoa powder for flour to make chocolate goop — perfect for chocolate cakes, where flour would clash visually with the cake’s rich, deep-dark color.

Nonstick pan spray, alone or dusted with flour; granulated sugar; cocoa powder, or nut flour (e.g., almond). Pan spray’s big advantage over older methods (shortening, butter) is its easy application and thorough coverage.

For an enticing, lightly crunchy crust, spray your cake pan (bottom and sides) with nonstick spray, then sprinkle it heavily with granulated sugar.

Dusting with flour is common, but you can branch out by matching the “dust” with your recipe, e.g., cocoa with chocolate cake, or almond flour for a touch of nutty flavor in yellow cake. Personally, I love to dust my spray-coated pan with granulated sugar; it adds a tiny bit of crunch and gleam to what otherwise might be a rather plain cake crust.

Vegetable shortening, alone or dusted with the options above. If you’re perfectly satisfied with this traditional method of preparing a cake pan, then stick with it (though for interest’s sake you may want to try dusting with something other than flour). Shortening’s downside: you may sometimes get a hint of oily flavor, especially if your shortening isn’t super-fresh.

Butter, alone or dusted with the options above. Butter works less well than pan spray or shortening (the milk solids in the butter add a bit of stickiness), but with some coaxing — gentle loosening, firm tapping — cakes come out with perhaps just a bit of residue left in the bottom of the pan.

Not recommended

Pan spray dusted with confectioners’ sugar. How about adding sweetness to your pan coating without the crunch of granulated sugar? It seemed like a good idea at the time, but apparently the cornstarch in the sugar mixed with the cake batter’s liquid and turned into glue! My experimental cake stuck badly and broke into pieces.

Give your nonstick pans the help they need to yield great results. Had I lined this pan with parchment and/or treated it with pan spray, the cake would have popped right out.

Nonstick pan without any prep. “My pan’s nonstick, so why do I need to coat it with anything?” Cake batter is inherently sticky, and as it bakes it bonds to your pan’s surface. Even a nonstick pan can only go so far to resist this. Don’t be stubborn: Prep even your nonstick cake pan.

A little upkeep goes a long way

If you use a nonstick cake pan — a 9” round, 8” square, Bundt, springform, whatever — and you prep it with pan spray, wash the pan in warm soapy water just as soon as you’ve removed the cake, while the pan is still warm. Pan spray bonds to nonstick pans as they cool, forming a tacky residue that builds up over time and, counterintuitively, negates the pan’s nonstick qualities. It’s a real pain to scrub off that stickiness without damaging the pan’s surface — so clean up as you go!

Bundt cakes: They’re the bane of stick-fearful cake bakers everywhere! For help, see How to prevent Bundt cakes from sticking.

Cover photo (Classic Birthday Cake) by John Sherman.

Beautiful cakes don’t have to come from your local bakery; they can be made in your kitchen. Sure, baking powder or baking soda plays a part in ensuring your cake rises (without a sunken center) as expected, but that’s not the only way to guarantee success from the oven.

What Makes a Cake Rise

It’s essential to learn what makes a cake rise to prevent it from sinking (or rising and then deflating after cooling). Read through these four factors for preparing and baking cake correctly, and you’ll never have to wonder why your cake didn’t rise again.

Leavening Agents

Breads, cakes, cookies, and nearly all baked goods require a leavening agent. These are the key ingredients that make a cake rise. There are two types of leavening agents, chemical (baking soda and baking powder) and biological (yeast).

Since we’re talking about cake and not yeast bread, we’ll focus on chemical leavening. The reaction of baking soda or baking powder with the liquids in the batter releases carbon dioxide, which forms air bubbles to help your cakes be light and airy.

Baking soda and baking powder aren’t interchangeable. So what’s the difference? Baking soda (aka sodium bicarbonate) only activates when combined with liquid AND an acidic ingredient. So it’s common to see baking soda quick bread recipes like pancakes or muffins.

If your recipe has baking powder, it’s a complete leavener. It will do the trick without the addition of an acidic ingredient. Pay attention to how much of each or just one of the leavening agents you’ll need to get your recipe right.

