Making Store Bought Cake Mixes and Frosting Taste Like it was Homemade

Rhonda is one of my bestest of best friends! And today is her birthday! Typically she is the one making cupcakes for everyone else’s birthday so I decided to make her some special cupcakes to go along with her birthday gift! Rhonda loves the zebra stripe pattern so when I saw THIS WEBSITE that showed how to make a zebra stripes pattern using the cake batter, I knew this is how I was going to make her cupcakes! It was a labor of love but they really turned out fantastic!


I am not one to recreate the wheel. This is evident in most of my recipes. I use what is already available and either tailor it to our family’s tastes or enhance the recipe. Store bought cake mixes and tubs of frosting are so affordable that I often use them versus trying to bake totally from scratch. You can make store bought cake mixes and frosting taste like they are home-made with just very few changes in the directions!

For the cake mix, you only need to substitute and increase certain ingredients. Look at the directions on the box and do the following to create a home-made tasting cake:

1. Add one extra egg than what is on the directions

2. Substitute the oil for butter/margarine and double the amount on the directions

3. Lastly, use milk instead of water

Your cake turns out moister every time! Since I was making a zebra pattern, I used a devil’s food mix and a white cake mix.

For the tub of frosting, spoon out all of it into a medium-sized bowl.

1. Add 1/4 cup of powdered sugar

2. Add 1.5 teaspoons of vanilla

3. Using a mixer, beat the frosting for 2-3 minutes making sure the powdered sugar and vanilla is well combined.

If you are tinting your frosting with food dye, add the dye when you add the powdered sugar and vanilla. When you beat the frosting, the frosting whips up and creates slightly more frosting to work with! The powdered sugar helps to “stiffen” the frosting making it easier to use with docorative tips and pastry bags. And vanilla just makes everything taste better!

I even found these cute zebra print cupcake liners! Of course, I should have read the package or looked closer at the cups themselves. Turns out the outer layer cups had the zebra stripes pattern but within those were tiger stripes and a giraffe pattern. The tigers stripes and giraffe pattern were cute but I was only wanting the zebra stripes. That’s ok though, sometimes you just gotta roll with the punches!

I placed the zebra cupcake liners in a cupcake pan. To create zebra stripes using cake batter, you will need two teaspoons, one for each batter. In the center of the cupcake liner, dollop a teaspoon white cake batter. I would gently smack the cupcake pan to help “spread” the batter in the bottom of the cupcake liner. Then dollop a teaspoon of the devil’s food cake batter. Again, gently smack the the cupcake pan to help the devil’s food batter to spread out over the white batter.Try to dollop the devil’s food cake batter into the center of the white cake batter without it covering the edge of the white cake batter.

You are creating rings of batter. When you dollop, try dolloping it with a little force so that the new batter pushes down on the previous dollop. This will cause the batter to spread out and up. Hope that makes sense. Continue alternating dollops, with gentle taps between each batter until the cupcake liner is between 1/2 and 3/4 full. Repeat with the remaining cake batter until all the cupcake liners are filled. Bake the cupcakes following the package directions (usually for 22-25 minutes at 350 degrees). Didn’t they turn out cute as a button?! Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before icing.

I wanted to make the cupcakes even more special so I decided to pipe by hand chocolate letters. This is really easy to do! First, print off the letters from your computer. Try to choose letters with thick lines and be sure there is enough space between the letters so that the chocolate letters don’t melt into each other. I always use Wilton candy melts for all my chocolate needs because it does set up completely once cooled. I taped the paper with the printed letters onto a cookie sheet. I then taped a piece of wax paper on top of the paper with letters.

Using the letters as a guide, pipe out the chocolate onto the wax paper. I happen to have a mini bottle for piping chocolates. You could just add the melted candy melts to a Ziploc bag and snip off the corner (make a small hole). The chocolate is melted so it is a little warm to hold but it was tolerable for me. If it is too warm to touch, just let it cool for a few minutes. If it cools too much and begins to “set”, just add hot water to a cup and put your bottle or Ziploc into the cup to get the chocolate to melt enough to work with it again.

I waited a few minutes to let the chocolate set up and then went back over each design again to thicken up the chocolate letters and designs. Once all the letters or designs are piped (I made hearts too), place the entire cookie sheet into the freezer for at least 15 minutes. After 15 minutes the chocolate is fully set and solid.

