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When you get a hankering for chocolate cake or have a birthday party to prep for, you don’t have to bust out a pantry’s worth of ingredients to make something truly outstanding. Whether you love German chocolate cake or fudgy molten options, there are plenty of chocolate cake mixes that require just a few ingredients, whip up in a fraction of the time, and could fool even the most discerning palates.
Here are the best boxed chocolate cakes to pick up at the grocery store.
Best Overall: Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Premium Cake Mix
Whether you like milk or dark chocolate, this cake mix is sure to satisfy. It’s a real sweet spot between the two since it’s made with world-renowned Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate. The result is a moist cake that’s not too bitter and not too sweet.
Like any good cake mix, you don’t need many other ingredients—just eggs, water, and vegetable oil. And a single box yields your choice of an 8- or 9-inch round cake, a single 8-inch square cake, or approximately 12 cupcakes.
If you’re feeling inspired, take your creation to new heights with the ganache or buttercream frosting recipes included on the back of the box.
Best Budget: Duncan Hines Classic Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix
When it comes to boxed cake mix, there’s a reason Duncan Hines is such a staple. Despite insanely competitive pricing, the brand makes an incredibly wide variety of flavors (more than 80 different baked-good mixes ranging from cakes and brownies to muffins and cookies!). You can’t beat their classic dark chocolate fudge, though. It’s a moist dark chocolate flavor that no chocolate-lover could possibly resist.
Like other mixes, there are options abound. Simply add water, eggs, and oil to whip up a range of cakes, from a round layer cake to a bundt cake or even two dozen cupcakes. The box also boasts other options, including a cake recipe made with applesauce or brunch-ready chocolate cake waffles.
Best Gluten-Free: Thrive Market Almond Flour Chocolate Cake MIx
This cake mix is proof that not all gluten-free products are dense and tasteless. Plus, stirring together the necessary ingredients—eggs, coconut oil, water, and vanilla—is a lot easier than baking a gluten-free cake from scratch, since you don’t have to source unique flours.
The almond flour-based mix is made from just seven ingredients—almond flour, coconut sugar, cocoa, arrowroot powder, coconut flour, baking soda, and sea salt—that combine to create an incredibly moist and decadent chocolate dessert that could fool just about anyone into thinking it’s traditional flour-based cake. Thrive also includes instructions if you want to use this for a vegan chocolate cake.
Best Molten Chocolate: Williams Sonoma Molten Chocolate Cake Mix
For a fancier chocolate treat, try the molten chocolate cake. This mix, created by a French pastry chef, yields a dinner party-worthy treat without the effort and finesse required to make one from scratch.
The ingredients, like premium European bittersweet chocolate, are all expertly sourced to ensure the finished product has the same rich flavor you expect from five-star dining experiences. All you have to do? Add butter and water, bake, and savor each cake and fudge combined bite.
Best Keto: Swerve Sweets Chocolate Cake Mix
Though cake is typically thought of as a real indulgence, it turns out there are cake mixes that cater to the keto and paleo crowd. This chocolate cake mix falls squarely into that category because it’s formulated without any grains, gluten, or added sugar. And, instead of typical bleached flour, the base is blanched almond flour, coconut flour, and real cocoa for that decadent chocolatey flavor you’re looking for. Swerve sweetener adds just a hint of sweetness that makes it suitable for everyday desserts and special occasions that hinge on a finishing touch.
Despite these ingredient swaps, this mix makes an 8-inch round cake that is moist, has a great texture, and doesn’t leave a weird sweetener-based aftertaste in your mouth. The 10.6-ounce box can also be made into 12 cupcakes,
Best Dark Chocolate: Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Premium Cake Mix
This boxed cake mix isn’t as sweet as some of the others, which is a must for all dark chocolate lovers out there. Instead, it has the decadent, slightly bitter taste you’d expect to get from a product made by a premier chocolatier that’s been in business for more than 150 years. Why? Though the ultimate convenience food (just dump in a bowl, add a few ingredients, and stir), this mix utilizes quality ingredients, like real Ghirardelli dark chocolate. The result is a mouthwatering, delectable cake with a moist texture that tastes just as good as something you might pick up from your local bakery.
Best German Chocolate: Betty Crocker Super Moist German Chocolate Cake Mix
Because German chocolate cake is a chocolate layer cake that’s traditionally topped with a coconut-pecan frosting, this super-moist German chocolate cake mix yields two round cakes (either 8-inch or 9-inch), so that you can more easily recreate the original. Alternatively, if you’re serving a crowd, you can opt to modify this into a large 13 x 9-inch sheet cake or 24 cupcakes.