Test Kitchen Tip: Always keep an eye on the expiration dates of your leavening agents. Using an expired leavener will result in a flat, dense cake.

Creaming Your Butter Mixture

Eggs alone can help make desserts like angel food cake light and fluffy without requiring leavening agents. The cake you make will determine how much beating eggs need. In a traditional yellow cake, you’d beat eggs individually into the batter for 1 minute each. Sometimes the yolks and whites are beaten separately.

Oven Temperature

The oven’s heat can cause baking powder to react further and cause more air bubbles while setting the cake’s structure. Correct oven temperature is necessary to allow the cake to rise before the structure sets. If the oven is too hot, the cake will set too fast before the air bubbles have formed. If the oven is not hot enough, the cake will rise too much, then fall in the center before it is set.

Bake a cake mix cake for a test run to check your oven temperature. (Make sure you’ve preheated your oven, too.) If the cake is done properly within the time range on the package, your oven is most likely baking at the proper temperature. Use an oven thermometer ($7, Walmart) to see if the temperature matches the setting.

You can also consult your manufacturer’s directions or an appliance expert on adjusting the temperature up or down. Keeping your oven clean can also help it stay consistently heated.

If for some reason you’re still wondering why your cake deflated after cooling, use our cake troubleshooting guide to learn the various reasons why cakes fall and ensure it never happens again. Don’t throw the flat cake out, either! Give your cake a new look by turning it into cake pops or cut it up and serve it with ice cream.

Now that you’ve got the basics for how to prevent the cake from sinking, give your new baking knowledge a try with our double chocolate cake or champagne cake with strawberries.

No matter what kind of cake you’re making—a rustic, can’t-go-wrong number like Ree Drummond’s Chocolate Strawberry-Nutella Cake or a more formal stack like her Coconut Layer Cake—a stuck cake can be super frustrating. Good news, though: all is not lost! Even if your cake sticks, you can still save it. Read on and we’ll break it down: how to remove a cake from a pan, what to do if it’s stuck, and how to prevent it sticking next time!

Let it cool.

Unless your recipe specifies otherwise, let the cake cool completely to allow the structure to solidify. Cooling the cake on a wire rack speeds up the process, as it allows air to circulate underneath the cake pan as well.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that you should make sure your cake is fully baked (a toothpick should come out clean and the top should spring back to the touch). An under-baked cake will be tricky to remove intact.

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Run a thin, sharp knife or offset spatula along the edge of the cake to loosen it. Do this slowly and take care to not cut into the cake.

Invert the cake.

Now it’s time to flip that pan over and hope for the best! Find a serving platter, plate or wire cooling rack large enough to hold the cake. Next, cover the cake pan with the inverted platter, then hold them together securely and invert—the cake should pop right out.

Give it time.

If you invert your cake and it doesn’t pop out, give it a minute: Let the cake sit inverted and try gently tapping the inverted bottom of the pan or shake the pan slightly to see if these movements help release the cake. Hopefully gravity will come to the rescue.

Heat it or chill it.

Extreme heat or cold can help your cause: Try wrapping the inverted cake pan bottom in a kitchen towel soaked in hot water—the heat may help loosen the cake, prompting it to fall out. Conversely, set a bowl of ice-filled water on top of the inverted pan, as the chill may help solidify the bottom of the cake; this may help it fall out or set up the cake bottom. You can also try freezing the cake: Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, then try inverting and tapping it out. Its frozen state allows you to be a bit more aggressive with the tapping and prying without hurting the cake. Run a small rubber spatula along the sides and even slightly underneath to help pry out the cake.

Squeeze out the cake.

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Consider this a last-ditch effort: After loosening the edges from the pan and trying just about everything else, use two forks or small rubber spatulas to gently squeeze the cake to help it release. Position the utensils across from each other on opposite sides of the pan, then squeeze and lift slightly, gently and carefully, working your way around the pan. Go slow and be patient, as this process may alter the round edges of the cake—nothing a thick coat of frosting can’t fix!—but it may also help nudge out the cake. Carefully invert the cake again, keeping your fingers crossed.

