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My Favorite Doctored Up Cake Mix Recipe

by Jamie on April 4, 2012

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UPDATE: Please visit this post for an update of this recipe using a 15.25 ounce cake mix.

Although I usually bake from scratch, I’m a firm believer that every baker needs a couple of tricks to tuck in their apron pockets.

One of my absolute favorite chocolate cake recipes comes from {gasp} a boxed cake mix. But it’s not just any boxed mix, it’s an incredibly moist and chocolatey recipe that’s perfect for layered cakes, bundt cakes and of course – cupcakes.

There are many reasons to adore this doctored up cake mix and number one on that list is that it’s super moist. I love using this recipe when I have to make cupcakes a day or so in advance because I know that they’ll still taste perfectly fresh – even after being stored for 24 hours.

The batter is also really thick, so it’s a great consistency for suspending little surprises inside cupcakes. You already know I’m kind of obsessed with nestling candy into my cupcakes, and this ultra thick batter is ideal for that technique.

Another reason that it’s one of my go-to recipes is because it’s pretty much fool-proof. Toss everything into a large mixing bowl, mix until it’s combined and it comes out perfect every single time. This makes it a great recipe for baking newbies and kids alike.

My favorite desserts using this recipe

Heath Bar Cupcakes
Oreo Cake
Cadbury Creme Egg Cupcakes
Take 5 Cupcakes
Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes

I’ll be the first to tell you that baking a cake from scratch can be an incredibly fun and cathartic experience. But use the tools and ingredients that give you the results you want. I’ve yet to be able to recreate the perfection of this doctored up box mix on my own (not that I don’t keep trying), and if it means a fabulous cupcake in shorter time, then give yourself a break and go for it.
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Doctored Up Cake Mix Recipe

April 4th, 2012

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time:

Ingredients:

1 (18.25 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix (see note below)
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant espresso granules dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water (see note below)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, eggs, vanilla and espresso water mixture. Beat for about two minutes on medium speed until well combined.

3. Using a large cookie scoop, distribute the batter between 24 muffin wells; about 3 tablespoons of batter per well.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 18-22 minutes or until the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly touched. Allow cupcakes to cool inside muffin tins for about 10 minutes.

5. Remove cupcakes from muffin tins and allow to fully cool on a wire rack. Once cupcakes are cool, prepare your frosting.

For Cakes

Bundt Cake Directions: Pour the batter into a well-greased, 12-cup bundt cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 50 to 55 minutes, or until top is springy to the touch and a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. If desired, drizzle the cooled cake with your favorite recipe for chocolate ganache.

For 2 9-inch Cake Layers: Pour batter evenly between 2 greased 9-inch cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Frost cooled cake with your favorite buttercream recipe.

Notes:

- My favorite Devil's Food Cake is Betty Crocker - Pudding in the mix.
- If you don't have instant espresso granules, you can sub in 1/2 cup warm coffee.
- The espresso in this recipe really just deepens the chocolate flavor, but if you aren't into the whole coffee thing, just use 1/2 cup warm water.
- UPDATE: Please visit this post for an update of this recipe using a 15.25 ounce cake mix.

My Baking Addiction adapted from All Recipes


{ 145 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristin@Chi-Chi Studio June 28, 2012 at 6:04 pm

I normally don’t ever use a cake mix, but I’d like to make a cake that has a lot of other stuff going on with it. I’d love to cut down on my time by not having to make the cake itself from scratch! My question is…the cake in the original recipe calls for 3 8 in. cake layers…any idea if this would be enough for that? Thanks!

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Heather July 6, 2012 at 8:59 am

These are SO good! I’ve made them several times and they are always a big hit. I made them just yesterday to take to a friend’s house for lunch today. For topping, I made the Nutella frosting. Delicious! Thank you for another great recipe!

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Jamie July 6, 2012 at 10:08 am

Heather-
I am so glad to hear you enjoyed the recipe! Thanks for reporting back.
-Jamie

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sara July 13, 2012 at 9:42 am

I used this for lemon cupcakes! I used a white cake mix, lemon pudding mix and 1/2 cup of lemonade instead of water or coffee. they turned out so moist and delicious! I got rave reviews at work. I’m going to try this recipe with various flavors. thanks! :)

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Nadine July 24, 2012 at 3:26 am

I made the bundt cake version and didn’t have chocolate pudding so I omitted it while keeping all other quantities the same and it turned out really yummy and moist. I made my own chocolate sauce and drizzled it over the cake as well and thought the flavor and sweetness were just right. Definitely a good recipe to have handy and can’t wait to try the vanilla version. Thanks Jamie.

