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Whether you want to make a traditional layer cake, sprinkle-studded cupcakes, or an elegant bundt cake, there’s an easier way to do it than putting the whole thing together from scratch. The best boxed cake mixes require just a few pantry staples—like eggs, oil, and water—but yield treats so good you’d never know you simply poured and stirred. Choices aren’t limited either—mixes come in nearly any flavor you can dream up. Here, the best of the best.
When it comes to versatility, you simply can’t beat the Gold Medal White Cake Mix. The box provides clear instructions for five different types of cakes, from full sheet cakes to cupcakes, plus offers a range of other options, including six different types of cake mix cookies.
In terms of flavor, white is an overall crowd pleaser, as it has a soft, subtle taste that provides the perfect blank canvas for whatever creation you can dream up. Use food coloring to dye each layer a fun color, yielding an impressive rainbow layer cake; cut up cubes of cake and layer them with pudding and strawberries for an elegant trifle; or whip up a delicious coconut frosting topper. No matter what route you choose, reviewers—even pro bakers!—say one thing is for sure: You won’t be disappointed with this base mix.
Though best known for its cornbread mix, Jiffy—a baking institution with roots as far back as 1930—also sells highly rated cake mixes. The number one standout? This yellow cake.
This particular boxed cake mix wins praise because it requires just two ingredients—water and a single egg—yet yields a full, moist cake that tastes like you put way more effort into it.
Like other boxed mixes, reviewers note that you can use this as a base for more creative desserts, too. Of course you can layer and frost it with any number of flavors, but you can also use it to add flavor and depth to a peach cobbler or mix it with a package of the famed cornbread mix to make a Johnny cake that tastes great with a drizzle of warm honey.
From the famed New York City-based Flour Shop comes a boxed cake mix that will fulfill all of your wildest baking dreams. The vanilla cake mix requires just three add-on ingredients: eggs, butter, and milk. It’s a slight departure from the traditional eggs, water, and oil, but a relatively convenient one that makes a huge difference in the structure and taste of the cake. The result is a light and fluffy golden cake that has a rich vanilla flavor with just a hint of sweetness from cane sugar.
Whether you use it to make cupcakes or a layer cake, the choice is entirely yours. But consider this a fair warning: It’s hard not to get inspired by creator Amirah Kassem’s awe-inspiring rainbow cakes. (Plus, there’s an easy-to-follow tutorial on the Williams-Sonoma website.)
When it comes to cake mixes of any kind, Duncan Hines is an obvious choice. The widely available mixes yield fantastic results in any number of flavors, but one of its most beloved is the dark chocolate fudge cake.
With just water, eggs, and oil, it’s easy to create a range of cakes from a round layer cake to a bundt cake or even two dozen cupcakes. The box also provides some other options, including a lower-fat recipe or more decadent chocolate cake waffles. No matter which recipe you choose, you’ll be pleased by the final result: A moist treat with incredibly rich chocolate flavor.
What do you do when you have a craving for cake, but don’t have the time or energy to make the entire box? Now, there are convenient single-serve options that taste just as great as their larger counterparts.
Rather than one bag of cake mix suitable for a single recipe, this box contains four individual pouches that each make a single serving of organic molten chocolate cake, commonly called a mug cake—no oven required. Simply empty the contents of the pouch into a microwave-safe coffee mug, then add two tablespoons of hot water and stir until well combined. Microwave on high for one minute, then let cool for one minute before enjoying. Skeptical? Don’t just take our word for it. Customers love this treat, calling it a rich and flavorful snack that leaves you satisfied.
When it comes to cupcakes, Funfetti is the classic choice. And this mix, by Pillsbury, yields everything you could want in a tasty funfetti cupcake. The white cake is ultra fluffy with a hint of sweetness, but the real flavor comes from the studs of rainbow sprinkles evenly dispersed throughout. (The sprinkles in this mix don’t bleed—they maintain their shape and color to preserve the aesthetic you’re going for when you cut into your layer cake.)
You’ll also love the fact that the brand makes a companion frosting. It’s a simple white vanilla frosting that comes complete with a capful of sprinkles that you stir into the mix just before icing each cupcake. The result is a cohesive and incredibly flavorful cupcake that just screams “happy birthday!”
Though a birthday party favorite, red velvet isn’t an easy cake to attempt from scratch. The much easier—and just as flavorful—solution is to use a boxed cake mix like this one by Betty Crocker. You won’t need to use any unconventional or messy dyes to achieve that perfect deep red hue. You simply stir the mix with water, egg, and oil, then bake.
The single box of mix provides plenty of options, too. Opt to make a simple sheet cake, an intricate layer cake, a decorative bundt, or popable cupcakes.
If you love that bright citrus taste, you’ll go crazy for this boxed mix. Because it’s a pound cake, the texture is denser than your average boxed mix. Still, that zing of lemon is undoubtedly there.
The Meyer lemon beautifully cuts the richness of traditional pound cake without being too tart, and the included glaze adds another layer of sweet flavor that’s completely irresistible. Whether you follow the instructions for a traditional pound cake or opt for the more complex jam tea cake included on the box, you don’t need much to create a stunner of a dessert—just water and butter for the cake and some additional water for the glaze.
Gluten-free products get a bad rap for being dense and tasteless, but bakers with special dietary requirements will be impressed by this particular cake mix. Though much easier than baking a gluten-free cake from scratch (there’s no need to source all kinds of crazy flours!), the final taste is much like those wholly homemade desserts.
This almond- and coconut flour-based mix yields a nice, moist cake that meets the requirements of a low glycemic diet. As an added bonus, it’s paleo- and vegan-friendly, since it’s grain-free, dairy-free, and non-GMO.
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This roundup was written by Brigitt Earley, who has written and edited hundreds of articles in the food space for various publications over the course of the last 10 years. Brigitt also attended the French Culinary Institute in NYC. She's a white cake lover, but can't resist a good Pillsbury funfetti cupcake, either.