The recipe requires the same pantry staples as other boxed mixes—eggs, water, and oil—but, since the quantity is a little bigger, you’ll need just to have just a little bit more of each on hand. Trust us: It’s all worth it for the ensuing moist, rich treat that’ll be waiting for you when your timer goes off.
Best Nut-Free: Miss Jones Baking Organic Chocolate Cake and Cupcake Mix
If staying away from nut allergens is of utmost importance to you, try Miss Jones Baking boxed cake mixes. All of the company’s products are made from certified organic ingredients in tree-nut- and peanut-free facilities (with the exception of coconut oil). There are also no artificial colors or flavors.
The result is a cake that’s as easy as 1-2-3 (just add eggs, butter or oil, and milk or water), but tastes homemade. Each box makes one cake or 18 cupcakes, both of which are the perfect blank canvas for whatever frosting and toppings you can dream up. (And, if you need help, simply turn to their website for dozens of great recipes.)
Best Single-Serve: Duncan Hines Mug Cakes Walnut Brownie Mix
When you have a craving for chocolate cake, but can’t justify baking an entire box, try this convenient single-serve option. It’s just as flavorful as the full-size versions, but it’s even easier to whip up.
Unlike traditional cake mixes, this box comes with four individual pouches that each contain just enough mix to make a personal serving of brownie-flavored chocolate cake.
It’s called a mug cake for a reason. You simply empty the contents of the pouch into a microwave-safe mug, add two tablespoons of water, stir, and pop in the microwave for just 55 seconds. When you push open the door, you’ll have a fluffy, moist chocolate cake waiting for you.
Whether you have to satisfy a chocolate craving or need to whip up a crowd-pleasing cake, pick up a box or two of Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Premium Cake Mix (view at Amazon). For an option that's safe for individuals with nut allergies (but not all common food allergens), we recommend Miss Jones Baking Organic Chocolate Cake and Cupcake Mix (view at Amazon).
What to Look for When Buying Chocolate Cake Mixes
Many online sellers provide multiple images of the box so you can scan the ingredient list, nutrition, and baking instructions. Read the mix's ingredients carefully if you hope to bake a chocolate cake that meets certain diet restrictions. Some cake mixes contain allergens like soy, wheat, or nuts, or they may have powdered dairy products, while others are friendly for vegan and keto diets. You'll also want to know what other ingredients you need to bake the cake; typically, that's just eggs, oil, and water. And don't forget the frosting.
The box should indicate the size of cake you can make with one package. The average 15-ounce cake mix will make two 8-inch or 9-inch cakes for a layered cake or 24 cupcakes. Many will also fill a 9 x 13-inch cake pan, though some bakers use one and a half or two boxes to make a thicker cake. For smaller cake mix packages, plan on two boxes to get the same amount of cake.
Type of Chocolate
There are several types of chocolate, and each has a slightly different flavor. When choosing a cake mix, look for milk chocolate if you want the sweetest cake and dark or bittersweet chocolate for a cake that's not too sweet. Since it's a dry product, many cake mixes simply use cocoa powder, which offers a classic rich chocolate taste. You can also find devil's food, German chocolate, and fudge chocolate cake mixes.
Can you use milk instead of water in a chocolate cake mix?
Milk is an excellent substitute for water in any cake mix. Use an equal amount, and your chocolate cake will taste more like a homemade cake. You can also use buttermilk for a more decadent cake that has a lusciously moist and dense texture. Buttermilk is thicker than water and milk; adding a tablespoon or so extra may be needed to get the right batter consistency.
Does adding an extra egg to a cake mix make it moister?
An extra egg will instantly jazz up a boxed cake mix. Most mixes call for three eggs, and a fourth egg will add moisture and make it richer. For a real bakery-style cake upgrade, try cake mix with the required eggs and two egg yolks.
What does adding sour cream to a cake mix do?
Similar to milk, sour cream adds fat to cake; it just has more fat. Since box mix cakes tend to be on the lighter side, tossing 1/2 to 1 cup of sour cream into the batter will produce a thicker, richer, and moister cake.
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This roundup was written by Brigitt Earley, who has written and edited food content for various publications over the course of the last 10 years. She also holds a culinary degree from the French Culinary Institute.