Serve it in the pan.

If all else fails, frost and decorate your cake in the pan and serve it scooped straight out of the pan. It may not look the way you originally intended, but it will taste the same! (This even works for a batch of mini bundt cakes.)

Grease the pan.

Be sure to thoroughly coat the pan, whether it’s with butter, oil, shortening, or cooking spray. Use a pastry brush, your fingers, a paper towel or even the wrapper from a stick of butter and make sure you get the corners and edges!

Sprinkle with flour.

After the pan has been greased, sprinkle in a little flour, then tilt the pan every which way so that the flour is evenly distributed. If you’re coating a decorative bundt pan, make sure that you’ve gotten into all of the nooks and crannies. Once the cake pan has been evenly dusted with flour, invert it and tap lightly so the excess falls away. This layer of flour creates an extra lining to prevent the cake batter from sticking.

Line with parchment.

Cut parchment paper to the size of the flat bottom of your pan. Be sure the parchment lies flat—smooth out any wrinkles—before proceeding with the recipe. This is especially easy for a springform pan when making cheesecake.

Grease and flour the parchment.

This isn’t totally necessary as parchment is nonstick, but it can help. Grease the parchment and dust with flour, or use a cooking spray that contains flour.

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Learn how to bake flat cakes every single time! A simple tutorial on how to make sure your cakes come out nice and flat straight out of the oven.

Leveling cakes is my least favorite thing to do ever. I think I’ve done it a total of ONE time and quickly looked for alternatives.

Leveling a cake is something you should do if it bakes up domed. Which, let’s be honest here, almost every single cake does.

A domed cake looks something like this:

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Delicious as it may be, it could be more aesthetically pleasing. Not to mention the uneven distribution of frosting! Those poor middle sections.

Why Do Cakes Dome?

When cakes go into the oven, the pans start to heat up quickly. This will make the sides and bottom of the cake cook faster and set which causes the uncooked middle to rise and dome because it has nowhere else to go.

It’s not easy to stack and frost a domed cake, so it should be leveled out prior to doing so.

To level a cake, you either get a huge frikken cake knife (which I bought specifically for this job and used ONCE) and go at it hoping you can cut off the dome evenly.

Or you can buy a cake leveler which does the job marginally better (I do use this to torte my cakes though – aka cut them in half horizontally).

Either option leaves you with a crap ton of cake crumbs all over everything. This also means wasted cake, and boo to that. Ok, I know you can always eat the scraps, but STILL.

A much better alternative is to not have to level the cake at all by having it come out perfectly flat and stackable. I have a couple of tricks I use to ensure I get flat cakes. They work for me every time!

Now, before we even get to level cakes, you want to make sure that your layers are the same height. You can eyeball this in your pans, or you can be anal (like me) and actually weigh the pans to ensure an even distribution of batter.

I fully embrace my craziness. I use this kitchen scale and I LOVE it.

Baking flat cakes comes down to one simple thing: using cake strips around your pans.

This is my go-to method. All you have to do is dampen them and wrap them around the bottom of your cake pans. Perfectly flat cakes every time!

How do cake strips work?

The cake strips insulate the outside of the pan and the moisture in the strips keeps the sides of the pan cooler so your cake bakes up more evenly. Without the strips, the outsides of the cakes cook and set faster causing the middle of the cake to dome.

I soak my strips in a bowl while I’m prepping my cake batter and then gently squeeze out the excess water before I wrap them around the pans. It’s important that they’re not sopping wet or they could cause the cake to become soggy.

Here’s a side-by-side shot of the cakes right out of the oven, only one using a cake strip.

You can see how nice and flat the cake on the right is. Not only is the one in the left domed it’s also a bit darker on the sides.

The one on the right is cooked more evenly throughout. I use these cake strips on all of my cakes and they help a LOT.

It’s important to note that using these strips will cause the cake to bake a bit slower and you’ll likely need to increase the baking time on a recipe. The baking times for my recipes all assume that baking strips are used.

