TIP: Get Better Cakes from a Mix + Boston Cream Pie Recipe

May 13, 2012 89 Comments

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Cake Mix Trick:

This will improve your cake mix. I found this trick in the comments of a post on Tidy Mom, from a pastry chef named Shelly. (Thanks!)  Look at the directions on the cake mix box…

  • add one more egg (or add two additional if you want it to be really rich)
  • double the oil amount, but use melted butter instead of oil
  • use milk instead of water

Now on to this amazing recipe!

This is a simple and easy recipe, plus it looks and tastes good. One of my little guys requested a birthday cake with chocolate & vanilla and ThomasJames. So, I thought this would fit the bill perfectly and keep things easy & cheap for me. And it did!

Boston Cream Pie

from Taste of Home: Busy Family Cookbook

  • 1 pkg yellow cake mix (18 1/4 oz)
  • 1 1/2 c cold milk
  • 1 pkg instant vanilla pudding mix (3.4 oz)
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 c confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 -3 Tbsp hot water

Preheat oven to 350.

  • Prepare cake batter according to package directions (see how I altered the directions below). Divide between two greased and floured 9-in round baking pans.
  • Bake at 350 for 28-33 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool for 10 minutes before removing cake from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  • In a bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft-set. Cover and refrigerate. In a microwave or heavy saucepan, melt chocolate and butter; stir until smooth. Stir in confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and enough water to achieve a thick glaze; set aside.

To assemble, place one cake layer on a serving plate; spread with pudding. Top with the second cake layer. Spoon chocolate glaze over the top, allowing it to drip down the sides of cake. Refrigerate until serving.

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Comments

  1. Dionne Smith says:

    I plan to bake a Betty Crocker pound cake mix in the next hour. Will these additions be okay for that particular mix?

    • Pound cake is probably pretty different. I’m not sure if this tip would apply or not. If it is important that it turns out, I wouldn’t risk it. Let me know if you try it!

      • Dionne Smith says:

        I didn’t get your post until just now. I went ahead and baked it with the changes above. It didn’t come out too badly. It’s fine but is a bit dry. Luckily I have another box and I will use just the ingredients it calls for. Unfortunately, it’s a gift so I can’t sample it to taste the difference between the two. At least I now the box directions are tried and proven. Thanks for your response! Without it, I would have given a kinda dry cake….

  2. Linda Brown says:

    Do you have to change the baking time at all if you use milk and butter vs. oil and water?

    • Melanie says:

      I did not have to adjust baking time. So, it should stay pretty close on the time. Be sure to check it toward the end anyway though. :)

  3. Stephanie says:

    I’m using white cake mix and it calls for 3 egg whites. What do you think I should do? Use four egg whites? Use four whole eggs? Or just do as it calls for?

    • I’m no expert at cooking with egg whites, so I would probably just follow the instructions as they are on that one if you want to be safe. Let us know if you try any adjustments though!

    • I always use whole eggs when I am baking a white cake mix ever since I read The Cake Doctor cookbook by Anne Byrn.

  4. FYI: The modification to the yellow cake mix works very well in high altitude. I find it’s not as sweet, so it is good to pair it with a sweet frosting.

  5. When I make chocolate cake mixes, I use coffee instead of water, and add almond extract. There–I just revealed my “secret ingredient”! :)

  6. Do these tips work with brownies?

    • Most brownie mixes already have an adjustment on the box for a more cake-like brownie, which changes the egg amount. Let me know if you try it out though!

  7. I made these twice and they tasted great however I don’t think they tasted much different if I just follow the regular instructions.

  8. What kind of milk do we use? Does it have to be dried milk? All I have is full milk. Any help?

  9. I made these as cup cakes the other day. They tasted wonderful but I am curious if anyone else has a problem that they sink in just a bit at the top. Whenever I add butter to boxed cake mix that happens to my cup cakes. I was thinking of adding oil next time.

  10. Isabel Martinez says:

    Hello, can the liquid can be substitute with orange juice, pineapple juice and also add some fresh/frozen berries. Please, help?

    • I have not tried to use juice instead of water or milk before. Let us know how it turns out if you give it a shot.
      Something to keep in mind though, a juice would add more sugar and some juices would add an acidic component. This could definitely change the way the cake turns out.

