5 Surprising Ways To Use Instant Pudding Mix

It's good for more than you think.

Instant pudding mix was always in my grandma's pantry, but I hardly ever saw her make pudding. That's because it was part of many semi-homemade tricks she employed in her baking.

A devotee of the Cake Doctor cookbooks, her beloved baking was equal parts scratch-cooking and clever store-bought tricks. While she wasn’t one to shy away from cake mix, I went off to pastry school, where a healthy disdain for boxed shortcuts is practically part of the curriculum. I have course corrected, and wholeheartedly embrace cake mixes now (Dolly’s mixes are some of my new favorites) and have since learned even more ways to use instant pudding mix in baking. 

bundt cake beside package of instant vanilla pudding

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Why Instant Pudding Mix Is Great for Baked Goods

Instant pudding mixes are a blend of sugar, cornstarch, and flavoring that improve the texture of baked goods. The sugar in the mix helps retain moisture, which is why it's a popular addition to cake batters.

The cornstarch in the mix helps with rise, for tall and fluffy confections. It’s worth noting, the cornstarch in pudding mixes is unlike the stuff in your pantry. Instant pudding mix contains modified cornstarch, which thickens mixtures without using heat. Heat is what activates regular cornstarch to thicken items like puddings, but also soups and sauces. Without heat, regular cornstarch in liquid just turns into a viscous sludge. Modified, the starch can harness its thickening powers without heat. 

instant pudding mix jell-o

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

5 Surprising Ways To Use Instant Pudding 

Here are a few unexpected ways to put the store-bought mix to use. 

1. Zhuzh up cake mix

Cake mix is already a miracle product, but for fluffier cakes, with a moist crumb, add instant pudding mix.

All you have to do is whisk the pudding mix into the dry cake mix and then add the liquid ingredients as instructed on the cake box. My grandma swore by this trick, and often suggested matching the pudding to the cake mix flavor i.e. chocolate cake mix with chocolate pudding mix. I think it can be fun to mix and match. Strawberry pudding mix in vanilla cake mix gives the sponge a subtle berry flavor and that flavor really comes out when paired with strawberry frosting. No matter what flavor you chose, instant pudding mix will help protect you from producing a dry cake.

Note: You can also enhance homemade cake batter with pudding mix, and no one will be wiser. Add it to the dry ingredients and proceed as directed. 

2. Whip up long-lasting whipped cream

If you’ve ever tried topping your gorgeous pie or trifle with freshly whipped cream before a party, only to watch it deflate before dessert is served, then this trick is for you. Pastry chefs often use gelatin or cornstarch to stabilize whipped cream, and while powdered sugar (which contains both sugar and cornstarch) both sweetens and helps whipped cream stay fluffy, the modified cornstarch in pudding mix works even better. A tablespoon or two of vanilla pudding mix both adds vanilla flavor and helps the whipped cream hold its shape. 

3. Make fast fudge 

Water, butter, chocolate, sugar, and instant chocolate pudding mix make a quick and easy fudge, no candy thermometer required. While chocolate pudding mix (often labeled fudge flavor) is the obvious choice, other flavors from pistachio to Oreo can all be turned into flavored fudges, too.

4. Bake the best chocolate cookies (according to some) 

Personally, I'm a thin and crispy chocolate chip cookie gal, who prizes lacy edges over soft, fluffy centers. But if you like super soft chocolate chips instead, the secret is vanilla pudding mix. Just as adding pudding mix to cake batters helps produce a soft, moist sponge, it acts much the same in cookie dough.

Add a box of vanilla pudding mix to bowl while whipping your eggs (after creaming the butter and sugar) and proceed with this cookie recipe as directed. Vanilla flavored pudding mix is the classic choice, but butterscotch pudding mix also works as well.

The cornstarch in the mix is what helps create an extra tender cookie and create the soft, chewy structure. 

5. Churn up the easiest ice cream

Ice cream is essentially frozen custard (OK, so there are multiple methods for making ice cream, but any made with an egg base are basically frozen custard). So, you can skip the hard work of cooking the custard on the stovetop before cooling it down and churning it, and cheat with an instant pudding mix.

Combine the pudding mix with milk, heavy cream, and powdered sugar before pouring it into your ice cream maker. No pre-chilling needed. Pudding mix comes in almost every flavor imaginable, so you can craft multiple ice cream flavors with ease.

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