Baking times vary as it is because every oven is different, so it’s important to use them only as a guideline and to know your oven.

If you only do one thing, use these strips!

I have the older model  Wilton brand strips that I got at Michael’s 10+ years ago. These are ok, but pinning them on is a bit of a pain.

I found these Regency ones online that have velcro which seems like a much better option so if you’re in the market for some, I would get those!

DIY Cake Strips

If you don’t want to shell out the money for these you can easily make your own at home!

Hot Tip!

If you’re using tea towels, make sure they are fully dampened and do not use them at oven temps over 350F. You can wrap them in tin foil to prevent browning/burning.

All you need to do is cut up and old tea towel into strips and pin them onto the cake pans. If you’re really crafty you can stitch some velcro into the strips and have your own easy-to-use version.

Tea Towel Trick

If the cakes are still a tiny bit domed after using the bake even strips, there’s another thing you can do as soon as they come out of the oven. Grab a (clean) tea towel and lightly press down on any domes.

Be careful, as the pans will be hot and there will be steam coming out as you press down on the cakes. Don’t press too hard or your cake will cave in!

Please Note

The method above only works on small domes and only straight out of the oven.

Since I always use the cake strips, my domes are never really that high to begin with, but the tea towel technique helps with that last little bit.

I don’t know how well it would work on a cake with a large dome. By the time I was done taking pictures, the domed cake was starting to cool, so pressing down on it didn’t help too much.

I hope you found these tips helpful. Cake strips really are one of my very favorite tools/hacks in the baking kitchen. They make my life easier so I hope you give them a try!

How to Bake Flat Cakes

A classic vanilla cake paired with a simple vanilla buttercream.

Vanilla Cake

  • or flavoring of your choice
  • heavy whipping cream
  • Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 8″ cake rounds and line with parchment.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
  • Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on med-high until pale and fluffy (approx 3mins). Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla.
  • Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk). Fully incorporating after each addition.
  • Distribute batter evenly between the two pans. Place damp baking strips around the bottoms of the cake pans.
  • Bake for 30-35mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
  • Place cakes on a wire rack to cool for 10mins then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.

Vanilla Buttercream

  • Prepare a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Whip butter until creamy.
  • Reduce speed to low and add in icing sugar 1 cup at a time until well blended. Increase speed to med and beat for 3 minutes.
  • Add vanilla and 2 Tbsp cream and continue to whip on medium for 1 minute. Add more cream as needed until desired consistency is reached.
  • Whip until the frosting is smooth and silky.


  • Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Top with approximately 1 cup of buttercream. Repeat with remaining layer and crumb coat the cake. Chill for 20mins.
  • Frost the top and sides of the cake and smooth with a bench scraper.
  • Decorate as desired.

If you’re using tea towels around the cake pans, make sure they are fully dampened and do not use them at oven temperatures over 350F. You can wrap them in tin foil to prevent browning/burning.

The nutritional information and metric conversions are calculated automatically. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of this data. If this is important to you, please verify with your favorite nutrition calculator and/or metric conversion tool.

How to Make a Cake Moist

What makes a cake moist? Precision, for one. Baking requires using exactly the ingredients called for. For example, some cakes use milk, buttermilk (or an acceptable substitute), or sour cream for liquid. These ingredients are not interchangeable. The same goes for oil, butter, or shortening; use exactly what’s called for. When butter is listed be sure to use real butter and not a substitute; substitutes contain water, which will not give the same tender crumb as the fat from the butter.

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Avoid Overbaking

  • Preheat your oven at least 10 minutes, and use an oven thermometer ($7, Target) to make sure that the oven reaches the proper temperature.
  • If you’re using dark cake pans, reduce the oven temperature called for in your recipe by 25°F.
  • Start checking cake doneness after the recipe’s stated minimum baking time.

How to Make a Box Cake Moist

With each of these must-have cake tips, you’ll never serve another dry cake. Moist chocolate cake recipes, red velvet cakes, pound cakes—you name it—you now know how to make all of them stay tender and moist through the whole baking process.

