Some dessert snobs swear that they can tell a cake mix cake from a scratch cake every time. However, if you use one or more of the tricks listed below, you probably will be able to sneak a cake mix cake by them. They may even ask you for the recipe you used to create your masterpiece!

Substitute a stick of butter for the oil. Melt the butter in the microwave and add it to the mix after it has cooled. This yields a moist cake with a tender crumb and the flavor can’t be duplicated.

Add an extract to give the cake mix a stronger flavor. Good choices are 1 teaspoon of vanilla, or a 1/2 teaspoon of almond, orange, lemon or mint extracts.

Try a little something from the liquor cabinet to punch up the flavor. Light or dark rum is a classic choice, but flavored liqueurs like kirschwasser, Irish cream and amaretto can be sublime when substituted for half of the water you would normally add to the mix.

Use your spice cabinet. A teaspoon or two of cinnamon is a classic improvement, but smaller amounts of ginger, nutmeg, allspice and clove can help take your cake to another level.

Grate some fresh citrus peel and add it to the mixture. Squeeze the juice and add it, too. Great choices to improve cake mixes are oranges, lemons, Meyer lemons, limes and key limes.

Puree your favorite fruit and blend it into the cake mix. Berries work well, as do bananas, pumpkin, peaches and apricots. Use up to 1 cup of puree.


  • White cake mixes are the easiest to improve. Devil’s food cake mixes aren’t as accommodating.

  • Whenever possible, use a simple homemade frosting on your improved cake. Using canned frosting is a dead giveaway that you used a cake mix.