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lorraine August 16, 2012 at 11:38 am

will this recipe stack well? i’m making a neopolitan layered 2 tier cake and was wondering if this is firm enough.

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Jamie August 17, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Lorraine-
Yes, it definitely stacks well! :)
-Jamie

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Cathy T. August 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm

I just made these for my mom’s friend and his son for a pool party we’re having tomorrow to celebrate my sophomore year of college. My mom was wary of the “complications” involved in baking cupcakes from scratch on such short notice so she just brought me a packaged mix to make. I, being so stubborn and set in my ways, decided i needed more of a challenge to entertain me while i baked. I found this recipe and substituted the sour cream for greek yogurt… AMAZING!
the second they started baking my house smelled almost exactly like the disneyland bakery, but better! They’re delicious and I can’t wait to show my mom how perfect they are! Thank you so much for posting these!!!!

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Jamie August 20, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Cathy-
I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed the cupcakes recipe. Thanks so much for coming back and telling us your thoughts! Have a great day.
-Jamie

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Mandy August 18, 2012 at 2:08 pm

just to confirm….you use the pudding in the mix AND another box of pudding….thank you for your help…sounds delish

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Jamie August 25, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Mandy-
Yes, I still add the pudding. However, some boxed mixes have been reduced to 15 or so ounces, so I now use the smaller (3.4 ounce) packages of instant pudding mix. I hope this helps.
-Jamie

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Janee September 4, 2012 at 3:09 am

Can this recipe be used for sheet cakes?

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Jamie September 4, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Janee-
I have not attempted this recipe using a sheet pan, but I’m thinking it will do just fine. If you give it a whirl, definitely let me know how it goes. Thanks for stopping by.
-Jamie

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Carolyn September 18, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Jamie, these cupcakes are awesome I just made a batch and love them. I am going to use this recipe for the grooms table at my son’s wedding, you said they hold up well for 24 hrs. Could you refrigerate or freeze them any sooner than that, then defrost and put your icing on? Just trying to do as much as possible before the wedding. Thank you so much.

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Jamie September 23, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Carolyn-
I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe. Thanks so much for coming back and letting me know how the recipe worked for you!
-Jamie

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jes September 22, 2012 at 3:10 am

I’m excited to make these cupcakes for my son’s party next weekend. Just to clarify, however, despite the new reduced size cake mix, you’ve only reduced the size of the pudding, but not the quantities of the other ingredients – ie. the 4 eggs and 1 cup each sour cream and oil remain the same?
I really enjoy your blog and have gotten many great ideas! Thanks!
Jes

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Jamie September 23, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Jes-
That’s correct, I have left everything else the same. I hope the recipe works well for you. Have a great day.
-Jamie

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joey October 9, 2012 at 1:01 am

I just made these yesterday for my hubby’s family. Everybody loves it and please ask me to these cupcakes again. WOW!!

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Jamie October 14, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Joey-
I am so happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe – thanks so much for leaving your feedback! Have a great day!
-Jamie

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Lisa Falcon October 11, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Awesome idea! Who would be the wiser if the mix is doctored up? ;)

I bake all the time, always seeking out amazing recipes, and your website is honestly the best one I’ve come across for delicious, consistent recipes! You’re a huge inspiration to me, and you have incredible talent. From one passionate baker to another, cheers!

Thank you so much for your recipes. Love you, gal. Lol :)

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Jamie October 14, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Lisa-
You are very sweet! Thanks so much for stopping by and following MBA!
-Jamie

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Diane October 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Hi Jamie. I made this recipe in 9″ cake pans. It is delicious. However, the cakes fell and they were only about 1/2″ thick and they separated from the side of the pan. Kind of spongy but delicious. They came out of the oven nice and tall :( Any suggestions?