I used a large round tip shoved into the corner of a Ziploc for the frosting. I snipped a tiny corner off and shoved the tip into it. I then taped the Ziploc and tip together to make sure the tip didn’t move and so that icing wouldn’t get between the tip and the Ziploc. After doctoring the icing up and adding enough red food coloring to create a pretty pink color (see directions above), I spooned it into the Ziploc. The easy way to get icing into a pastry bag or Ziploc is to use a large cup. Place the tip end of the Ziploc inside the cup and fold the edge over the cup. The cup basically holds the the pastry bag or Ziploc up for you. I should have taken a picture of this but I think most folks know this trick. I started at the outer edge of the cupcake and iced in a continuous spiral all the way to the center of the cupcake. Once all the cupcakes were frosted, I set them aside to allow the frosting to “set”.

When I took the chocolate out of the freezer, I didn’t have to scrape the letters to get them off the wax paper. Just a gentle push did the trick! I arranged the frosted cupcakes onto a large cookie sheet covered in foil. I then gently laid the letters onto the frosting for each cupcake. I gently poked it into the frosting so that the frosting would stick a little to the chocolate letter. I placed the letters at an angle so they would stand up slightly. I thought it turned out really cute!

I cut up a cupcake so you can see the zebra stripes. This turned out so adorable that I look forward to making a zebra stripe cake in the future.

I loved the way these cupcakes turned out! I know Rhonda will love it too because she knows first-hand the time and effort it takes to turn ordinary cupcakes into something extraordinary!

Happy Birthday Rhonda!

The Pack Family loves you!


49 thoughts on “Making Store Bought Cake Mixes and Frosting Taste Like it was Homemade

    • There is a pin option at the bottom of the post but I’m guessing that isn’t working? The other option is to also copy the web address and go to Pinterest. From Pinterest you can add a webpage to be pinned. It will give you an option to choose which picture from the post. Hope that helps and I’m terribly sorry that WordPress is making pinning difficult 😦 Thank you for your interest in my post!

      • Oh I just figured out what you meant! When you click on the Pinterest button, it takes you to Pinterest. It’s asking you to pick one of the pictures to pin. Once you click on one, a window should open allowing you to give a description and you can click on Pin to pin it πŸ™‚ Hope that helps!

  1. Pingback: Mint Dark Chocolate Cake Pops – Thank You Gifts | craftycreativekathy

  2. Pingback: German Chocolate Cake Pops | craftycreativekathy

  3. Made a cake this morning, before I left home, then I saw your recipe, did not double the butter, in replace of the oil, so I am figuring if I brush cake ( orange cake) with oj hopefully it will be moist, wrapped cake in plastic wrap, but I will try frosting, will keep you posted! πŸ™‚

  4. Used your frosting tip I did chocolate with one tsp almond extract the rest vanilla by 3 cans of frosting and I added a pinch of salt and it taste just like my homemade chocolate buttercream, thank you . adding the powder sugar really makes it crust nicely .

  5. Your tips for a moist cupcake worked like a charm on my practice run. My daughter will be 19 this Saturday and since she’ll be celebrating with friends @ her apartment where she attends the local university, I wanted to be present in the only way I could. I really want her and her friends to enjoy the cupcakes. The icing tip was awesome as well. Every time I attempt to personalize a cake the writing melts. Your recipe did not. thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m so excited.

  6. This is so awesome! I was just telling someone this very thing the other day… I’m not a designer/creator…. I take a recipe and tweak it here and there to my taste… And you have just helped with my tweaking… I didn’t even have to think… I searched how to dye store bought Frosting and Bam! found this…. Can’t wait to try it!

    • I’m a firm believer in not recreating the wheel, lol! Cakes have been around forever and well, I believe Duncan Hines makes the best cakes. So starting with that, I just add a little of this or that to make it an original from me πŸ™‚ Good luck on your “tweaking”! Thanks for stopping by my little ol’ blog!

  7. Thank you for the ideas. I hope you are well, I do understand maybe some of your life, our son has CF and as a nurse I am sure you are aware of those challenges. I think it is great that you have this blog I never did learn to bake cakes and bread. I have only in recent years made pies. My kitchen needs your help! Please post from time to time updates on your progress with your illness, I will say a prayer for you.

