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How to Doctor a Yellow Cake Mix

You can make a simple box of yellow cake mix taste like homemade with just a few fun and simple additions!

I don’t know about you but I love taking a box of cake mix and amping up the flavor. That’s what this site is all about–“out of the box” experiences that go above and beyond the norm.

If you read my How to Doctor a Boxed Cake Mix, the Ultimate Guide, you already know that I love starting with a store-bought box of cake mix.

For most of those recipes I used a white cake, but yellow will work just as well for most.

What Makes Yellow Cake Different from White?

When it comes to from scratch cakes, there’s an easy answer to this question: white cake recipes often include oil and egg whites. Yellow cake recipes include whole eggs and butter, giving the cake its distinct yellow color.

When it comes to boxed mixes, however, this question is a little harder to answer. Most white and yellow cake mixes call for the same additions: oil, water, and eggs.

Regardless of which box you choose, you can doctor up that mix with a few fun tricks!

A Dozen Fun Tips to Doctor up a Box of Yellow Cake Mix

Use milk instead of water. This is a great tip to add additional fat to the recipe. Whole milk is best, but low-fat will do in a pinch. 

Use buttermilk in place of water. Most “velvet” cakes have the addition of buttermilk, so this is a fun option if you like the texture of velvety cake. If you don’t have buttermilk you can add a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to a cup of water. 

Coconut milk. You can really change up a yellow cake mix by adding coconut milk in place of whole milk. If you like, you can also throw in a cup of shredded coconut. (This is the foundation for a good Italian cream cake, by the way!) 

Yogurt or sour cream. Looking to add richness to the batter? Substitute sour cream or yogurt for some of the liquid in the recipe. 

Extra eggs: You can doctor a box of cake mix by adding an additional egg to the mix. This will add more moisture to the cake but egg is also a great binder. 

Butter: Most box cake mixes call for oil but butter is an amazing choice in a yellow cake mix. In fact, you can turn a simple yellow cake into a delicious golden butter cake with the addition of room temperature butter, which will give it a rich creamy texture and flavor. 

Instant Pudding: This is my favorite trick! Add a box of any flavored instant pudding. My favorite is vanilla, but you can use banana, chocolate, cheesecake flavor, etc. 

Extracts: I love vanilla and almond but you’re not limited to those. Add lemon, coconut, or orange. 

Chocolate: Yep, you can turn a yellow cake mix into chocolate by adding half a cup of cocoa powder. You’ll need to add a bit more liquid to accommodate for the additional dry ingredients. Another option is ganache. Use it to replace some of the liquid. 

Fruit: You can add canned pie filling or chopped fruit. Yum!

Add-ins: Nuts, chocolate chips, coconut. . .you name it, you can add it! 

Canned Frosting: You can add a can of coconut pecan frosting to a cake mix to turn it into a pound cake. Check out my Easy Butter Pecan Pound Cake!

Homemade Frosting

If you really want to make a boxed cake mix taste homemade, start with a rich, homemade frosting. Here are several of my favorites 

Dreamy Buttercream: You’re wondering how to doctor a boxed cake mix to make those cupcakes or cake look and taste more like homemade? Look no further than the frosting. Yep, that’s right! Sometimes it’s not the cupcake (or cake). It’s what you add to the top that makes all of the difference.

Swiss Meringue: If you’re looking for an alternative to American Buttercream but you’ve been afraid to try some of the European varieties, I’ve got a special recipe for you. This simple Swiss Meringue Buttercream is easy and delicious and can be made in minutes. 

While Chocolate Buttercream: If you’re looking for a bright white buttercream, one that’s smooth, creamy, and loaded with flavor, this is the post for you. You’re about to discover a little-known treat–white chocolate buttercream.

Cream Cheese Frosting: In this post I’m going to share my recipe for the greatest Classic Cream Cheese Frosting you’ll ever eat! It’s luscious, creamy, and melts on the tongue. Best of all, it’s really simple to make and only takes five ingredients.

Seven Minute Frosting: This special frosting is familiar to most because our grandmothers and great-grandmothers made it. Basically, it’s a meringue-based frosting, light a fluffy, that is perfect for just about any flavor of cake. 

Stabilized Whipped Cream: Looking for something quick and easy to whip up for a gathering? This Raspberry Whipped Cream Frosting (stabilized with instant pudding) is perfect! It’s great for a variety of cupcake flavors.

