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How to Bake with Cake Mix

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All your boxed cake mix questions answered. This is the best guide for what types of cake mix to choose. What cake mix is the most chocolaty? What cake mix has the best rise? I’m answering all your questions.

What is the best boxed chocolate cake mix? This post will answer your questions. It is the best guide explaining the differences between boxed cake mixes.

The Best Boxed Cake Mixes

Listen, it’s no secret that we use a lot of cake mix around here. Why? Because I think anyone should be able to make something amazing and if that means you need to start with a cake mix, that’s okay with me.

In general, we are not just making a cake mix and slapping some canned frosting on it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever did that. I generally alter my cake mixes in some ways to make them taste even better.

I definitely have my preferred brands, and sometimes I’ll even specify that for you. This is deep dive into a variety of cake mixes that are available and to see how each one is different from one another.

The 3 Cake Mixes I Tested

All cake mixes offer a wide variety of flavors and some have pudding in the mix. There’s always chocolate, vanilla, devil’s food, Funfetti, maybe a lemon or red velvet.

For the purposes of this test, I used Devil’s Food and I am testing the top three brands: Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, and Duncan Hines.

What is the best boxed chocolate cake mix? This post will answer your questions. It is the best guide explaining the differences between boxed cake mixes.

There are certainly other brands available such as Ghirardelli, King Arthur Flour, Jiffy or even a generic store brand, but I felt that these were the top 3 most common brands when it comes to cake mix.

Ingredients Used

For the purposes of this experiment, I used only the ingredients called for on the box: water, oil and eggs. All three boxes were 15.25 ounces / 432 grams but each one varied in the liquid ingredients that are required.

  • Betty Crocker: 1 ¼ cup water, ½ cup vegetable oil and 3 large eggs
  • Pillsbury: 1 cup water, ½ cup vegetable oil and 3 large eggs
  • Duncan Hines: 1 cup water 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 3 large eggs
All your boxed cake mix questions answered. This is the best guide for what types of cake mix to choose. What cake mix is the most chocolaty? What cake mix has the best rise? I’m answering all your questions.

How Each Cake Mix Varies

Betty Crocker

This cake mix was by far the thinnest, due to an extra ¼ cup of water. In fact, when I measured out the amount of batter in each prepared cake mix, there was an extra 1 cup of prepared batter in this box.

What is the best boxed chocolate cake mix? This post will answer your questions. It is the best guide explaining the differences between boxed cake mixes.

Pillsbury

This batter was the darkest in color, so it’s no surprise when you see my conclusion that this was the most chocolate-flavored cake.

What is the best boxed chocolate cake mix? This post will answer your questions. It is the best guide explaining the differences between boxed cake mixes.

Duncan Hines

This batter what the thickest, which makes sense because it has the least amount of liquid.

What is the best boxed chocolate cake mix? This post will answer your questions. It is the best guide explaining the differences between boxed cake mixes.

What Size Cake Pan Should I use?

For this post, I tested these cake mixes in two different sizes pans, both 8-inch and 9-inch and I did not use my beloved bake even stripes.

Two 9-inch pans will produce thinner layers whereas the 8-inch pans will be taller. Most boxed cake mixes provide baking times for 9-inch layers, but if you are making 8-inch layers, you may need to add additional baking time.

9-inch Cake Tests

How much batter I used: To keep things consistent, I am using 1 ½ cups of batter for each cake mix. As opposed to dividing the batter in half (because not each cake mix had the same amount of liquid batter), I wanted to control the amount of batter in each pan.

Baking times: Each cake was baked for 19 minutes.

All your boxed cake mix questions answered. This is the best guide for what types of cake mix to choose. What cake mix is the most chocolaty? What cake mix has the best rise? I’m answering all your questions.

8-inch Cake Test

  • How much batter I used: 1 ¾ cups batter for each cake mix, which is 1/4 cup more than the 9-inch pans.
  • Baking times Each one baked for 19 minutes except for Duncan Hines, which needed an extra 2 minutes.
All your boxed cake mix questions answered. This is the best guide for what types of cake mix to choose. What cake mix is the most chocolaty? What cake mix has the best rise? I’m answering all your questions.

Which Boxed Cake Mix is Best?

I fell this is really a personal preference. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of these, but they each have their own unique properties that make them a little but different. They were all moist and spongy, with varying flavors.

What is the best boxed chocolate cake mix? This post will answer your questions. It is the best guide explaining the differences between boxed cake mixes.

Betty Crocker

Rise: In both tests, the Better Crocker has the least amount of rise on the cake, which again might be due to the increased liquid in the batter. You can see it is significantly higher/taller.

Crumb: Betty Crocker had the most compact crumb but I also felt like it had the most air bubbles with Duncan Hines being a heavy competitor.

Betty Crocker Devil's Food Cake Mix. What is the best boxed chocolate cake mix? This post will answer your questions. It is the best guide explaining the differences between boxed cake mixes.

Pillsbury

Flavor: The Pillsbury cake had the best chocolate flavor.

Structure: In both cases, the Pillsbury one baked most unevenly, meaning that it needs to be torted if you are making a layer cake so the top is nice and flat.

