Dressing Up Boxed Cake Mixes (with Three Long Time Favorite Recipes!)

Growing up, I loved that my mom was always baking. And, while it seems like there’s a lot of “cookie” families out there, mine was always a “cake” family. My mom made lots of cakes from scratch, from homemade pound cakes (both vanilla and chocolate) to German chocolate cakes for really special occasions. But, she also taught me the power of boxed cake mix. Since time always seems to be at a premium, when I bake, this is typically the direction I turn to. Following in my mom’s footsteps, I don’t usually just stick to the ingredients on the back of the box, though. And, if you’ve never deviated, today’s post is all about incorporating special touches and extra ingredients to “elevate” the flavor and make the boxed cake mix taste “homemade.” Below, you’ll find general ideas that can be applied to any pre-packaged mix, along with a few long-time favorite boxed cake recipes.

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What Do You Typically Add to Boxed Cake Mixes?

Here are the “extra” items that I add to the recipe on the cake mix box:

  • An additional quarter cup of oil.
  • An additional egg.
  • A package of instant pudding mix.

Another key tip to elevate the flavor of a boxed cake mix is to always make the frosting or glaze from scratch. It’s also easy to change up the frosting or glaze depending on the type of cake you are making, by using different extracts and flavors.

What kitchen tools do you need to have on hand to make an “elevated” boxed cake mix?

Making Boxed Cake Mix Taste Homemade

What ingredients do you need to have on hand to make an “elevated” boxed cake mix?

  • Vegetable oil
  • Eggs
  • Package of instant pudding mix in a flavor that complements the cake mix
  • Cooking spray
  • Additional add-ins to the cake, depending on the cake type you are making may include, chopped nuts, mini chocolate chips, strawberries, lemon juice or apricot nectar.
  • Additional add-ins to the icing/glaze, depending on the icing/glaze type you are making may include, vanilla, butter, milk, confectioner’s sugar, lemon juice, strawberries, whipped topping, coconut and/or cocoa powder.

Some of my favorite boxed cake mixes to use and make are yellow cake with chocolate icing, quadruple strawberry cake (see recipe HERE) and marble cake with chocolate frosting.

Today though, I’m featuring three of my very favorite cakes — all derived from a boxed mix — where the ingredients are versatile enough to serve for any occasion, including birthdays or dinner parties.

1. Devil’s Food Cake with Buttercream Frosting

This cake is one of our family’s all time favorites! The cake is extra chocolate-y, and the add-in of chocolate pudding adds extra chocolate flavor. The white buttercream frosting is the perfect complement to the chocolate. In my most recent baking of the cake, I stumbled upon a secret tip in making the frosting, totally by accident! (See the note at the bottom of the recipe :).)

Sources:  Gold Flatware 

Devil's Food Cake With Buttercream Frosting

This extra-chocolatey cake starts with a boxed cake mix and is elevated by adding a few extra ingredients and homemade buttercream frosting.

Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword cake, chocolate, easy dessert
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes



  • Cooking Spray
  • 1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix
  • 1 cup Water
  • 2/3 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 1 pkg Instant Chocolate Pudding Mix 3.4 oz size

Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 cups Confectioner's Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Butter Softened
  • 2 Tbsp Milk
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Liberally spray inside of baking pan with cooking spray.

  3. Prepare boxed cake mix and ingredients according to the directions on the package. Increase vegetable oil to 2/3 cup and add an additional egg.

  4. Once cake mix is mixed, add the package of dry pudding mix and continue to mix until well incorporated.

  5. Pour cake batter into oiled pan. Use rubber spatula to ensure all batter is scraped from mixing bowl.

  6. Bake cake according to cake package directions. (Approximately 50 - 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.)

  7. Cool cake in pan on cooling rack.

Buttercream Frosting

  1. Soften butter in microwave.

  2. Add confectioner's sugar and mix.

  3. Add milk and vanilla and mix.

To Finish Cake

  1. Invert cooled cake onto plate or cake stand.

  2. Spoon frosting on top of cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.

Recipe Notes

By a happy accident, I was out of milk when I last baked this Devil's Food cake with buttercream frosting. But I happened to have Sweet Cream Dairy Creamer on hand, which I substituted for the milk called for in the recipe. It added a delightful extra flavor note!

When making the frosting or glaze, add additional confectioner's sugar for a thicker consistency and additional milk for a thinner consistency. Make sure you add these items very slowly, as the frosting/glaze will thicker or thin out with just a bit added.

2. Creamy Coconut Cake

Coconut cake, in general, is a long-time love of mine. I have fond memories of Christmases past when my Aunt Vivian always brought a coconut cake, made from scratch, to our family’s Christmas Eve dinner. This was not a cake from a mix and she grated the fresh coconut by hand. I was treated to a similar cake from our local Italian bakery this year for my birthday and it was absolutely delicious! But when time (and effort) is of the essence and you’re craving a cake that’s extremely moist with lots of coconut flavor, this Creamy Coconut Cake is a fantastic alternative. I add the extra oil, egg and pudding mix to the cake batter. The finished cake is also “poked” when it has finished baking so that the prepared coconut milk liquid may be fully absorbed for a moist and creamy cake.

