A velvet-rich cake that sticks to your fork. A bakery-style cookie with golden-brown edges, stuffed with gooey chocolate chips and chunks. What could be better than that?
Nothing, except this: getting to put your own spin on those incredible creations, without sacrificing convenience.
We get it: nobody has time between soccer runs to become a super-creative pastry chef. The good news is that you don't have to. With just a little know-how, you can turn baking mixes into totally unique creations.
That's why we brought together all the baking mix tips, tricks, and hacks out there into one master list. This article has everything you need to know to combine convenience and creativity. Keep reading — we promise it will be a piece of cake!
Add Some Richness
The simple rule of thumb when baking: the more fat you add, the better it tastes.
But flavor isn't all that fat can do for your baking. It also imparts that rich, smooth texture that makes you say "Mmmmm" when you take a bite. It's also how you can give your cake that irresistible, stick-to-your fork moistness that can only come from bakeries (and home bakers with these tricks up their sleeve).
Adding extra fat is the most effective way to elevate your cakes. There are tons of creative ways to sneak a little extra fat into your baking mixes. Here are some of our standbys:
Another Egg (or Yolk)
Most standard cake baking mixes call for 1-3 eggs. Add another egg to boost the moisture and flavor of your bakes.
If you really want to take it to the next level, try adding 2 extra egg yolks to your baking mix instead. The yolks have the most richness, so they give an extra-creamy flavor and texture. Extra egg yolks go well with chocolate chip cookies, giving them that unmistakable straight-from-Grandma's-kitchen appeal.
Full-Fat Sour Cream
Ready for a super-moist bake with a buttermilk-ey tang? Sour cream is your new secret ingredient. Professional bakers swear by this tip, so don't wait to give it a try.
Sour cream goes well in cakes as well as classic scones. You'll get a dense texture that doesn't dry out (not that you'll have any leftovers).
Mix in one cup of sour cream per box of baking mix. Then, devour the moist goodness. Repeat as needed.
Greek yogurt is a great baking alternative when you want all the benefits of sour cream with just a little less fat and added calories.
You can use nonfat, partial-fat, or full-fat Greek yogurt. Remember, the more fat content, the richer the final product.
However, with Greek yogurt, you decide how much richness and how many calories you'll end up with. It's a great way to elevate your bakes while personalizing them to your preference.
Don't run away from this one! It may sound unorthodox, but adding mayonnaise to your boxed cake mixes can take them right over the edge.
After all, mayonnaise comprises mostly eggs, egg yolk, and oil — all fat-rich ingredients that give you extra moisture. The tangy spices and vinegar actually doesn't hurt your cake. They just add a little note of acid that plays off of all that richness.
To avoid overpowering other flavors, start by adding one-quarter or one-half of a cup of mayo to your baking mix.
This is one of those tips that you have to try to believe. Dump a packet of dry pudding mix right into your dry baking mix. Then prepare as normal and enjoy the oh-so-moist results.
This is a simple way to amp up the moisture of your baked goods when your pantry is empty of baking staples. It doesn't really give it that homemade flavor, but when this pudding-ey melt-ey cake magic dissolves in your mouth, we guarantee you won't mind.
Adding pudding packets also gives you a chance to play around with flavor. Sure, you can add chocolate pudding to a chocolate cake or vanilla to a vanilla cake, but that seems kind of ... vanilla. Take inspiration from other pudding flavors, like:
What happens when you add strawberry Jello to a rich chocolate brownie? We aren't sure, but we're dying to find out. (And garnish the result with gorgeous chocolate-covered strawberries.)
Increase the Dairy
By the same principle, the more dairy you add to a baked good, the smoother and richer it will be.
- Replacing the vegetable oil the recipe calls for with melted butter
- Replacing the water with milk
- using full-fat milk instead of partly skimmed
These easy swaps add a boost of flavor with exactly zero extra trouble.
Add Some Citrus
A twist of citrus works well for a light summertime cake or batch of muffins. Sneak in some citrus by:
- Replacing some of the liquid that your mix calls for with orange, grapefruit, or lemon juice
- Adding a few teaspoons of lemon zest or orange zest
- Using lemon-lime or orange soda in place of water
When it's time to garnish your citrus bake, thinly peeled or candied citrus peel makes a gorgeous, fresh garnish. Add some blueberries, sliced strawberries, or powdered sugar to keep the decoration simple and summery.
Add Extra Extracts (and Flavor)
Add a little extra flavoring to your cake by tossing in a few teaspoons of extracts. Vanilla essence is the perfect way to boost any bake with a vanilla base flavor. Almond extract fits in pretty much any vanilla baked good too.
For chocolate bakes, add one-half teaspoon of espresso powder per boxed mix. Or, replace some of the liquid with strong brewed coffee. The coffee enhances the richness of the chocolate, and you'll barely notice any coffee flavor.
You can also add one-quarter of a cup of dutch-processed cocoa to your chocolate baking mixes. Dutch-processed cocoa is the darkest type of cocoa, and it adds an extra kick of dark chocolate goodness to your finished product.
Don't forget that salt is a universal flavor enhancer. Boxed baking mixes come with some salt already, but an extra teaspoon of kosher salt enhances your cake's flavors even more. (You won't even taste the extra salt.)
