Better than from a Box

Dear Reader,

Do your homemade cakes come straight from the box? If so, that’s perfectly fine! Who doesn’t love a good Pillsbury cake mix (Funfetti anyone??)? If you’d like to step up your baking game, but don’t have the time to bake a cake from scratch, do read on….

The best cakes are moooooooist cakes (should I have added a “trigger warning” for the word moist?). Finding the right combination of ingredients to achieve peak moist-ness can be a challenge. If you have too much flour, the cake will be dry; too much milk the cake will be wet, too little baking powder and the cake won’t rise, etc..  Baking is a science after all (more here). If you are looking for a moist, well-balanced cake every single time, you need only add one simple ingredient — instant pudding mix. Yes, you read that right — INSTANT PUDDING MIX.

The pudding mix accomplishes a few important goals:

  1. It enhances the flavor
  2. It gives the cake some density and structure
  3. It makes it absolutely, mouthwateringly moist

The below recipe can be adapted to suit whichever cake mix flavor you wish to accomplish.

Lemon cake mix and vanilla pudding mix


Recipe makes two cakes (or 1 two-layer cake).

  • 1 15.25oz box of cake mix (I recommend Pillsbury brand)
  • 1 3.4oz box of instant pudding mix (I recommend Jell-o brand)
  •  4 eggs
  •  1 cup water
  •  1/2 cup oil

Optional: ICING

If baking a two-layer cake, consider adding frosting between the layers. Recipe suggestions here:

Optional: GLAZE 

For the top and sides of the cake:

  • 1.5 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1.5 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1.5 (or more) tablespoons of milk
  • A splash of vanilla (what is a splash? A teensy bit 😉 )


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Grease two pans (8” or 9”).
  2. Mix the cake mix, instant pudding mix, eggs, water, and oil in a large mixing bowl until all of the lumps are gone.  
  3. Pour the cake batter into the pans and set to bake for about 20 minutes. Cooking times WILL vary, so be sure to check on your creation.
  4. Remove from the heat when the middle is firm (use the toothpick test — stick a toothpick in the middle and if it comes out clean, it’s ready!)
  5. Cool the cake and slide a knife around the sides to loosen it.
  6. OPTIONAL ICING: Add icing between the layers (you can easily use Pillsbury frosting or use this buttercream frosting recipe that I have used in the past).
  7. OPTIONAL GLAZE: In a small bowl, mix the powdered sugar, ONE tablespoon of milk to start, and vanilla until smooth. Note: If the glaze is too thick, add more milk.

I have used this recipe so far with lemon cake mix and vanilla pudding mix as well as with a strawberry cake mix with a vanilla pudding mix. For a stronger primary flavor, try to match the pudding mix flavor with the cake mix flavor. In my case, the vanilla pudding mix made the lemon taste more subtle and still deliciously sweet.

Happy baking 🙂



*P.S. I also tried this combination with a muffin mix instead of a cake mix… word of warning, it did NOT go well….

Do NOT attempt: Orange Cranberry Muffin Mix with vanilla instant pudding

P.P.S. I’m also really bad at making icing….

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