Turn store-bought cake mix into cookies, brownies and more for effortless festive baking during the school holidays.
Store-bought cake mix is a true lifesaver when you need a quick cake fix and it’s far more versatile than you might realise.
You can easily convert store-bought cake mix into cookies, brownies or crumbles, perfect for your festive baking needs. Alternatively, you can elevate the flavour with some simple ingredient substitutions.
Cake mix brownies
When it comes to brownies and cakes, their opposing textures is really what sets the two apart. Brownies tend to be dense and more fudge-like while cakes are lighter, with a bouncy spongy feel. But despite their differences, both are usually made with the same core ingredients: flour and sugar. The wet ingredients, or their volume, is really what contributes the most to their obvious textural differences.
When it comes to cakes, good cakes should always be moist, which is why most cake mixes suggest you add water. But when prepping cake mix brownies, you won’t need to add any water.
The general rule for making cake mix brownies is as follows: add the same amount of eggs as per the box instructions, ½ the amount of oil and 1 cup of chopped chocolate or nuts. For added richness, substitute the oil for butter. If the batter is a little too thick you can add 1–2 tbsp of milk, coffee or water. For example, if you have cake box mix that weighs around 650g and calls for 3 extra-large eggs and 1 cup of oil, empty the contents of the cake mix into a mixing bowl, add 3 extra-large eggs and ½ cup of melted butter, along with 1 cup of chopped chocolate. Mix well, then bake at around 180°C for 20 minutes, or until just set.
Top tip: Cake mix brownies will be somewhat “cakier” than traditional fudgy brownies, so be careful not to overcook them. Allow your brownies to cool thoroughly before cutting.
Flavour variations to try:
- Red velvet brownies: use a red velvet cake mix instead of a chocolate one and add two large eggs, ⅓ cup of melted butter and 1 cup of white chocolate chips.
- Lemon-and-white chocolate olive oil blondies: use a vanilla cake mix, add the zest of two lemons, 2 large eggs, ⅓ cup of olive oil and 1 cup of white chocolate chips. For some added pizzazz, make a lemon glaze by mixing lemon juice and icing sugar together to drizzle over the blondies before serving.
- Spiced walnut brownies: use a chocolate cake mix of your choice, add ¼ tsp of ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp of ground cardamom (or any spice mix), two large eggs, ⅓ cup of melted butter, ½ cup of chopped dark chocolate and ½ cup of chopped walnuts.
Cake mix cookies
Just like cake mix brownies, cake mix cookies are a delightful option for making quick, tasty four-ingredient cookies.
The general rule for making cake mix cookies is as follows: empty the contents of the cake mix into a mixing bowl, add two large eggs, ½ cup of melted butter and 1 cup of chopped chocolate or nuts. These amounts will work with cake mix that is around 580g. Divide the mixture into 16 portions, roll into balls and bake in batches at 175°C for 12–14 minutes or until just set. These cake mix cookies will tend to be large and chunky, but you can also press each dough ball down before baking if you prefer more delicate cookies. You can also divide the dough into 24 portions and cook for 8–10 minutes if you prefer smaller cookies.
Top tip: If you enjoy cookies with a fudgy bite to them, be sure to not over-bake. Bake for longer if you prefer cookies that are crispier and less chewy.
MUST-TRY RECIPE: Red velvet cake mix cookies
Flavour variation to try:
- Cinnamon sugar cookies: use a spiced cake mix or add some of your favourite spices to a vanilla cake mix along with two large eggs and ½ cup of melted butter, combine everything, and then roll each dough in cinnamon sugar before baking.
Cake mix crumbles
Creating a sweet crumble topping for baked fruits, cakes or muffins is as simple as cutting cold butter into a cake mix.
The general rule for making cake mix crumbles is as follows: work with a 3:1 butter ratio for a crumble that will be buttery crisp and easy to work with. For example, if you have 300g of cake mix, add 100g of cold butter. Cut the cold butter into small chunks and add it to the cake mix. Using your hands, gently work the butter into the cake mix until just combined and crumbly. Store in an air-tight container and refrigerate until ready to use.
Flavour variation to try:
- Spiced oat-and-almond cake mix crumble: add some oats and chopped almonds into a spiced cake mix before incorporating the butter into the mix. You can use this to top spiced apple cakes or muffins.
Cake mix substitution hacks
Most cake mix recipes typically call for water, oil and eggs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with your ingredients!
By substituting water with milk or buttermilk, you can achieve a denser, more homemade texture in your finished cake. For a richer and moister cake, alternatives like mayonnaise, yoghurt or sour cream can be used instead of oil. You can either add a couple of tablespoons of these ingredients to the standard recipe or replace the liquids as directed.
To enhance the decadence of your cake, try using melted ice cream instead of milk or butter instead of oil. If you’re looking for a lighter, fluffier texture, consider adding an extra egg to the mix. If you’re using a chocolate cake mix, swapping the water for coffee will enhance the flavour of the chocolate. To add citrus flavour pops, add 1–2 tablespoons of zested citrus fruit to the cake mix before it goes into the oven.
These hacks allow for a variety of flavour and texture modifications in your cake while using a basic cake mix as a starting point.