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Jamie October 26, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Diane
Hi! That is weird that they deflated that much. I have used this batter countless times for cakes and I have never had an issue. If I think of any possible reasons, I’ll certainly get back to you, but right now I am kind of baffled.
-Jamie

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Nicole January 4, 2013 at 8:33 am

I have made this recipe a few times (cupcakes) and they were perfect. Last night I tried the recipe in cake form (2 12 inch and 2 8 inch for a tiered cake) with vanilla mix and pudding and my cakes deflated and also separated from the sides…every one. Hoping I can save them by cutting the sides and tops!

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sam619 November 2, 2013 at 11:42 am

I agree that the cake came out spongy. I’m surprise noone else said it was. I made mini cupcakes.

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Ann October 29, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Hi. I was wondering if you can substitute the oil for applesauce?
Thanks!

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Jamie October 29, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Ann-
I have not attempted this substitution, so I cannot comment on how it will work. If you give it a whirl, let me know how it goes. Have a great day!
-Jamie

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Claudia November 3, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Hello.. I just came across your blog and love all the great recipes you have. I want to try making this one this weekend but wanted to know what frosting do you recommend for this recipe?

Thanks

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MBA November 7, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Claudia-
I am happy to hear you enjoy MBA! I would recommend a basic buttercream initially, but I’ve been able to use many different flavors of frosting with this recipe and all turn out delicious. I have added the link to a buttercream to try – Have a great day!
http://www.mybakingaddiction.com/buttercream-frosting-recipe/
-Jamie

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Monica November 3, 2012 at 8:28 pm

I was very happy to find your blog but i was disappointed with this recipe it doesn’t taste like it was doctored it just tasted like boxed cake and i was really looking forward to them from all the comments. I made them for a baby shower and was embarrased but thanks anyway….

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Jamie November 3, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Monica-
I am sorry you did not enjoy this recipe. We’ve actually done side by side taste tests and people always prefer the boxed mix to the homemade. Thanks for leaving your feedback – I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend.
-Jamie

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Rana November 6, 2012 at 8:23 pm

This was yum!! I hate packet cake mixes, but I had a Betty Crocker vanilla box in the pantry, so I was chuffed when I googled and found your recipe! I didn’t need to add the extra vanilla essence, and as you suggested, I omitted the coffee, putting in just the warm water. I’ve not long popped them out of my oven , and I’ve already eaten two!!! I can see from the texture, that unlike my patty cakes, which really have to be eaten on the day, these are going to be great for at least a few days! Thanks so much again, I’ll be sharing this one, it’s definitely a keeper!

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Jamie November 7, 2012 at 8:57 am

Rana-
I am so happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your feedback – have a great day!
-Jamie

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Jenn Ellis November 9, 2012 at 7:48 pm

My stomach is nauseous from all the cupcakes I just devoured. These are soooo yum! I love Devil’s Food, as well, so I totally stuck to the original recipe. I made cookie dough frosting and now I’m regretting offering to make goodies for our Fringe party tonight. I think I might have eaten half of what I made. Ha! Thanks for posting!

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MBA November 10, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Jenn-
I am so happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your feedback – have a great day!
-Jamie

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Joanne Davies November 17, 2012 at 6:38 pm

I made these today and they are AWESOME!!! ty for the recipe :)

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MBA November 18, 2012 at 10:04 am

Joanne-
I am so glad you enjoyed the recipe. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!
-Jamie

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Ami December 5, 2012 at 12:36 pm

This recipe looks so good! I’m planning to make it for the holidays. I have a niece who has egg allergies. Can you suggest a good egg replacer for this recipe? I was thinking apple sauce.. would you recommend it?

I also read, that soda works well.. not sure ??

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MBA December 7, 2012 at 7:15 am

Ami-

I have come across several egg replacements, apple sauce being one of them. I have also seen where milk or soy milk can used as a replacement. I hope this helps – have a great day!