Making a Delicious Coconut Cake, Starting from Box Cake Mix

Sources: Gold Flatware | Small Bowl | Tasseled Towel | Pyrex Baking Dish

How to Make a Coconut Cake from Box Cake Mix

Creamy Coconut Cake

This Creamy Coconut Cake has a yellow cake mix as its base and is poked and topped with coconut "milk," followed by whipped topping and more coconut. I prepare this elevated cake mix in a glass Pyrex dish, as it is very very moist.

Course Dessert, Snack
Keyword cake, Coconut, easy dessert, Poke Cake
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes



  • Cooking Spray
  • 1 Box Yellow Cake Mix
  • 3/4 cup Water
  • 3/4 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 1 pkg Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix 3.4 oz box

Coconut Milk Drizzle

  • 1 1/2 cups Milk
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Coconut


  • 1 Small Container Cool Whip
  • 1 1/2 cups Shredded Coconut



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Spray cake pan/Pyrex dish with vegetable spray.

  3. Prepare cake mix according to directions on box, decreasing water to 3/4 cup, increasing vegetable oil to 3/4 cup and adding 4 eggs.

  4. Add package of dry instant vanilla pudding mix and mix to incorporate.

  5. Pour batter in prepared cake pan/Pyrex dish.

  6. Cook for approximately 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

  7. Cool cake in pan/Pyrex dish on cooling rack.

Coconut Milk Drizzle

  1. Combine milk, sugar and 1/2 cup coconut in saucepan.

  2. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for one minute. Remove from heat.

Add Coconut Milk Drizzle

  1. Liberally poke the top of the cooled cake with a fork.

  2. Drizzle coconut sugar milk mixture over the top.

Add Topping

  1. When "poked" cake has cooled, add whipped topping to the top and spread.

  2. Sprinkle shredded coconut on top of the whipped topping.

Recipe Notes

Store this cake in the refrigerator. It will continue to soak up the liquid and is even better the day after if is baked!

How to Make a Coconut Cake from Boxed Cake Mix

3. Lemon Apricot Glazed Cake

This easy-to-make, elevated cake mix recipe was actually handed down by my grandmother, Bebe. She would make this cake often and a slice of this was a perfect “grab and go” snack, as you didn’t have to deal with messy frosty or glaze. This recipe does not include a box of instant pudding as the other dressed up boxed cake mix recipes do. Instead, it calls for Apricot Nectar, which makes it extra moist and flavorful. When I was a little girl, I loved drinking the leftover apricot nectar as a treat, since there was always some left in the nectar can or bottle. And the lemon juice glaze is added to the inside of the cake when it’s finished baking rather than adding it to the outside of the cake.

Lemon Apricot Bundt Cake Recipe

Sources: White Plate | Linen Napkins (set of 4)

Using Boxed Cake Mix to Make "Homemade" Cake

Sources: Dessert Plate | Flatware

Lemon Apricot Glazed Cake

This elevated cake mix recipe is lemony and fruity with the additions of apricot nectar in the batter and a lemon sugar glaze that is drizzled on the finished cake as it rests in its baking pan.

Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword Apricot Nectar, cake, easy dessert, Lemon Cake, Poke Cake
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour



  • Cooking Spray
  • Flour
  • 1 pkg Yellow Cake Mix
  • 3/4 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 3/4 cup Apricot Nectar
  • 4 Large Eggs

Lemon Sugar Drizzle

  • 1 1/2 cup Confectioner's Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Lemon Juice



  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

  2. Liberally spray cake pan with baking spray and sprinkle with flour to coat.

  3. Combine cake mix, oil, nectar and eggs and mix for two minutes at high speed.

  4. Pour batter into prepared pan.

  5. Bake for one hour or when toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Lemon Sugar Drizzle

  1. Mix lemon juice and confectioner's sugar in a small bowl or large measuring cup.

  2. While cake is warm and still in the pan, poke the top of the cake with a fork.

  3. Pour the lemon sugar drizzle over the entire cake.

  4. When cake has cooled, invert it onto a serving plate or cake stand.

  5. As an option, I like to sift confectioner's sugar after it has been inverted onto a serving plate or cake stand. Or, you may sift the confectioner's sugar over the top of a slice prior to serving

Recipe Notes

It is very important to coat the pan with cooking spray AND flour prior to adding the batter. I made the mistake of not adding flour and let's just say, it was not a good mistake to make. 😉

Delicious Boxed Cake Recipes

Sifting powdered sugar on top is totally optional and I grew up without that addition. But, I think it adds a nice touch 😉

Making a Lemon Apricot Cake from Boxed Cake Mix

Tips for Dressing Up Boxed Cake Mix

Here’s a look back at that strawberry cake I mentioned earlier in the post — you can find the recipe at the bottom of THIS post.

Sources: Dessert Plate | Gold Flatware

When it comes to dressing up boxed cake mixes, the possibilities are endless. And, don’t let anyone tell you that elevating a boxed cake mix — rather than baking a cake from scratch isn’t acceptable 😉  I would love to hear some of the add ins and extras that you have used to create your own boxed cake recipes!


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How to Dress Up Boxed Cake Mix -- Tips + 3 Recipes!

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  1. 9.25.22
    Cindy D. said:

    Kelley, is the yellow cake with chocolate frosting recipe you mentioned on your website somewhere?

    • 9.25.22

      Hi Cindy, It is not at this time. But I prepare the cake from the boxed mix with the add ins mentioned in this post and then make the chocolate frosting from scratch with cocoa powder. I hope this helps!