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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 are the best boxed cake mixes.
Best Overall: General Mills White Cake Mix
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.
Best Lemon: Krusteaz Meyer Lemon Pound Cake Mix
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.
Best for Cupcakes: Pillsbury Funfetti White Cake Mix
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!”
Best Yellow Cake: Jiffy Golden Yellow Cake 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.
Best Red Velvet: Betty Crocker Super Moist Red Velvet Cake Mix
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.
Best Chocolate: Duncan Hines Classic Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix
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.
Best Gluten-Free: Simple Mills Vanilla Cake Almond Flour Mix
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.
What to Look for When Buying a Boxed Cake Mix
Generally speaking, most cake mixes include the same basic ingredients. You’ll typically find sugar, flour, a leavening agent, flavoring (anything from vanilla to cocoa powder, or a specialty flavoring), oil, salt, and food coloring in almost every box of cake mix. Many mixes will also include a non-fat milk product, egg products, or stabilizers. None of these things are uncommon, and all come together to make a cake quickly.
But if you’re looking for a cake mix that is tailored to your tastes or dietary needs, you’ll need to pay special attention to the ingredients list. These days, there’s a wide variety of mixes available to suit just about every need. Gluten-free cake mixes are available that substitute almond, rice, oat, or another gluten-free flour for traditional wheat. There are also sugar-free, keto, and vegan cake mix options available, among others.
Additionally, most boxed cake mixes call for a few extra wet ingredients to bring the cake mix to life. These ingredients generally include eggs, oil, water, butter, or milk. Different mixes use a different combination of ingredients, so make sure to check the box and make sure you’ve got everything you need to finish the cake.
The price of a box of cake mix is one of the biggest advantages of buying a box over making a cake completely from scratch. In some cases, you can find a box of cake mix for less than $2, but a recent stroll through the grocery store put the average price of a box of cake mix between $2 to $3. Many people have eggs, oil, and water on hand already, and don’t need to purchase additional ingredients beyond frosting. There’s no arguing that it would cost more to purchase all of the ingredients for a homemade cake separately, and if you aren’t a regular baker then all of those ingredients are just going to take up valuable cabinet space.
Gluten-free and specialty cake mixes typically cost more than conventional cake mixes, beginning at around $6 per box and moving upwards of $20 if purchased from a high-end specialty retailer. The more expensive the boxed mix becomes, the more it might be worth it to consider making the cake from scratch, depending on if you have a reliable recipe and ingredients available.
You’ll instantly recognize many of the major cake mix brands in grocery stores, including General Mills Gold Medal, Krusteaz, Pillsbury, Jiffy, Betty Crocker, and Duncan Hines. Many of these brands provide cake mixes in a wide variety of flavors that smaller brands don’t necessarily have the capacity to produce, as well as diet-specific mixes like gluten-free, sugar-free, and keto.
But other brands have developed high-quality cake mixes ready to compete with the big brands, including Simple Mills, Bob’s Red Mill, King Arthur, and even Williams Sonoma. While many of these brands don’t cater specifically to cakes, many have a history of selling reliable baking ingredients and have created cake mixes that aim to be as close to made-from-scratch as possible.
Flavors and Textures
Everyone’s got a favorite flavor of cake, and for your special occasion, you should have the flavor of cake you like best. Cake mixes come in more flavors than ever, including chocolate, vanilla, yellow, white, strawberry, coconut, red velvet, devil’s food, pineapple upside-down, angel food, spiced, banana, funfetti, marble, lemon, and more. Not to mention all of the ways you can doctor a cake mix to make it your own.
But regardless of the flavor of the cake, you also want your cake to have a nice texture. Boxed cake mixes are known for creating incredibly moist cakes, in no small part due to the water and oil added to the mix that helps keep it moist. But you don’t want the cake to be so wet or oily that it’s mushy or slick. You’ll also want a cake that’s nice a spongy with a tender crumb, not dense and crumbly. Most cake mixes have been painstakingly tested to please, so there’s a good chance you’ll end up with a satisfying cake if you follow the instructions. But it may take testing out a few brands to figure out which texture and flavors appeal to you most.
Before you purchase a boxed cake mix, you should have an idea of how much cake you need, and what format you’re going to bake it in. Need 48 red velvet cupcakes for a bake sale? You’re probably going to need more than one box of mix. Every box of cake mix tells you exactly how much cake the mix will make. While some mixes are very specific (like one 8x4-inch loaf pan or two 9-inch cake rounds), other mixes are flexible and give yields and cooking times for a wide variety of cake styles, including 13x9-inch pans, sheet and half sheet cakes, 8 to 9-inch round cake pans, bundt pans, loaf pans, and cupcakes. A little planning and careful attention to the yields will ensure you’ve got enough cake for everyone.
How can you improve a boxed cake mix?
The beauty of boxed cake mixes is that they’re consistent, and can be altered in a wide variety of ways. The easiest ways to alter or improve a boxed cake mix include:
- Add a half or full teaspoon of an extract. Almond, coconut, lemon or citrus, or even maple or cinnamon extracts can really deepen the flavor of your cake.
- Instead of water, add another liquid. Some people reach for milk, sour cream, or buttermilk, while others reach for coconut milk, coffee, juices, or even ginger ale.
- Add some mix-ins, whether it be chocolate chips, citrus zest, shredded coconut, sprinkles, cookie crumbles, or fresh fruit — mix-ins instantly personalize a boxed cake mix.
- When you’re ready for some deeper experimentation, consider adding an extra egg or egg yolk to the mix for a more rich and moist cake. Alternatively, consider adding powdered pudding mix to the cake mix for an ultra-moist and densely fudgy-textured cake (whichever flavor you’d like).
How do you make cake pops with boxed cake mix?
Making cake pops with boxed cake mix (and a can of frosting) couldn’t be easier. Simply mix and bake the boxed mix cake as directed in a 9 by 13-inch pan. Once entirely cooled, you’ll crumble the cake and mix it together with a can of frosting. From there, you can form the cake and frosting mixture into balls, which you’ll then add to sticks and dip into coating chocolate to make cake pops.
How do you make a cake roll with boxed cake mix?
Most boxed cake mixes can be turned into cake rolls, with just a few simple steps. First, you’ll be using more eggs. Typically a boxed cake mix calls for three eggs, but for a roll cake, you’re going to use six eggs, which will help to make your cake more elastic. You’ll beat these six eggs first until they’re a light lemon color and aerated, before adding the rest of the ingredients. Betty Crocker suggests altering the ingredients from a boxed cake mix even further by adjusting the water and vegetable oil you use, as well as adding powdered sugar which has cornstarch in it to gently help stabilize the cake for rolling.
Finally, if you’re using a full box of cake mix and a regular jelly-roll pan (10x15-inches), you’ll only use half to ¾ of the batter. Use all of the batter if cooking the cake in a half-sheet pan (13x18-inches) or two jelly-roll pans. Baking times will vary, but you’re looking for the cake to spring back when touched.
How many cups of cake mix are in a box typically?
A standard 15.25-ounce box of cake mix can make anywhere from three to six cups of cake batter, depending on the mix. The average is about four cups of batter, but results will vary.
How many cupcakes does a boxed cake mix make?
A standard box of cake mix typically makes between 24-30 cupcakes. Most boxes will specify the number of cupcakes the mix can make, along with the traditional cake recipe.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
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.
Jenny Kellerhals updated this article and wrote the accompanying buying guide and FAQs. She is a professional pastry chef and food writer living, working, and eating in Queens, NYC. Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting is her go-to cake indulgence. Jenny firmly believes that making a cake for someone is one of the most generous gifts, whether it comes from a box or from scratch.