-Jamie

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Claudine December 16, 2012 at 4:58 am

Hello!! I was wondering how this recipe will hold up to being soaked in a good amount of liquid. This is my go to recipe for chocolate cake when I’m not in the mood to bake from scratch and its always so moist and delicious, so I was curious since I’ve been itching to make a tres leches cake ;)

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MBA December 19, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Claudine-
I have never tried this recipe in that capacity so I cannot give a definitive answer. Stop back and let us know how it goes. Good luck and have a great day!
-Jamie

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Lynzi January 15, 2013 at 10:45 pm

HI Jamie! I’ve always loved your recipes and use this doctored up recipe quite frequently. Do you happen to have a doctored up cake mix recipe for vanilla cupcakes? Would you recommend the same ingredients; only in vanilla flavors? Thanks a bunch!!! Happy baking!

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MBA January 17, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Lynzi-
If you want a vanilla version of this recipe, I would do exactly as you suggest and they should be delish! Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!
-Jamie

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Hillary January 20, 2013 at 1:38 pm

This recipe sounds wonderful and as much as I loce baking from scratch there is something yummy about boxed mixes. Ive never been able to get a scratch made vanilla cake as good in taste and texture as it is from a box. I was wondering though if you have ever made this into a sheet cake? I need to make two 12×18 in cakes and would like to know if you think doubling or tripling this recipe might work? Thank you!
:)

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Jennifer January 21, 2013 at 11:04 am

I love doctored box recipes! I’m making cupcakes for a shower this weekend, so I did a 1/2 batch of your recipe. They were delicious (much better than the other recipes I tested previously)! But, they were a little too fluffy. I followed the recipe & don’t think I screwed up any measurements although you never know. Any suggestions on how to make them more dense so they are sturdier (and less messy to eat)?? Thanks!

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Kaitlin February 17, 2013 at 5:00 pm

I love chocolate cake and these were delicious cupcakes! I made them for an Art Club meeting at school and they were a HUGE hit! Everyone loved them!

Check out my blog post about them!
http://dessertmansion.blogspot.com/2013/01/tagxedo-slacking-this-week.html

Reply

MBA April 11, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Kaitlin-
I am so glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!
-Jamie

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Tina February 25, 2013 at 12:29 am

This recipe is fantastic. I had two large cakes to make, so I made this a week in advance and froze it. I took it out of the freezer in the moring and iced it that afternoon. We ate it the following day. everyone loved it.
A couple days later I decided to make it with white cake mix and vanilla pudding, but by mistake I added a full cup of water instead of the 1/2 cup called for. The baking time took a bit longer with the extra water, but it came out great.

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Ven March 3, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Hey, I just made my brother a birthday cake using this and a marshmallow frosting recipe I found and wanted to say, it was excellent! Had my doubts about it because it was so thick but you warned about that so I went ahead with it; everyone in the family raved over it. Will definitely be using this recipe again!

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Sherri March 28, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Can you tell me how to substitute butter for oil if I need the butter flavor for a certain cupcake?? Thanks :)

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Tiffany H April 15, 2013 at 4:05 pm

i used a dark chocolate cake mix…the batter tastes delish! i’m going going to use a kahlua swiss meringue buttercream. I’m very excited! its a great quick recipe for a backup!

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diane dempsey June 6, 2013 at 1:33 am

I have been using this recipe (without the coffee) for over 30 years for wedding cakes etc. I love it . but, the last time I made it with the new 15 oz mix, they came out with a “rubbery” layer and lots of tunnels. I thought maybe I had made a mistake, but another friend called me with the same result. I wrote the cake company asking about their new formulation and they said it had been reformulated to fill the same size pans with the 15 oz box as the old 18 oz. did. have you had any trouble with this? my own daughter is getting married and wants her favorite chocolate cake that I’ve made for hundreds of brides before her. Seems like I might have to dissapoint…Thanks for any feedback

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Jamie September 13, 2013 at 7:59 pm

Hi Diane,
I have addressed this very issue in a new post today – http://www.mybakingaddiction.com/cake-mix-recipe/
Thanks!
– Jamie

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Liosha June 10, 2013 at 3:57 pm

I made these for my daughter’s 5th birthday and these cupcakes were incredibly moist. I made them the day before and needless to say they were still moist almost 24 hours later. I even used greek yogurt and warm water instead of coffee as I was giving these to some 4 and 5 year olds. But the next time I make these, I”m going to use almond amaretto coffee… I can only imagine the flavor.

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Jamie August 12, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Liosha,

I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed the recipe. I’m sure they will be amazing made with the flavored coffee. Have a lovely day and thank you for following MBA!

