8 Boxed Cake Mixes That Taste Homemade

Jiffy's Golden Yellow Cake Mix reliably makes great cakes with less effort

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The Spruce Eats / Lecia Landis

The Spruce Eats Top Picks

Jiffy Golden Yellow Cake Mix is our Best Overall pick because it's a time-tested cake mix at a great price that can be easily adapted. The Duncan Hines Signature Perfectly Moist Rainbow Confetti Cake Mix is our favorite confetti cake, perfect for party cupcakes.

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: Jiffy Golden Yellow Cake Mix

jiffy-golden-yellow-cake-mix

Courtesy of Walmart 

What We Like
  • Only requires one egg and water

  • Versatile

  • Very low cost

What We Don't Like
  • Only makes one cake layer

What do buyers say? 85% of 70+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

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.

Price at time of publish: $11

Flavor: Yellow Cake | Weight: 9 ounces | Allergens: Wheat, Dairy (whey), Soy, Eggs

Best for Cupcakes: Duncan Hines Signature Perfectly Moist Rainbow Confetti Cake Mix

Duncan Hines Signature Rainbow Confetti Cake Mix
What We Like
  • Best tasting confetti cake mix

  • Mix and bake in under 30 minutes

  • Fun for kids to make

What We Don't Like
  • Duncan Hines changes the name regularly

When it comes to cupcakes, you could technically use just about any cake mix. But nothing says party quite like confetti cake. Duncan Hines Signature Perfectly Moist Rainbow Confetti cake mix yields about 24 cupcakes and requires only water, eggs, and vegetable oil. The rainbow sprinkles are evenly dispersed throughout the cake, making for a colorful and festive final product.

The cake itself is a vanilla cake, leaning more into the yellow cake category than the white cake category. It's ultra moist, thanks to the vegetable oil and full cup of water that get added to the mix. It'll be easy to convince the kids to help make this particular cake, and it's easy to mix together by hand or with a hand mixer.

Duncan Hines has rebranded this cake mix several times. A previous version of the mix was simply called "Signature Confetti Cake", while a newer iteration of the cake mix is called "Joyfetti Confetti Cake Mix."

Price at time of publish: $27

Flavor: Vanilla Confetti | Weight: 15.25 ounces | Allergens: Wheat, Soy, Eggs

What Our Experts Say

"Pillsbury's Funfetti cake mix was the original confetti cake on the market in 1989, and while many people call all confetti or sprinkle cakes 'Funfetti,' it's actually a trademarked name owned by Pillsbury. To see which cake was better, I baked both the original Funfetti cake and the Duncan Hines Signature Moist Rainbow Confetti cake side-by-side and found that the Duncan Hines cake was the slightly more delicious choice. It has a more apparent vanilla taste, as well as a buttery flavor than Pillsbury's cake didn't have as much of."Jenny Kellerhals, Baking Expert at The Spruce Eats

Best Red Velvet: Betty Crocker Super Moist Red Velvet Cake Mix

Betty Crocker Super Moist Red Velvet Cake Mix

Courtesy of Walmart

What We Like
  • Great price

  • Includes a touch of cocoa powder

  • Less messy than making from scratch

What We Don't Like
  • Package size is smaller than previous versions

Though it's a popular cake, red velvet isn’t always 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 from 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 poppable cupcakes. Most red velvet cakes are frosted with cream cheese frosting, which Betty Crocker also makes in both "Rich & Creamy" as well as whipped styles.

Price at time of publish: $2

Flavor: Red Velvet | Weight: 15.25 ounces | Allergens: Wheat, Dairy, Eggs

Best Chocolate: Duncan Hines Classic Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix

duncan-hines-dark-chocolate-fudge-cake-mix

Courtesy of Walmart

What We Like
  • Rich dark chocolate flavor

  • Instructions for five different cake styles

  • Inherently dairy-free

What We Don't Like
  • Hard to tell if overcooked

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.

Price at time of publish: $9

Flavor: Dark Chocolate | Weight: 15.25 ounces | Allergens: Wheat, Eggs

Best Gluten-Free: Simple Mills Vanilla Cake Almond Flour Mix

Simple Mills Cake Mix

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Gluten and dairy-free

  • Simple, clear ingredient list

  • Also great for cupcakes

What We Don't Like
  • Higher priced than traditional cake mixes

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-friendly since it’s grain-free, dairy-free, and non-GMO. The cake mix costs a little more than some of the other traditional cake mixes, but Simple Mills mixes are becoming more widely available — not just in specialty food stores. 

