The One Ingredient That Will Make Your Boxed Cake Mix Way Better

Boxed cake mixes are pretty inexpensive and can be reasonably delicious, but they can lack that "homemade" feel and taste when you finally dig in. But Real Simple discovered that adding a simple secret ingredient can change up your boxed cake game so well that you'll never consider using something else.

The would-be bakers discovered, after purchasing a box of cake mix, that there was no vegetable oil to be found in the house. Oh no! Don't you just hate it when that happens? Instead of heading back to the store to buy some, they decided to sub it out with something that they already had on hand. (If necessity is the mother of invention, laziness has got to be its deadbeat dad.) What they chose to substitute for the vegetable oil was coconut oil, although this did require one extra step. As coconut oil is solid at room temperature, it needed to be warmed up first to be able to measure and mix in. Once it was melted, they used it as a one-on-one replacement for the veg oil and baked the cake as usual.

How this secret ingredient makes a huge difference in boxed cake mix

When the cake was finished baking, the home bakers were pleased to find that not only did the coconut oil work well as a substitute for vegetable oil, but it made the cake way better. It was extra light, very fluffy, and super moist, and more like a homemade, from-scratch cake. It didn't taste like coconut at all, either, which was a huge bonus.

The reason this secret ingredient didn't leave behind a coconutty taste was thanks to the refined coconut oil that was used. You can also substitute unrefined or virgin coconut oil in your cake mix, but that will lend some coconut flavor. If you're cool with that, then by all means go unrefined, but if you're hoping to just add the goodness without the extra flavor, then stock up on refined coconut oil.

Coconut oil is also shelf stable and can last in a cool, dry place (such as inside a cupboard) for around two years, which means there's a good chance you'll have it on hand when you need it. Just make sure that you pay attention to the "best by" date and toss it if it turns yellow or chunky (via Extra Crispy). Also toss it if there are any signs of mold. Then, next time you're in a pinch and find yourself without any vegetable oil come cake-baking time, you can try coconut oil instead. If you don't have any of that, though, here are a few more ingredient substitutions you could try.

Butter also makes your boxed cake better

As Paula Deen the butter queen would probably say, butter makes everything better, and boxed cake mix is no exception. Lately, there's been a new viral TikTok baking hack (are there any other kind?) making the rounds where a home baker makes a number of changes to her boxed cake mix that she promises will make your cake come out tasting so much richer and moister than it would have done had you simply followed the directions given on the package. What you do is you swap the water for milk, swap whole eggs for egg whites (she used a boxed white cake mix that called for 5 egg whites but used three whole eggs instead, which you'd think would make it a tad less white, but whatever), and omit the vegetable oil in favor of using double that amount of melted butter.

While it's not the easiest hack in the world, involving multiple substitutions, she claims the results are worth it. It seems the commenters on the TikTok video, at least the ones who actually tried this hack, agree. One deemed it, "By far THE best cake I've EVER made," while another said, "Better than anything I've ever made! Insane."

Believe it or not, ice cream works for boxed cake mix, too

So you're all out of a boring ingredient like oil, but you've still got plenty of ice cream? That makes perfect sense to us. What makes ice cream so creamy is its high fat content, and that means that you can actually use it as a baking ingredient to replace another type of fat. If you're making a boxed cake mix, you will probably need about two cups (one pint) of melted ice cream to make this hack work — a premium (high fat) brand will work best, but even the cheap stuff should work fine. A low-fat product like Halo Top might not work so well, though, nor should you try this with gelato or sorbet.

Anyway, take your melted ice cream and your dry cake mix and stir them together, then add in the eggs. Skip the water called for as well as the oil, however, since the melted ice cream will supply the needed moisture. How's that for an easy hack?