Boxed Cake Mix Deserves So Much Better Than Vegetable Oil

Though some bakers might swear by always making cakes from scratch, for the average home cook it's sometimes more convenient to simply reach for a boxed cake mix. Plus, an unopened box can last in your pantry for anywhere from 12 to 18 months, so it's easy to have one on hand for cake emergencies or to make amazing recipes

However, even boxed cake mixes can be tweaked. While the directions (like bake times) can be useful, don't feel beholden to follow all the ingredients listed on the box. Take vegetable oil for instance. Doesn't your cake deserve something more flavorful or healthy? While a neutral-tasting oil will help keep the cake moist, it won't really do anything for the flavor. In order to amp up the flavor of your cake, consider swapping the vegetable oil with an equal quantity of melted butter for a richer, more decadent flavor and a slightly different texture. 

You could also consider matching your oil to the overall flavors you're looking to develop in your cake. Coconut oil pairs well​​ with everything from tropical, fruity flavors to vanilla, while olive oil adds a particular nutty flavor profile, and often works very well in citrus cakes.

Other ways to level up your boxed cake mix

Replacing the required vegetable oil with melted butter or an alternative kind of oil is a relatively simple swap — typically you're using a 1:1 ratio, since you're just incorporating one type of fat in place of another. However, if you're trying to craft a slightly more health-conscious cake, you could also replace the oil with something like applesauce or mashed banana. It's worth noting that those substitutions often require different ratios, and they do obviously add their own particular flavor, so you'll need to be a bit more thoughtful about certain swaps.

Oil isn't the only liquid component you can tweak in order to elevate your final product and make it taste homemade. You might want to consider replacing the water the recipe calls for with a more flavorful liquid — everything from milk to coffee or even soda can add extra flavor while still keeping the cake moist. While certainly not necessary, a splash or two of vanilla extract (or some other kind) will also help infuse a unique additional flavor note to a standard mix.

Finally, another standard trick to level up your boxed cake mix is to increase the number of eggs. Whatever the particular recipe on the package calls for, increase it by one or two eggs in order to craft a cake with a moist, soft crumb.