If you want to make a gorgeous dessert, sometimes you’ve got to break a few cakes and make cake scraps. All cake artists know that making beautiful cakes almost always results in leftover scraps that often just get tossed away.  All that delicious cake doesn’t have to go to waste.

Fortunately, there are hundreds of great recipes out there that let you put those cake cast-offs to good use. Here are just 9 easy recipes using leftover cake scraps. You must try this!

9 Recipies Using Leftover Cake Scraps

Here is a list of easy-to-make cake scrap recipes that you can try on your own.

Cake Parfait Cups

This is a very clever idea that will help you put multiple leftover ingredients to use in your home kitchen or bakery. Create individual parfaits using cake crumbs, pudding, yogurt, ice cream, fruit, and chocolate chips. Use clear cups to layer the cake crumbles and your other add-ins for a dessert that’s resourceful, beautiful, and delectable.

Cake Decorating using Leftover Cake Scraps

What better way to use leftover cake than by adding it to more cake? Get a unique look by frosting your cake (or cupcakes) as usual with buttercream or ganache, and then covering the whole thing with a thin layer of cake crumbs. Or use crumbs in different colors to create designs or words on the top of the cake. It will make your cake more presentable.

Cake Pops With Leftover Cake

This personal serving dessert concept has become quite ubiquitous of late, but it doesn’t make them any less yummy or popular. They may be slightly more involved to make than you’d think, but worth the effort. Break down any cake scraps you have in a food processor, mix the cake crumbs with frosting, and form them into balls. Place the balls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and let them sit in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

Ice Cream Topping Using Cake Scraps

Cake and ice cream have a long-standing and mutually beneficial relationship that we don’t see ending anytime soon. Take a cue from the marble slab mix-in trend by folding cake crumbs into softened ice cream or toast up the crumbs in the oven on a cookie sheet and use them as an inventive ice cream topping.

Muffins Cake Crumbs Recipe

Everyone knows that the best part of a muffin is the muffin top and the best kind of muffin tops are the ones that are loaded with sweet crumbs that toast up nice and crispy on top. You can achieve these dreamy muffins by incorporating a couple of cups of cake crumbles into your favorite muffin recipe. Keep in mind that you may want to decrease the amount of flour the recipe calls for. It’s just a sense of controlling the density to achieve the perfect result.

Pie Crust From Leftover Cakes from Cake Scraper

Pies of all varieties use crumb crusts and you can make your own perfect pie crust with your leftover cake scraps. All you have to do is crumble up the leftover cake, toast up the crumbs in the oven, mix with melted butter, and press into the bottom of a pie pan. Bake the crust for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees and then proceed with the filling of your choosing.

Cupcake Within a Cupcake

You’ll get rave reviews from your guests or customers when you serve up these pretty little cupcakes that have a surprise hidden inside. Start by using cake scraps to make a cake pop mixture in one or two different colors. Then whip up another batch of cake batter in a different color from your cake balls. Pour a little of the batter into cupcake tins, then place the cake ball on top of the batter and cover in more batter. If you want 3 colors, just cover your cake ball in a layer of cake pop mixture in another color. When you bite into the cupcake, you’ll see a beautiful multi-colored, layered look – check out these 4th of July cupcakes to see for yourself. Or you can also try some cake bites for that event. It’s a similar way when you make petit fours.

Leftover Cake Pudding

This recycled cake idea could just turn out to be your new favorite. Borrowing inspiration from classic bread pudding, it starts by covering the bottom of a buttered baking dish in cubes of almost-stale leftover cake. Next, you cover that in a mixture of 4 eggs, 1 3/4 cups of milk, 1/2 cup of sugar, and whatever else you like in your bread pudding (raisins, apples, cinnamon, vanilla, almonds, etc.). Use a spatula to press the cake down and make sure it all gets soaked in the liquid.  Finally, bake at 350 for around 35 minutes and slice. Bakeries and home cooks alike could make bake-in mini loaves to sell or give as gifts to friends. It’s so nice when you know how to make your own bake.