    • Sending up prayers for you and your son so that blessings may fall down on you. I am stable which is good. Recently had my 5th central line placed due to cellulitis around my last line. I’ve recovered just fine from that. I am thankful every morning I wake up! Take care of you and yours πŸ™‚

  8. Hi, I found your site because I googled how to make canned frosting better. Thank you so much.
    I read your About Me page and honestly I cried and had to walk away from the computer. My heart and prayers go out to you and your family. May God bless you with long life.

    • Oh no don’t cry! Or I’ll cry, lol! It’s not about quantity for me, it’s all about quality of life. I feel so blessed every second of every day. Wishing you the same! Thanks for stopping by and come back and visit. I’m really slacking in the posts. I truly apologize. Getting through our oldest son’s senior year of high school has been challenging. So proud and sad at the same time. Thankful to be here to celebrate this major milestone but it is bitter sweet knowing in a few short months he will be off to college. I’ll get back to posting recipes, crafts and such but right now, I just don’t want to miss a thing of our oldest’s senior year! All mommas will understand that! πŸ™‚ Have a great weekend!

      • My brother wanted to bake my mom red velvet cupcakes for her birthday and since he just turned ten, I wanted to help him make them delicious! I looked up how to make store bought mix taste homemade and your blog popped up! I’m so grateful it did. I used your tips and the cupcakes are easily the best I’ve ever had. Additionally, you are truly an inspiration Kathy! Thank you for continuing to blog and bringing a little more sunshine into the world. Peace and blessings.

      • Thank you Bailey! So glad your brother was able to make your mom cupcakes! They do taste more yummy this way! Thank you also for the kind words! Keeping you and yours in our prayers πŸ™‚

  9. Using these techniques for a camo cake, and I want to do a big 21 with the candy melt chocolate! If I buy the white chocolate do you think adding orange food coloring to it would cause it to not set up right?

    Thanks! I’m going to have fun with this!

    • I tried mixing food coloring once and the candy melts seized, totally stiffened up! I suggest just buying orange candy melts. Wilton and the other brand (blueish-green bag) have so many colors to choose from now πŸ™‚

  10. Hello! I just came across your website and I am so excited to try everything! Sorry, lol, but I seem to be a bit confused about the oil for the cake… So, when you say to substitute the oil for butter/margarine, do you mean to use butter/margarine instead of oil or, vice versa, use oil instead of butter/margarine? I don’t know why I can’t figure this out…. Also, I noticed that you use Duncan Hines. I have a Pillsbury store bought cake mix in front of me. Does that matter? Can these substitutions be used for any brand cake mix? Thanks so much in advance!!

    • Hello! Instead of using oil substitute it for butter or margarine. If it’s 1/4 cup oil, then add 1/4 cup butter or margarine instead. I prefer Duncan Hines. That’s a personal preference but Duncan Hines doesn’t carry all the flavors I need. For example, funfetti is a Pillsbury product as is strawberry cake. Duncan Hines has a strawberry mix but it’s for gourmet cupcakes with a filling. It only makes like a dozen cupcakes. So I mostly use Duncan Hines but sometimes will use Pillsbury. πŸ™‚ Good luck and thanks for asking!

  11. Ok know I’m confused about the oil/butter thing. I know it’s says butter or margarine INSTEAD of oil. But the instructions say to DOUBLE the amount. In the last post you say if it calls for a1/4 cup of oil use 1/4 cup butter or margarine ?? Thank you

    • Oh my! Thank you for catching my error! Yes, still double the butter or margarine. If it calls for 1/4 cup oil then do use 1/2 cup of butter or margarine! Thank you again for catching that! Best wishes on a yummy cake!

  12. Yaaay! I’m excited to try this, your cupcakes came out adorable! I’m making cupcakes for my daughter’s 1st birthday party this weekend. (She was a micro preemie born at 1lb 6oz, so she DEFFINITELY deserves a party!) Didn’t think I’d be the type of parent to throw parties this soon, but here we are, lol. So does that frosting trick work for any flavor?? I’m doing vanilla cupcakes…some will have strawberry frosting, some with chocolate. I’d like to do everything I could to make both flavors better.