Price at time of publish: $9

Flavor: Vanilla, Almond | Weight: 11.5 ounces | Allergens: Almond, Coconut, Eggs

Best Pumpkin: Pillsbury Moist Supreme Perfectly Pumpkin Premium Cake Mix

Pillsbury Moist Supreme Perfectly Pumpkin Cake Mix
What We Like
  • Includes real pumpkin and spices

  • No pumpkin puree or roasting pumpkins necessary

  • Pairs great with different frosting flavors

What We Don't Like
  • Only available seasonally

For those who can't get enough of spiced pumpkin treats as the seasons change, Pillsbury has created a pumpkin cake that includes actual pumpkin, as well as cinnamon, molasses, nutmeg, and ginger — all without being a terrifyingly unnatural orange color. The mix comes together with water, oil, and eggs and can be baked in a variety of formats. While pumpkin cakes certainly aren't a new invention, this cake mix is easy to create without buying pumpkin puree separately or spending hours roasting and pureeing your own pumpkins.

The only downside is that this particular cake mix is only available seasonally. According to Pillsbury's website, the limited edition pumpkin cake mix is only available from August till January. So if it's one that you really enjoy, you might want to buy a few extra boxes. Pillsbury makes a coordinating limited edition cream cheese frosting, as well as a seasonal cinnamon bun frosting that we think would also taste great with this cake.

Price at time of publish: $15

Flavor: Pumpkin and Spice | Weight: 15.25 ounces | Allergens: Wheat, Soy, Milk, Eggs

Best Apple: King Arthur Baking Company Apple Spice Cake with Bourbon Glaze

King Arthur Baking Company Apple Spice Cake Mix
What We Like
  • Bourbon glaze ingredients included

  • Includes real apple and spices

  • High quality brand in flours and baking

What We Don't Like
  • Slightly more effort than other mixes

The smell of apples and baking spices wafting through the kitchen will convince anyone that you made this cake from scratch, especially once it's presented with a fresh bourbon glaze dripping down the sides. King Arthur Baking Company has made flour for professional bakers since 1790, and has more recently developed baking mixes for a wide range of high-quality baked goods. This apple spice cake includes real apple (which is even the third ingredient listed after flour and sugar) and straightforward traditional cake ingredients.

Most other boxed cake mixes require eggs, oil, and sometimes water to finish the mix, but this mix requires a few more ingredients. It also asks for butter and milk, in addition to oil, water, and eggs. Instructions are given for baking this cake in a bundt pan, as a 9 x 13-inch sheet cake, or for 20-22 cupcakes. We imagine it could also make two 8-inch round cake layers if you wanted to make a layer cake. The mix costs more than most other boxed cake mixes, but it's still less than it would cost for a store-bought cake and a fraction of the effort of making an apple cake from scratch.

Price at time of publish: $13

Flavor: Apple and Spice | Weight: 27 ounces | Allergens: Wheat, Dairy, Eggs

Best Mug Cakes: Williams Sonoma Dark Chocolate Mug Cake Mix

Williams Sonoma Dark Chocolate Mug Cake Mix

Courtesy of Williams Sonoma

What We Like
  • Fresh cake in under a minute

  • Rich buttery flavor

  • Doesn't need frosting

What We Don't Like
  • More expensive than other cake mixes

Why make a whole cake when you only need one or two servings? This mug cake mix makes a rich and satisfying dark chocolate mug cake in less than a minute in the microwave. Each mix requires the addition of milk and melted butter to bring it together. Unlike typical cakes, it also doesn't require frosting, because the cake is studded with semi-sweet chocolate chips — although a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top would be a nice addition.

Williams Sonoma makes four flavors of mug cakes: Dark Chocolate, Vanilla, Lemon, and Pumpkin Spice. Each of the mixes is made with recognizable ingredients, and includes 4 individual cake mix packets per box. These cake mixes are on the pricier side, but may be worth it for the convenience and pleasing flavors.

Price at time of publish: $20

Flavor: Dark Chocolate, Vanilla, Lemon, Pumpkin Spice | Weight: Four 3-ounce packages | Allergens: Wheat, Dairy, Eggs, Soy

Final Verdict

You can rely on Jiffy Golden Yellow Cake Mix to produce a consistently delicious cake or adapt it to create new desserts. For chocolate lovers, we recommend Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix, topped with chocolate fudge frosting to satisfy your sweet tooth.

What to Look for When Buying a Boxed Cake Mix

Ingredients

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. 

Price

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. 

Brands

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.

Yield

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.

FAQs

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.

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