Cake Shake

When in doubt, take any leftover cake scraps and toss them into a blender with ice cream and milk for a sinfully delicious cake milkshake. It will taste delightfully delicious. It’s more delicious when your cake is already flavored chocolate.

Now that you see how very useful and delicious cake scraps and be, you’ll probably never throw them in the garbage again.

In fact, you may find that what you make with those scraps is better than the original recipe you were working on in the first place!

Final Thoughts

I hope you can find a recipe that you can do and you will love. For sure, nothing will be wasted on your cake. Your cake scraps will still be of use. More than being used, it will also turn into a delicious snack.

About the Author: Edward Lee is a professional dessert expert and avid blogger who loves sharing his knowledge and passion in a variety of food publications.

Reader Interactions

  • There are many easy ways to improve boxed cake mix and make it taste homemade.
  • Replacing the water with milk adds fat, richness, and flavor.
  • Mix-ins, flavor extracts, and spices can take the texture and flavor to the next level.

For any occasion that warrants a cake, boxed cake mix can be a convenient time-saver.

Boxed mixes come with all the dry ingredients needed to bake a cake. All that’s left to do is add the wet ingredients and put the cake in the oven, saving you time and mess.

The only issue? Boxed cake mixes can sometimes turn out to be too dry or bland, or they lack that homemade flavor you’re looking for.

“Swap out the ingredients that are called for on the back of the box and make homemade frosting,” advises Elizabeth Waterson, the founder and blogger behind Confessions of a Baking Queen. “I bet you no one will ever know you started with a boxed cake!”

A few simple swaps or additions can transform a boxed cake mix. These changes are sure to make it taste like it was baked from scratch or picked up from a gourmet bakery.

Replace the water with another liquid

Replace the water with coffee for added flavor, or add richness with milk or coconut milk.

The average cake mix calls for water, which is fine, but a little boring. Instead of using water, consider substituting any of these options:

  • Coffee: Baking a chocolate cake mix? Coffee will make the flavor bolder while also adding moisture. Use a one-to-one swap. If the cake mix calls for 1 cup of water, use 1 cup of freshly brewed coffee.
  • Whole milk: The fat found in whole milk will make for a richer, more flavorful cake. Swap out each cup of water called for with milk.
  • Buttermilk: Instead of water, use the same amount of buttermilk. The acid in the buttermilk interacts with the leavening agents in the mix for a better rise. “Swapping out the water for buttermilk creates a fluffier cake and a moister one, too,” says Waterson.
  • Soy or coconut milk: To add moisture while skipping the dairy, use plain unsweetened soy or full fat coconut milk. Swap out each cup of water called for with soy or coconut milk for a richer cake. Keep in mind, this will change the flavor slightly. Finish baking the cake as directed.

Replace the oil to add flavor and body

Cake mixes typically call for vegetable oil. Make one of these simple swaps for a cake that’s rich, moist, and flavorful:

  • Butter: Don’t settle for a bland cake. Amp up the richness and flavor of a cake mix with simple trades. “You can swap out the vegetable oil for melted butter for a richer tasting cake,” says Waterson. Use a one-to-one swap. If the cake mix calls for 1/3 cup oil, use 1/3 cup melted butter instead.
  • Mayo: Replace the oil in a cake mix for mayonnaise to add great moisture and body. Use an even one-to-one swap.
  • Olive oil: Use extra virgin olive oil instead of vegetable oil to make an olive oil cake. Use a plain vanilla boxed cake and an even swap of oil. Finish baking the cake as directed.

Add extracts for more flavor

Spruce up a chocolate or vanilla cake mix with the addition of flavored extracts such as pure vanilla extract, coconut extract, or maple extract. “If you are making a chocolate cake, adding peppermint extract would be a perfect addition for a chocolatey, minty cake,” says Waterson. “Or, try almond extract with a white cake mix.” Start with 1 teaspoon of any extract and increase the amount as desired.

Use spices for a great twist

Adding spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or even cardamom can add warmth and boost the flavor of your cake.

