Gourmet Vanilla Cupcakes Made From Boxed Cake Mix

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There are tons of homemade vanilla cupcake recipes out there that look delicious. However, when you don’t have the time to try them out before an event, you never know how they are actually going to turn out. When you’re short on time, there isn’t room for a failed or bad recipe. 

That’s when turning to the boxed cake mix you find in the store seems like a safer option. BUT you want your cupcakes to taste like they are made from scratch. So, what do you do?

You doctor the box of cake mix and turn it into a gourmet masterpiece!

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That’s right. By deviating from the directions on the back of the cake mix and adding a few simple ingredients, you can have delicious cupcakes that taste like they are made from scratch. 

gourmet vanilla cupcakes from boxed cake mix
Gourmet cupcakes from the box.

In fact, I served these exact cupcakes, along with these chocolate cupcakes that I doctored up as well, at my son’s birthday party and received compliments for days!

So let’s dive into how you can turn a box of vanilla cake mix into cupcakes that taste like they were completely homemade. 

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How to Turn Vanilla Cake Mix into the BEST Vanilla Cupcakes

With just a few small and easy changes, you can make gourmet cupcakes from a cheap box of cake mix. I’m here to help you bake the best vanilla cupcakes starting with picking the right mix.

Start With the Right Mix

Choose a quality brand of cake mix for your cupcakes! This will make all the difference as it’s the base of your recipe. 

Most bakers agree that Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines produce the best quality cake mixes you can buy at the grocery store. So, use one of these or your favorite box that you’ve used before and you know is good. 

I used the Betty Crocker Super Moist French Vanilla cake mix because Betty has never let me down. 

ingredients to make boxed cupcakes better


If you’re a Type A, by-the-book kind of person like I am, this part may be a little difficult for you. However, we are not going to follow most of the directions on the back of the box. Trust me though, it’s for the best.

Here are the adjustments you’ll make:

Swap the vegetable oil for butter and multiply it by 1.5.

This specific box mix calls for ½ a cup of oil. So, we are going to use butter instead and use ¾ cup of butter. This substitution gives the cupcakes a homemade taste and the additional butter makes them more moist. 

Swap the water for whole milk keeping the measurement the same.

You can use regular milk, but I prefer to use whole milk as it has more fat and will leave you with a really great texture. Simply replace the water with milk in a 1:1 ratio. This recipe called for 1 cup of water, so I used 1 cup of whole milk. 


With two small additions to this mix, your cupcakes are going to taste like they are from a fancy bakery! 

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Add one more egg than the directions tell you to.

Some people like to use two additional eggs, however, I found that using one extra egg makes the consistency of the cupcakes just perfect. This box called for three eggs to be added to the mix. So, we are going to add four eggs. 

Add extra vanilla.

In order to enhance the vanilla flavor of the cupcakes, I like to add a little extra. You can add between 1-2 extra tablespoons of pure vanilla extract to make your cupcakes rich with vanilla flavor. 

extra vanilla makes boxed cupcakes taste better
Add extra vanilla


I have a whole other post on how to make your boxed cake mix taste better that you can check out. For this specific recipe, there isn’t a lot you need to do to make sure your cupcakes turn out perfect. I do have a few small, simple tips to make sure you’re successful though. 

Crack your eggs, one by one, into a separate cup or bowl. 

It’s no fun to try to fish egg shells out of your batter. So, when cracking your eggs, do so into a measuring cup or bowl that you have close by. Crack the egg, make sure there’s no shell in it, and then add it to the bowl. Do this will all four eggs individually and you’ll save yourself time in the long run. 

Fill your cupcake liners correctly. 

When baking cupcakes, you should only fill your cupcake liners ¾ of the way full. Otherwise, they can overflow, spill out, and burn. This can ruin the other cupcakes around the one that was too full causing a big loss. 

I like to use a cookie scoop to control how much batter is going into each liner. That way I can make sure that there is enough room for the cupcake to expand. If you need to, do a test run on a few and make sure the cupcakes reach the height you want before baking a whole batch. 

how to fill cupcake liners
Fill your cupcake liners 3/4 full.

Add an extra cupcake liner to your finished cupcakes.

If you’re wanting picture-perfect liners, you might want to add a clean liner over the liner you used to bake your cupcake in. That way the oil and any batter residue won’t show on the outside. 

Make small individual batches.

If you are needing to use more than one box of cake mix for lots of cupcakes, make individual batches. This keeps the resulting cupcakes more consistent. Bigger batches can sometimes get ruined and it’s usually a good idea to make them in individual batches. I just use several bowls next to each other so I can batch them all at once and keep them individual. 

Top with homemade frosting if you have time.

If you top these cupcakes with homemade icing, it’s almost assumed that you made the entire thing from scratch. I used a buttercream vanilla frosting that was quick, easy, and turned out amazing. I piped it on with a cheap frosting kit and received a ton of compliments.

Gourmet Vanilla Cupcakes Made From Boxed Cake Mix

The BEST vanilla cupcakes made from boxed cake mix. Easy, gourmet cupcakes that only take a few minutes to mix up!
Course Dessert
Keyword Cupcakes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Servings 30 cupcakes
Calories 111kcal


  • 1 box vanilla cake mix
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1-2 tbsp pure vanilla extract


  • Preheat your oven as directed on the box recipe.
  • Line your cupcake pan.
  • Add all of your ingredients to a bowl and whisk or mix together with a stand or hand mixer for about two minutes.
  • Fill your cupcake liners about ¾ of the way full with batter.
  • Bake as directed on the box until you can test with a toothpick. You can also tell that the cupcakes are done by poking the top with your finger (be careful if it is still hot). If the cupcake bounces back, it is done. If your finger leaves a dent in the top, the cupcake is not cooked thoroughly.
  • Cool your cupcakes and frost if desired.


Calories: 111kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 13mg | Sodium: 159mg | Potassium: 25mg | Fiber: 0.2g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 155IU | Calcium: 49mg | Iron: 0.3mg
finished vanilla cupcakes
Finished cupcakes

Your cupcakes will turn out rich in flavor, moist, and perfect in consistency. Enjoy!

If you want a fun, easy way to display your cupcakes, check out this easy DIY box cupcake display.

You might also like these Easy Cherry Chip Cake Mix Cookies

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