Homemade Fondant: If you want to make a beautiful fondant-covered cake but you’re turned off by store-bought fondant, this is the post for you! Making homemade marshmallow fondant is easy, affordable, and oh, so tasty!

Brown Butter Frosting: It’s nutty. It’s rich. It has a distinctive flavor that’s simply impossible to resist. In fact, it’s so swoon-worthy that most folks can’t wrap their heads around it. But once you’ve tried brown butter in your baking products, you’ll never go back. It’s that good.

Royal Icing;: If you want to pipe beautiful designs on your cake, you can use a delicious royal icing on top of a fondant covered cake. This recipe is also terrific for icing sugar cookies. 

Mousse: Delicious between the layers of your cake or use it on top of a poke cake.

Glaze: A loose, spreadable glaze is fun for bundt cakes and other fun cakes, too!

Turn that Yellow Cake into Something Completely Different! 

Carrot Cake: Add a cup of shredded carrots, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and orange juice in place of water. Voila! Carrot cake! 

Italian Cream Cake: I’ve got the full recipe on my blog already but you can turn a box of yellow cake mix into an Italian cream cake by adding instant pudding, chopped pecans, and coconut. Frost with cream cheese frosting. 

Coconut Cake: Add coconut milk, cream of coconut, and shredded coconut, then frost with my delicious coconut frosting. Who knew a box of cake mix could taste so delicious!

Hummingbird: Add banana, pineapple, and pecans to make this delicious southern favorite. It starts with a simple box of cake mix!

Brown Butter Walnut Cake: Turn your box of cake mix into a rich brown butter walnut cake by adding browned butter, chopped (toasted) walnuts, and adding a delicious glaze. This rich yellow cake, loaded with delicious ingredients will make you swoon. 

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake: This classic favorite begins with a box of yellow cake mix and I’d so easy to make. It’s so easy to turn a yellow cake mix into this easy Pineapple Upside Down Cake! One can of sliced pineapple rings, 1 cup of brown sugar, some maraschino cherries, and the usual ingredients for a boxed cake mix. . .and you’re good to go. Talk about an easy dessert!

Easy Pineapple Coconut Cake with Lime: If you’re in the mood for a summery cake filled with tropical flavors, you’ve come to the right place. This delicious Pineapple Coconut Cake with Lime will make you feel like you’re on a Caribbean beach, ocean waves crashing in the background.

Easy Banana Berry Cake: This Easy Banana Berry Cake is light, fluffy, and filled with the creaminess of bananas and tartness of raspberries. The addition of the luscious cream cheese drip sends it over the edge, to a whole new place! Best of all, this recipe starts with a boxed cake mix!

Mandarin Orange Cake: If you love the bright, fresh flavors of mandarin oranges and the light, fluffy texture of a yellow cake, then I’ve got the recipe for you. This traditional Mandarin Orange cake will give you flashbacks to the good old days. . .in all the best ways! 

Caramel Butterscotch: In this post I’m going to teach you how to make a delicious caramel butterscotch pound cake. This is a simple recipe, but it’s an unforgettable one, filled with flavor and texture.

Dump Cake: Is it a gooey cobbler, a pie, or a dump cake? Call it what you like, friends, but this Apple Snickerdoodle dessert is easy to make, loaded with cinnamon-apple flavor, and perfect for your next gathering. 

Using a Doctored Cake Mix Isn’t Cheating!

I can’t emphasize this enough. You can use a cake mix, add some delicious ingredients, and come out with a cake that’s every bit as delicious as homemade. . .without the added time and effort.

With that in mind, I encourage you to use your imagination as you turn a simple box of yellow cake mix into a masterpiece!

And by the way, it doesn’t really matter what flavor you choose–yellow cake mix, white cake mix, chocolate cake mix, or even something different, like a carrot cake mix–you can make it taste homemade with a few tasty additions.

That’s it for this post, friends! I hope you have fun with this idea!

If you make this recipe and love it, don’t forget to leave a review and a comment below. And while you’re at it, go ahead and pin some photos to your Pinterest boards!

See this recipe at 

Full Plate Thursday 

Weekend Potluck

The Lazy Gastronome

Busy Monday 

About the Author

Janice Thompson is an author, baker, and all-around mischief maker! She has overcome a host of baking catastrophes, including a toppled wedding cake, to learn more about the baking process. Janice has published over 165 books for the Christian market but particularly enjoys writing recipes and baking devotions. To learn more about Janice or to drop her a note, visit her About the Author page.

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