Baking spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and allspice can enhance a cake. Mix 1 teaspoon of cinnamon into a vanilla cake mix for a touch of flavor. Mix 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of nutmeg, and ½ teaspoon of allspice into a white or yellow cake mix to make a spice cake.

Incorporate citrus

Transform a vanilla, chocolate, or yellow cake mix with citrus. Mix in 1 tablespoon of freshly grated orange, lime, grapefruit, or lemon zest. “For a citrus cake, also try using lemon juice or orange juice,” says Waterson. Replace 1/8 cup of the water called for on the box with lemon or orange juice to amp up the flavor.

Change the eggs to make it fluffy and airy

Eggs provide structure and moisture in a cake mix. Make your cake richer or fluffier with these quick options:

  • Extra egg: To make your cake lighter, mixing in another egg will do the trick. “Adding an additional egg creates a richer, fluffier cake,” says Waterson. Tack on an additional egg than what’s called for on the box while mixing, and mix as normal.
  • Egg whites: Egg yolks contain more fat than egg whites. For a light, airy cake, swap out whole eggs for egg whites. Use two egg whites for every egg called for on the box. Combine the cake mix with the ingredients aside from the eggs. Whip the egg whites separately until medium peaks form, then gently fold them into the batter. Finish preparing the cake as directed.

Incorporate fresh fruit

You can mix fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, sliced strawberries, or chopped pineapple into a cake mix to make it more interesting. Prepare the batter according to the directions on the box. Toss the fruit in flour to prevent sinking, and then fold the fruit into the batter. Bake the cake according to the time on the box.

Add crunch

Add crunch, texture, and flavor with coconut, chopped chocolate, or nuts.

Adding texture to a cake mix can make it taste gourmet. Consider including one of these delicious mix-ins:

  • Shredded coconut: Switch up the texture and add a hint of coconut flavor to a white cake mix. Mix in 1 cup of shredded sweetened coconut before baking.
  • Chocolate: Chocolate chips, mini chocolate chips, or chocolate chunks can add flavor to a white, yellow, or chocolate cake mix. Toss 1 cup of chips or chunks in a scant teaspoon or so of flour before mixing them into the batter to prevent sinking.
  • Chopped nuts: Add crunch with chopped pecans, walnuts, pistachios, or peanuts. Mix ¾ cup of chopped nuts into the batter before baking the cake as directed.

Mix in pudding for more moisture

Amp up moisture and flavor with pudding. “Adding a box of pudding mix can create an incredibly moist but denser cake,” says Waterson. Mix in a small box of dry pudding mix with your dry ingredients, and then finish preparing the cake mix according to the box instructions.

Increase moisture with sour cream

Sour cream will enhance the crumb of a cake mix. Make a moist cake by mixing 3 tablespoons of sour cream into the batter. Finish baking the cake as directed.

Replace eggs and oil with soda

You can skip the eggs, oil, and water called for on the box and use soda such as Sprite, Strawberry Fanta, or Pepsi instead to make a vegan cake. Keep in mind that this will make the cake a bit sweeter. Mix together the dry mix and a 12-ounce can of soda. Bake the cake according to the box instructions.

Use an egg substitute

Substitute eggs with a special replacer, or use applesauce or mashed banana.

Skip the eggs to make a cake vegan. Use an egg replacer, ¼ cup applesauce, or ¼ cup mashed banana for every egg the mix calls for. Keep in mind that the applesauce and banana will add extra sweetness as well.

Use homemade frosting

Pairing a boxed cake mix with delicious frosting is one of the simplest ways to spruce it up. Skip store-bought frosting and make homemade frosting instead. Cream together ½ cup of softened butter, 2 tablespoons of milk, 5 cups powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract until light and fluffy for an easy vanilla frosting.

Insider’s takeaway

Using a boxed cake mix can make baking a cake much simpler and faster. To make a cake that has more moisture, is richer, or even vegan, you can use simple swaps or additions. Extracts, spices, and a variety of mix-ins can also transform a box cake mix, making it taste gourmet.

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