The Secret Ingredient I Always Add To Boxed Cake Mix

Our food editor shares the easiest way to make a cake mix taste better.

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
Photo: Alison Miksch; Prop styling: Mary Clayton Carl; Food styling: Mary-Claire Britton

It's always a good idea to have a box of your favorite cake mix in the back of your pantry—especially for cake emergencies. You know, those times when you when no one told you that the school bake sale is tomorrow, or friends are coming over for dinner tonight and you forgot to ask them to bring dessert, or it's a rainy day and you need a project to occupy the kids before they drive you crazy, or you just really, really need a slice of cake RIGHT NOW.

Boxed cake mixes have come a long way since our grandmothers and mothers made them, but they can always use a little extra help in the flavor department. While there are a handful of ways to make a cake mix taste even better, the simplest way is to change up the fat. Which is why I always substitute an equal amount of melted butter for vegetable oil, which is typically called for on the cake mix box. Melted butter serves the same purpose as oil, while also adding richness and depth to the cake. Unsalted butter is the best choice, unless you have a salt tooth, like me, and prefer desserts with a little extra salt to balance out the sweetness. In that case, you can use salted butter.

Whether you are melting the butter in the microwave (my preferred method because it's faster) or on the stovetop, make sure to let it cool to room temperature before adding it to the cake mix batter, along with the eggs and water.

If you're not already substituting butter for oil when you're making a boxed cake mix, try it and you'll be surprised by the delicious results.

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