  11. I just tried doing this using betty crocker french vanilla to make cupcakes and they did all fall. The box called for 3 eggs and I added 4 so i don’t know if i shouldn’t have added an extra egg or if i should’ve baked it longer. I also wanted to know if you should use unsalted or salted butter.

    • I usually only keep unsalted butter around, so that’s what I use. But I think a lot of bakers use salted butter.

  12. My mom made Boston Creme Pie when I was growing up by using a Jiffy cake mix! Those mixes only make one layer. She would slice the layer in half (horizontally), add the pudding, and same way, she would use cocoa, sugar and milk for the topping. Her topping was more “dark chocolate” and less sweet than yours looks, but I bet they both taste fantastic!

  13. The mix i’m using already calls for 3 eggs, so i should use 4?

    • Not sure about that. But I think I would give adding an extra egg a shot, as long as it is not a big deal if the results are not ideal. Let us know if it works out well!

  14. I hear peolpe saying to add pudding in the mix ,but do you make the pudding first ? Or just add the pudding right out the package ? I’m curious…… Thank you

  15. My daughter and I made this today. We added the extra egg, used butter instead of oil and used milk! I was great!!

  16. Has anyone tried it w/ the Gluten free mixes? Would love to make them taste a little better for my wheat free 6 yr old.

    • Tried it & seems to have worked! Will taste later, but the batter was much more like “real” batter. I think it will be a big success!! Thanks for the tip.

      • Tasted almost exactly like real bakery cake. Not sure anyone would guess they were GF!!!! Thanks for the tips.
        If anyone else is wondering I added to Betty Crocker GF mix. Used 1 & 1/2 sticks butter, 4 eggs & fat free half & Half

        SO good.

  17. Thanks so much for the tips – just made cupcakes from a box of Betty Crocker’s Butter Pecan cake mix and WOW – it is excellent with the additions/substitutions!

  18. Does adding the extra eggs and doubling the oil/using butter instead work for only vanilla and chocolate or could it also work for a lemon cake?

  19. I have been using extra eggs and replacing water with milk for over 20 years. My grandmother told me that our well water had too much iron and would dry my cakes out. She said milk makes a cake much moister. She also said she would never use margarine instead of butter because butter makes a cake richer and moister. I too, add vanilla to most of my cake mixes for that little extra added flavor.

  20. If the recipe calls for butter and not oil, do you double the amount of butter? Thank you.

    • I think I would give doubling the butter a shot. But it sounds like a different mix from what I’ve worked with, so I’m not sure how it will turn out.

      • Thanks for replying! I have a French Vanilla cake in the oven right now…using your “adjustments”. Hope it turns out!

        • Mine called for butter as well, instead of oil. I used the milk and extra egg, but forgot to double the butter. My cake came out pretty sponge-cake like. (used a Duncan Hines Butter Golden mix)
          Little bit nervous about how it will taste.

  21. Savannah says:

    On the box it says to add butter… it doesnt say anything about oil… Should I still double the amount of butter? or should I not add anymore butter than the box says?

    • I think I would give doubling the butter a shot, if you are willing to take the risk. It does sound like a different cake mix from the ones that I have adjusted though, so I’m not sure how it will turn out.

  22. do you know what this takes the calorie count to with the extra ingredients?

  23. What if it doesn’t say to add any water to the mix? How much do you add then?

  24. does this work with cupcakes?

  25. Jessica says:

    Do you think this would work for brownie mixes in a box?

    • Melanie says:

      Haven’t tried it. Most brownie mixes already have an adjustment on the box for a more cake-like brownie, which changes the egg amount. Let me know if you try it out.

  26. Another trick when I bake my cakes is to bake them at 325 degrees instead of 350.

  27. do you add real butter or would margarine work as well? I have asked several people and haven’t really gotten a straight answer. Will it taste different with real butter? Or the same with margarine? Thanks I love boston cream pie just haven’t found a good recipe will definetly try this one. D

    • Margarine will alter the taste a bit, and it won’t melt in the same way butter will (margarine will separate out into an oil/water combo). I never use margarine (in baking or for anything else) because I prefer to use whole ingredients and, as a regular from-scratch baker, I don’t like the way margarine performs in things like cakes, muffins and quick breads. That being said, it shouldn’t change things too much – and if it’s all you have it will probably work.

      • Edited to add that you will get a cleaner, richer taste from butter. Margarine won’t give you that real butter flavor.

