We Asked 3 Chefs to Name the Best Boxed Cake Mix and They All Said the Same One

published May 28, 2024
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slice is missing from circular birthday cake with chocolate frosting on a baking stand
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

I started my cooking career on the pastry side of the kitchen, whipping up profiteroles, tarts, and plated desserts for a small, New American restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia. The experience taught me the values of focus, precision, and attention to detail, but it also opened my eyes to something surprising: Sometimes, shortcuts are OK. Just because something is harder, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily better, and occasionally, pushing the Easy Button is the right move.

Consider boxed cake mix. You might think it’s a non-starter among pastry chefs, but in reality, the convenience and nostalgia of boxed cake mix holds a very sweet spot in the hearts of some chefs. I asked three of them to tell me their favorite boxed mix on the market, and they all said the same thing: Betty Crocker’s Super Moist Yellow Cake Mix.

Credit: Mara Weinraub

The Best Boxed Cake Mix to Buy, According to Chefs

Jessie Sheehan, recipe developer, baker, and bestselling cookbook author of Snackable Bakes: 100 Easy-Peasy Recipes for Exceptionally Scrumptious Sweets and Treats, says, “The yellow color, moist cake, fluffy, soft crumb, and perfect vanilla, but not eggy flavor, give me all the nostalgic feels and embody all that I want from a perfect yellow cake.” 

Sheehan takes a cue from Betty Crocker for her own cake recipes: “I am always trying to replicate the texture and flavor (and ease of use!!) of a boxed cake when I develop recipes for ‘from-scratch’ cakes.” To achieve this, Sheehan says she always includes oil in her recipes, sometimes on its own and sometimes with butter for extra flavor. “The oil in a boxed cake provides so much moisture, and I am very against dry cake.”

For Tyler Malek, co-founder and head ice cream maker of Salt & Straw in Portland, Oregon, Betty Crocker’s Yellow Cake Mix is a great jumping-off point that’s perfect for home baking. Malek insists on baking everything at Salt & Straw from scratch, but for baking at home with his daughters, it’s Betty Crocker all the way. “A good buttercream frosting is the star of the show,” Malek explains. “I like to buy time with the mix so I have more time to focus on homemade frosting.” Malek says he also appreciates that Betty Crocker’s super-moist cake mix stays moist long enough to enjoy for a few days after it’s been baked.

Buy: Betty Crocker’s Super Moist Yellow Cake Mix, $1.99 for 15.25 ounces at Kroger

Baker and founder of Broma Bakery, Sarah Fennel, appreciates the mix’s flavor and texture, noting, “I find the Betty Crocker mix to strike the balance between that classic vanilla cake flavor while not being cloyingly sweet. It also has a great bouncy texture that doesn’t crumble as easily as some other mixes.” 

For Fennel, the mix provides an easy alternative to homemade cake and works well as a base for other flavors. She suggests adding two tablespoons of poppyseeds and one or two teaspoons of lemon extract to make a bright and sunny lemon poppyseed variation, and, she says, the mix works great for Cake Mix Cookies. But, like Malek, Fennel says boxed frosting is not an option in her house. Her advice: “Pair that boxed cake with a homemade frosting for a cake that instantly tastes homemade.”

Upgrade Your Boxed Cake Mix with These Homemade Frostings

Do you agree with these chefs? Let us know in the comments below.