  13. Hello thanks for all your help and just for the record I’ve appreciate any help I can get ! So my aunt my favorite aunt ever wants a homemade lemon cake and I need to know how to make my lemon frosting take between icing and frosting and still have a lemony zest ??

    • I would be crazy enough to add a teaspoon of lemon juice! If it thins out the icing (which I doubt), just add more powdered sugar. 1 teaspoon of liquid isn’t a lot but when it comes to lemon juice, it should make the icing have a lemony taste!

  14. I tried this receipe today for an Easter cake and they looked beautiful and risen really high when I took them out of the oven. Unfortunately though my cakes fell a few minutes later. What could have caused this issue?

    • Awww so sorry to hear this! Why a cake “falls” can happen for a lot of different reasons so it’s hard to say exactly why. It could be humidity, overbeating, oven temperature…lots of reasons. Wilton does make these cake pan wraps that supposedly keeps a cake leveled when baking. I haven’t bought them but have thought about it. Sorry I couldn’t be more help. Even if a cake falls, you can try to cut to the lowest area to level it out. If it’s fully cooked it’s not a waste :). Heck you can turn any cake into yummy, awesome cake pops! Everyone loves cake pops! Type “cake pops” in the search bar of my blog to find several posts on different cake pops and even how to make them step by step! Thanks for stopping by!

  15. I’m not sure what I did wrong but my cake came out quite dry, especially the corners of the cake (I used a 9 X 13 pan). Maybe because I used a Betty Crocker cake mix instead of the recommended Duncan Hines? I used butter instead of oil (doubled), I added an extra egg and I used milk instead of water. I baked at the recommended temperature of 350* for 30 minutes (recommended was 30-34 minutes). I really wanted this to turn out but it just didn’t for me.

  16. I wish i had some of those delicious looking cupcakes. I love how the frosting goes all the way to the edge. πŸ˜†

  17. As I follow your blog and feel it isn’t necessary to comment on how amazing your food always taste, I felt today it would be a good time. I’m glad you post all your ideas and even your flaws for us all to see that not everything one makes needs to be perfect as long as you are doing it with love. For those who feel it necessary to look at others blogs and throw rocks I feel your comments are not needed not even taken seriously. Please know Kathy has made all my kids and families cake pops Ect for all occasions and for one who has seen 1 post should not become an expert and as one so nicely pointed out maybe next time you should learn to spread your nasty comments from the inside then out maybe you will finally see how ridiculous you are. Keep doing you Kathy and post away my friend.

  18. Thank you so much for blogging this. I’m not one for recreating the wheel either. So this was perfect. I love your cupcakes and how you personalized them. Very neat.

  19. Ok, so I tried the modifications to the boxed cake mix last night with my 9 year old daughter. We made mini cupcakes and regular cupcakes. I used a Betty Crocker yellow boxed cake mix and it did not turn out dry at all, but the cakes did flatten and even sink after taking them out of the oven. I’m wondering if maybe the oil substitute could be to blame… I thought I was using margarine, but when I went back to look at the package, it doesn’t say margarine anywhere on it, but vegetable oil spread. They were sticks, so I figured they were maragine. They weren’t underbaked, and I don’t know if I beat it too much. I’m not a skilled enough baker to know that. I just beat it until it was smooth. At any rate, they were done and tasted great with frosting topping them. I didn’t modify the frosting other than to color it with food coloring. Super cute and tasty! I will be trying this again with maybe less “margarine.” πŸ™‚ Thanks again!!

  20. Hi Kathy! I have made cake mixes following your recipe and it makes a huge difference and in an wonderfully awesome way!! πŸ™‚ They have so much more flavor and are so moist. Thank you for the idea on how to marble them….I have never done that but I will for sure try it now. Also, I was actually doing a search on how to make canned frosting taste better and your idea for that sounds just as awesome so thank you for that as well! And, I agree with you, real pure vanilla extract makes everything taste better. We have boxed cook and serve pudding every once in a while and I always add vanilla extract and a little bit of butter at the end….it truly does make a difference. Thank you for sharing!!

  21. Pingback: How To Make Store Bought Frosting Better: Find the answer here (2017)

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