Jamie

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Jessica July 2, 2013 at 10:37 am

Hello. I have made and LOVE so many of your cupcakes. Have you ever used doctored up a white cake mix?

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Jamie July 2, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Jessica-
I have never tried white cake mix, but I have tried yellow. If you give it a whirl, let me know. Thanks for stopping by – have a great day.
-Jamie

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Laura August 15, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Has anyone tried white with vanilla pudding and sour cream?????? Just checking before I mix it all up.

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Leslie Leak August 5, 2013 at 10:33 am

Hi! Gave a shout out to you on my blog today…we love baking these cupcakes!!
http://ahousefullofleaks.blogspot.com/

Thanks!
Leslie

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Katerina August 9, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Just wanted to give a little feedback on this recipe. I did as you suggested using the smaller pudding mix with the smaller boxed cake mix and it simply did not work. All the cupcakes collapsed in the middle. I made sure with my 2nd batch I didn’t do any the known mistakes to make them collapse, overfilling, underbaking etc. I think there simply is not enough flour now with the smaller box of mix. The cake doctor suggests adding 6 T of flour or combining 2 boxes of mix. This might be a better solution. Love your site! Thanks!

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Jamie September 13, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Hi Katerina,
I have addressed this issue with a post today – http://www.mybakingaddiction.com/cake-mix-recipe/

Thanks so much for your feedback!
-Jamie

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Novice Baker August 18, 2013 at 10:23 am

Hi, I need to make a chocolate cake with no dairy. Can I sub mayo for the sour cream? Would I do the same amount, more/less? Also why do you use warm water over cold water?

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Jamie September 13, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Hi there,
Mayo contains eggs, so I’m not sure how that would work. Could you use lactose free diary products, or perhaps goat milk yogurt in place of sour cream? If not, I really don’t know how that would go. As for warm water vs. cold, the warm water causes some reactions within the pudding that are necessary for the process of the cake to bake correctly. Cold water will not cause these reactions.
– Jamie

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MB September 22, 2013 at 1:34 pm

This recipe is awesome, made it a few times now most recently for my son’s birthday party everyone raved about the cake. This is a great recipe to have up my sleeve.

thanks so much for sharing I will be checking your site more often for some new recipes

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Jamie September 22, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Thank you so much! It’s great to hear that you enjoyed the recipe, and thank you for following!

-Jamie

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Joan September 23, 2013 at 2:48 pm

I made these cupcakes for my dad’s birthday to take to his Silver Sneakers class. He said everyone LOVED the cupcakes and they were so moist. Thank you for another great recipe!

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Jamie September 25, 2013 at 11:41 am

Joan-

You are so welcome! I’m thrilled that the recipe went over well. Have a fantastic day!

-Jamie

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Annette September 29, 2013 at 11:31 am

I made this recipe using the 15.25 oz box cake and 3.9 oz pudding mix. I left everything else as stated in original recipe and it turned out great!

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Jamie October 3, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Annette-
Thanks so much for the feedback. I am happy to hear it turned out so well. Have a great day.
-Jamie

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Teresa January 4, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Hi Jamie. what size is your scoop p´lease???

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Jamie January 10, 2014 at 11:24 am

Teresa, I use the OXO large cookie scoop for cupcakes.
– Jamie

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Rose April 12, 2014 at 9:11 pm

Hi,
I was wondering if you can suggest a substitution for the cup of oil? I can’t tolerate oil in lots of baking recipes (bad reflux)….
Thank you, can’t wait to make this!!

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Jamie Lothridge May 5, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Hi Rose,
I’m not sure what you could substitute. I know some recipes work okay with applesauce to replace the oil, but as this is a recipe that uses cake mix, I’m not sure it would work.
– Jamie

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Betty June 12, 2014 at 12:28 pm

I love love love all your beautiful recipes. I would really like to know how do you make your frosting? I can never get mine to look that or stay puffy like that.

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Jamie June 20, 2014 at 8:02 am

Betty, fluffy frosting is all about the amount of air in it. Keep beating it with your whisk attachment, or whisk beaters on a hand mixer. Getting more air into it will make it look puffy.
– Jamie

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