        • HELLO, IF You Google Margarine VS Butter & READ the Info It willShow the differences. We switched to butter about 10 yrs ago for everything. No marg here. Hubby Liked Butter Sooo Much & asked Why we hadnt been eating it All The Time b4. :) We all used marg growing up in cakes, and other baked goods. It cant be ALL Bad ,,and its Much cheaper too! We didnt call it margarine then it was Oleo or butter LOL

  28. If I add the extra eggs and such, does that change the required bake time or oven temp? Thanks!

  29. I tried this and it was a total flop. When I took it out of the oven it went flat and was very dense. Maybe I needed to leave it in longer?

    • Melanie says:

      Hmm. I don’t know what to tell you. My cakes turned out just fine and basically cooked the same way as it would normally. The additions do make the cake more dense though.

    • If you try to do this again, beat the egg whites separate from the yolks. So when adding the eggs, separate the yolk into one bowl, and the whites into another. Beat the whites until *soft* peaks form. Then pour the yolks into the dry mixture and mix well. Then gently fold in the egg whites and gently mix to combine. That may help.

    • Same here. I’m pretty bummed that it fell. Any suggestions?!

    • I just made this, and agree…..what a loss of otherwise great ingredients.

  30. I always add vanilla to a cake mix. I love knowing about the other ingredients. I add a cup of rinsed, chopped sauerkraut to my chocolate cake mixes. It is undetectable, but makes it more dense. After having hotdogs with sauerkraut it’s a great excuse to “have” to use the rest of the sauerkraut in the can!

  31. a cap full of almond extract makes it taste homemade, too ;)

  32. Or just add a 1/4 cup applesauce to the mix, nutrition plus no added fat

  33. If you are making a chocolate cake add a box of chocolate pudding mix and if you are making a vanilla cake add a box of vanilla pudding mix. The cake will be richer.

    • Do you make the pudding first or just add the dry mix only ?

      • Just the dry pudding mix. I add white chocolate cheesecake pudding mix to my white cakes and a chocolate fudge pudding mix to chocolate cakes. I also add a small thing (the individual little cups) of yogurt to every cake. Sometimes when I feel creative I add flavored yogurt to the flavor of cake (strawberry for strawberry cakes, lemon yogurt to my lemon blueberry cakes, even boston cream pie for chocolate cakes ect.). Makes them very moist

    • Always use instant pudding when adding it to a cake mix. NEVER use a cooked pudding mix.

  34. I wonder if I wanted a LESS rich cake, I’d add fewer eggs? Just like on Brownies, if you want a fudgier brownie, you add 3 eggs, vs. 2. I like them higher and lighter, so I add the 2. My husband likes the opposite, so I make some with using 3 for him. I am looking for a LIGHTER and HIGHER cake.

  35. Michaelann says:

    I discovered a similar “secret” when I was making a cake many years ago & forgot the landlord had warned me the water would be off all day. I only like chocolate cake, so I have no idea how it works for other flavours, but milk makes it delciously rich & sneaks in a little added nutrition, which is always cool. I started adding an extra egg about 10 years ago, when I started noticing that some boxed mixes say 2, others 3. I’ve never tried altering the amount of oil.

  36. Thanks for sharing! I am a horrible baker and this turned out great :) My 9 year old son loved it for his birthday cake- very moist and not too sweet. Fab!!!!

  37. Sheila Hurd says:

    Thank you for the tip on using a cake mix. The cake turned out so much richer. I have a tip for you and that is to mix up a German Chocolate cake mix and add 1 can of pecan cocanut frosting to the mix before you cook it and after it is cooked add the second can of pecan cocanut frosting on top. This makes a very moist cake.

  38. Christy says:

    I saw a very similar trick with cake mix on Paula Deen. She said she adds an extra egg, uses milk instead of water, but she uses both oil and butter and adds a little vanilla.

  39. sarah C says:

    so wait did I understand this correctly..you double the amount of oil but don’t add oil at all but instead add butter in it’s place?

    • Melanie says:

      Correct. Double the amount of oil called for, but sub melted butter for all of the oil amount.

  40. do you prefer the added egg, the extrra oil or the milk?
    Or all 3?

    • Melanie says:

      I do all three, for sure. But I know that some prefer to only do the change to the oil and the eggs. Then keep the water as it is.

  41. Your cake looks great, Mel. Bet your little boys just loved it. I have fond memories of all the good desserts you’ve shared with my fam. I feel lucky to be able to catch glimpses of your culinary masterpieces!

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