Get a Little Boozy
There is science behind why alcohol tastes so good in baked goods. It turns out that because alcohol molecules are so volatile (meaning, they evaporate quickly), they evaporate in your mouth as you eat. This carries the flavors of the baked good into your nasopharyngeal space, so your sense of smell can absorb the flavors too.
Even if you don't know why it works, one thing is for sure: it does. No adult cake should be without a splash (or more) of booze. Here are our favorite ways to incorporate it.
Add Red Wine to Chocolate Cakes and Brownies
Chocolate and red wine pair well together because they both contain tannins, a molecule that gives food just the right amount of bitterness.
When you add red wine to chocolate cake baking mixes, you hardly taste the alcohol in the end result. Instead, you get a smooth, just-bitter-enough cake that falls off your fork. You won't be overwhelmed by red wine flavor, but you'll get a cake that is reminiscent of red velvet, and definitely for grown-ups only.
Plus, foods with tannins also contain antioxidants. When you add red wine to your brownie, science basically says you've created a health food. Right?
Add Rum or Bourbon
Toasty notes of caramel, spice, vanilla, and toffee will warm up any cake. Rum and bourbon pair especially well with flavors like banana, cinnamon, and spice.
Right now, we're dreaming of a bourbon-spiked stack of waffles with a cinnamon sugar swirl. You could also soak dried fruit in rum for a classic Christmas cake. Of course, rum and bourbon always team up well with chocolate too.
Sneak in Some Champagne
Champagne's delicate flavors will get lost in a rich cake. We recommend sneaking it into a light sugar cookie mix. Serving your spring-inspired champagne cookies with wild strawberries is a must.
Make Stout Your Secret Ingredient
Like wine, beer contains tannins. That means it pairs well with chocolate.
Beer adds a subtle, earthy, roasty flavor to a chocolate baked good. We recommend using a stout beer, since its bold flavors will come through the best. Whether you use a local craft beer or a classic Guinness, this tip is begging to be used at your next St. Patty's Day celebration.
How Much Alcohol Should You Add to a Cake?
Alcohol is a great way to personalize your baking mixes, but be warned. The chemical properties of alcohol will impact your cake's structure.
The higher the alcohol percentage of the booze you include, the weaker your cake's structure will be. Boozy usually makes cakes too soft to stack, so use it in brownies, cupcakes, or single-layer cakes.
To avoid getting your baked good too soft, add the right amount of each type of alcohol. Per one box of mix, add:
- Liquor: Up to 12 tablespoons (three-fourths of a cup)
- Wine: Up to 16 tablespoons (one cup)
- Beer: Up to 20 tablespoons (one and one-quarter of a cup)
When making a boxed mix with alcohol, look at the total amount of liquid recommended on the box instructions. Add the amount of alcohol recommended in the chart above. Then, make up the difference in the amount of liquid with water or milk.
Mix It up With Mix-Ins
Mix-ins are where your creativity can really shine. There's no limit to what you can add to your boxed cookie and brownie mixes.
You can go quaint and classic with these Chocolate Chip Easter Cookies, or throw in everything in your pantry for the ultimate monster brownie. Let your inner pastry chef decide.
- Chocolate chips
- Chopped white, milk, or dark chocolate
- Chopped chocolate candy bars: Crunch bars, Reese's, After Eights, and anything else you can think of
- M&Ms, Smarties, and even Skittles
- Crushed potato chips for the ultimate the sweet-and-salty factor
- Broken pretzels for an irresistible crunch
- Oats, raisins, and dried cranberries for when you're in a healthy mood (or want to give your cinnamon cookies an extra chew
Tip: have a mix-in bar available when making cookies with kids. They'll love throwing in their favorite candy. Personalizing cookies makes a great activity for a teen night in, too.
Vegan Ways to Personalize Baking Mixes
We haven't forgotten about our vegan baker friends. When you find a great vegan baking mix, the last thing you want to do is spoil it by adding eggs and dairy. Fear not: there's room in the creative baking world for you too.
Instead of adding dairy for extra richness, swap the water for almond milk. Even better, use full-fat coconut milk. The richness of coconut milk adds tons of moisture to your muffins, cakes, and brownies, plus a delightful hint of coconut.
If you have it on hand, you can always swap vegetable oil for melted vegan butter.
Bring out those nut flavors by adding toasted chopped almonds or shredded coconut. Raw nuts add a nice texture to baked goods, but when you toast them before adding, they bring a mouthwatering complexity of flavor too.
Try adding a nut butter swirl. Use a nut butter like almond butter, peanut butter, or even tahini to swirl through your loaf, muffins, or brownies.
Go healthy by adding shredded apple or carrot to your mix, or indulge by throwing in your favorite dark or vegan chocolate chips.
Not Your Grandma's Baking Mixes
If you thought baking mixes were boring, think again. Now, you can put your signature twist on everything you make. With these tips, you can make your bakes classic or campy, kid-favorite or adult-only — all with the convenience of baking from a box.
Amazing baked goods start with the best mixes. From Belgian waffles to cake flour, Lehi Mills has what you need. They've been providing small-batch baked goods from their family-run mill since 1906.
Ready to get creative? Source from them today to start baking the easy way!