How to Improve Boxed Red Velvet Cake Mix

Boxed cake mix is super convenient, whether you’re in a rush or simply don’t want to fuss with a long list of ingredients for homemade cakes. But, the convenience can sometimes result in a lack of flavor and texture. Who wants that?

You can take your red velvet cake mix to the next level in many ways. Adding espresso powder, for example, will up the cocoa flavor. To encourage a richer, more indulgent taste and texture, swap vegetable oil for butter and use two eggs. You can also use milk instead of water.

Hey! I’m Michelle, and my older brother loves red velvet cake. And you know what? Sometimes I don’t feel like making the homemade version. If I’m rushing and want red velvet cake quickly, I’ll use cake mix – with some must-have substitutions to make it taste like the real deal, of course.

Let’s rev up that boxed red velvet cake mix!

How to Make Red Velvet Cake Better: 7 Ways

Yes, there are seven great ways to improve the boxed red velvet cake mix. You can use one, some, or all of these awesome improvements. In the end, you will end up with a scrumptious cake that tastes like it was just bought from a high-end bakery. Yum.

1. Add Espresso Powder

My number one trick is to add espresso powder. In fact, I recommend adding espresso powder to all of your chocolate recipes, whether you’re making red velvet cake from a boxed mix or something else entirely. But why?

Espresso powder is known for taking chocolatey flavors to the next level. And, since red velvet cake tends to have a tamer chocolate taste, it’s essential to give it a noticeable “pop” with the use of espresso powder.

A teaspoon or two will do the trick. Don’t overdo it. We want to enhance the chocolate flavor, not turn your favorite Starbucks drink into a cake (although their cake batter frappuccino is quite delicious).

2. Swap Oil for Butter

Always, always, always swap the oil for butter when you’re using boxed cake mix. It’s essential for two reasons:

  • Moister cake. The first benefit of using butter in your cake is that it will make it infinitely moister. I don’t know about you, but I love a lightweight, delicate, and tenderly moist cake. Butter is the gateway to this desired texture.
  • Richer flavor. When I think of butter, I think of an incredibly rich and indulgent taste. How about you? Now, add it to your boxed cake mix. The results are oh-so-delicious and undeniably rich.

3. Swap Water for Milk

Using water in any cake, let alone a red velvet cake? Umm, no, thank you. It’s nothing against water. I love water and understand that it is 110% essential to sustain life. I just don’t think it has a place in the bulk of baking recipes.

So, choose milk instead of opting for water in your boxed red velvet cake mix. Milk, especially buttermilk, will create an irresistible moist, and rich red velvet cake that tastes homemade.

4. Use Two Eggs

Most cake mixes require a single egg, which is fine. If you only have one egg on hand for your red velvet cake mix, don’t panic. But if you have some extra eggs laying around, I highly recommend adding a second one to your boxed cake mix.

An extra egg will only add to the thick, moist, and tender texture of your red velvet cake. And those are three adjectives I love using to describe cake. If you agree, then don’t hesitate to drop in another egg.

5. Underbake Ever So Slightly

I rarely suggest underbaking cake. But when it comes to chocolate cakes such as red velvet, I don’t know. Underbaking just seems to make the cake richer, moister, and more sultry. And that’s the goal!

Now, I’m not saying to bake your cake for ten seconds and call it a day. Your cake still needs to be cooked. But if you cut the baking time by a few minutes, you may end up with a red velvet cake that is impressively delicate with vibrant flavors.

6. Toss in Some Mix-Ins

Sometimes, the easiest way to mask the “boxed” taste is to include some mix-ins. With this option, you can be as creative or straightforward as you’d like.

For example, someone who prefers a fruitier and more sugary flavor might add some coconut to their cake batter. Someone who wants some spice can add some cinnamon and cayenne powder. Crushed peanuts or pretzels will do the trick for those who love salt and crunch.


Doctoring up some boxed red velvet cake mix is a cinch. But if you’re still curious to learn more, check out these commonly asked questions below.

Can I add cocoa powder to the red velvet cake mix?

You can add cocoa powder to the red velvet cake mix, but it’s unnecessary. A better way to enhance the chocolate flavor is to add espresso powder. Too much cocoa powder can cause your cake to have an undesirable chalky taste.

What can I use instead of oil for the cake mix?

The best swap for oil is butter. If you do not have any butter, you can also use pureed or mashed fruit like applesauce or banana. Margarine, mayonnaise, and yogurt can also work wonders in a cake mix.

What can I use instead of cake flour?

Of course, cake flour is the best option for homemade cakes. If you do not have any cake flour on hand, you can easily use handy all-purpose flour. 

Final Words

Boxed red velvet cake mix doesn’t have to taste “boxed.” Simple swaps like butter instead of oil and buttermilk instead of water can take your cake to the next level. To enhance the flavor, you can also add espresso powder and other mix-ins, like coconut and pretzels.

What do you do to your boxed red velvet cake mix to make it taste better? Comment below so we can try, too!

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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  • Audrey

    If I add nutmeg to Red Velvet cake mix, how much do I add on. (1/2 tsp)

    • Michelle

      Hi Audrey,
      Nutmeg can be overpowering. I wouldn’t use more than a teaspoon.

  • Patice

    This is good, great recipe for a box cake mix, especially red velvet cake. My family loves it. I added the butter, milk, and mor egg. Came out perfect very moist and it tasted homemade. I try it with the espresso coffee next time.

    • Michelle

      Hi, Patice!
      So thrilled to hear about your success. Sounds delish! Let me know how you like the espresso coffee in the Red Velvet cake.

  • Sharon

    If cake mix calls for 3 eggs, would you use 4?

    • Michelle

      Hi Sharon,
      Yes! Use four.

  • Sam

    When swapping butter for oil do use the same amount of butter as oil called for on the box?

    • Michelle

      Hi Sam,
      Yes, use the same amount!

      • Leslie

        When you say butter you mean melted butter right?

  • Colette

    When swapping butter, salted or unsalted?

    • Michelle

      Hi, Colette!
      I always use salted butter, but then again, I love salt. I don’t find it’s overly salty when I swap for salted butter. However, if you want more control over your ingredients, use unsalted butter and add your desired amount.