Pillsbury Devils Food Cake Mix. What is the best boxed chocolate cake mix? This post will answer your questions. It is the best guide explaining the differences between boxed cake mixes.

Duncan Hines

Texture: The Duncan Hines cake had the lightest and fluffiest texture and it was also the most moist cake mix. This was surprising to me given that the batter was the thickest.

Flavor: This cake also has the most cocoa flavor, which is not to be confused with the best chocolate flavor (Pillsbury was the best in my opinion)

Rise: This cake also had the best rise. It should also be noted that Duncan Hines is a Wilton-approved cake mix that is used in their test kitchens.

Duncan Hines Devils Food Cake Mix. What is the best boxed chocolate cake mix? This post will answer your questions. It is the best guide explaining the differences between boxed cake mixes.

How to Make a Boxed Mix Taste Better

You might be surprised to know that even bakeries will reach for cake mix from time to time and with a few alterations, you can make it taste even better. Sometime you’d never be able to tell it’s a cake mix.

  • Vanilla extract: Always add 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla to your cake mixes (expect maybe lemon).
  • Substitute with milk: Most cake mixes call for oil, water and eggs. Swap out the water for milk.
  • Use melted butter: Some people swear by swapping melted butter for oil, but I think oil produces a better texture and moister crumb.
  • Add sour cream: This really is the secret weapon. Adding 1/4-1/2 cup of sour cream to a cake mix makes the cake so much better.
  • Extra Cocoa powder: For more chocolate flavor, try adding 2-4 tablespoons of cocoa powder.
  • Add pudding mix: Even if the boxed mix already has it, people swear that adding a small box of pudding to the mix adds flavor and texture.

How Do I Prevent my Cakes from Sticking to the Pan?

I always recommend greasing the pans with Crisco and lining the bottom with parchment paper. This helps ensure the cake is released easily from the pans. If you don’t have parchment paper, then you can use a dusting of flour. For chocolate cakes, I use a combination of flour and cocoa powder.

Parchment paper is also nice because when I am cooling the cakes on the wire rack, the bottom of the cake won’t stick since it is lined with parchment paper. It also makes it easier to transport.

How Many Cupcakes Does a Boxed Mix Make?

This varies between brands. But generally, I get between 18-20 cupcakes from a box mix. This is using a standard large cookie scoop, about 3 tablespoons in size.

You might find my post tips for baking cupcakes to be helpful. I talk about how much batter for each cupcake and the different types of pans that are available.

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Leave a Comment

65 Responses
  1. Hilda King

    I don’t understand why Betty Crocker cream cheese icing has no flavor of cream cheese at all. What a fail on my cake

  2. Kathleen Erickson

    Thanks so much for this interesting blog. You really did a great job accounting for all the various factors: amount of liquid, size of pan and measuring the same amount of prepared batter into each pan. Very scientific! Well done!

  3. Kaykay

    My mother always said Duncan Hines was best. For many years I baked cakes for a living and only used their mixes. I still prefer them. I also make a lot of cinnamon rolls using the yellow mix. It has (by far) the best flavor of any mix. Yesterday I made a double batch (60 rolls) and used one of the other brands. My son bought me the wrong brand! The quality and flavor is totally different and I almost want to throw them all away.

  4. Shannon Harvey

    Great post! I’ll be working on a basics blog post soon too and will include links to these. Sometimes you gotta bring it back to the basics. For the record, I am a Pillsbury girl all the way! It might be the branding and colors (which always get me) but it is what it is! Ha!

  5. wendyk

    when you can’t make from scratch Duncan Hines is the one to use! I go by the direction on the pk. but always add either a couple of tbl. of sour cream or 2 tbl. of melted butter for extra moist /flavor!

  6. 4Graces

    I don’t know why anyone would think that 15.25 ounces of cake mix could make the same size cakes as an 18.25 ounce mix, no matter how much extra leavening or whatever the manufacturer puts in it. Still, the mix boxes claim it does. Why won’t they just be honest? I just finished baking a Duncan Hines Classic White cake mix batter and it made a very nice 7 inch by 11 inch cake at a little over one inch high. I have tried the D.H. batter in a 9 x 13 pan and it comes out about half an inch high which I find unacceptable. I prefer the D.H. brand, but I resent having to open two boxes of mix to get the amount of product I need to make a nine inch cake. The main selling point of these mixes is that they are easy and quick. Now they are neither if one is to get an appropriate sized cake.

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Hi there. Thank you for your comment. I totally understand the frustration. All of my recipes use a 15.25 oz size but I hardly ever make a 9inch cake, I always make an 8inch cake. I’ve never tried using two boxes. However I am confused why your 9-13 pan was only half an inch high, I agree that seems small! Most of the time I use Betty Crocker and my 9-13 inch cakes are definitely higher.

    2. Freda

      I buy two mixes just to make up what they take now…. big mistake when they changed the amount .. but we all know it’s about money and us having to buy double ??

  7. Tia

    Hi you inspire me so much, however, I have to bake some eggless cupcakes for my daughter’s school cake sale and I was considering using box cakes.
    What can I use to substitute the eggs and still make the cake fluffy and moist???

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