The Perfect Cupcake Recipe (using a mix)


This is my all time favorite, go to “recipe” for cupcakes. You can use this “trick” to make a box cake mix taste like “from scratch”

How to make cupcake from mix taste like scratch

The Perfect Cupcake Recipe (using a mix)

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 24

The Perfect Cupcake Recipe (using a mix)


  • 1 box mix (any flavor*) – but get the good kind, Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted (use butter not margarine….trust me on this!)
  • 1 cup of water


  1. Melt the butter in the microwave.
  2. Add cake mix, eggs and water to the butter in large bowl.
  3. Mix on low for 1 min. Then mix on high for 1 min.
  4. You will be amazed that your batter is nice and thick and creamy - not thin and runny like it is when you follow the box instructions.
  5. Fill cupcake papers – tip: use an icecream scooper! – One scoop is just the right amount per cupcake!
  6. Pop them in the oven on 350 for 20 minutes.
  7. Let cool.


I use this 99% of the time when I make cakes and cupcakes and I always get lots of compliments!

*Because I get so many emails asking…….YES you can use this to make a cake too! Cupcakes are just mini cakes

MORE  Cupcake Recipes

TidyMom Cupcake Recipes






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Cheryl Sousan

A self-proclaimed neat freak, Cheryl chronicles her journey through homemaking on her blog,, where she shares recipes, tutorials, crafting and her ever-growing love for photography. This St. Louis mom juggles her passion for life, her daughters and her tiger-loving husband, all while her obsession with tidiness cleans up the trail blazed behind her. Google+

194 Responses to “The Perfect Cupcake Recipe (using a mix)”

  1. Lisa Marie posted on June 28, 2010 at 8:58 am (#)

    Just made cupcakes yesterday…thought of you when I made them… you are the cupcake and cookie queen… :) <3

  2. Debbi Does Dinner Healthy posted on June 28, 2010 at 12:20 pm (#)

    I sure wish I saw this before I made 4000 cupcakes for this weekend! They sound awesome!

  3. Pink Martini posted on June 28, 2010 at 12:46 pm (#)

    I'm going to try this for the weekend. I spent the better part of yesterday looking for a good vanilla recipe nothing floated my boat. A stick of butter? Yum!

  4. TracePoo posted on June 28, 2010 at 9:11 pm (#)

    I like to use 1 cup of buttermilk instead of water and 4 eggs (same amount of oil/butter listed on instructions)… Turns out moist. Mmmm… Makes me sad that you posted this though. I just ran out of cake mix! Darn!

  5. the country cook posted on June 30, 2010 at 1:08 pm (#)

    That does sound really, really good.

  6. Tanya R. posted on July 2, 2010 at 12:27 am (#)

    I JUST made these and WOW are they fabulous!! All the other recipes I've tried online with a box mix aren't that good… but these are amazing!! Thank you!!!

  7. Melissa posted on February 12, 2012 at 5:02 pm (#)

    This is such an awesome tip!! Thank you so very much for sharing it. Do you think though that it would work the same if you are trying to make a real cake? My daughters birthday is coming up and I was going to make a cake from scratch, but I would LOVE to save some time. thanks!

  8. Becca posted on February 12, 2012 at 8:08 pm (#)

    Would this be yummy with strawberry cake mix?

  9. Shelley posted on February 12, 2012 at 8:28 pm (#)

    Love this! What is your frosting trick?

    • Alyssa replied on April 16th, 2012 at 12:02 am

      Did she ever tell you how to do the frosting? I would like to know. The colors are perfect together.

      • TidyMom replied on April 16th, 2012 at 7:55 am

        you can check out all of my cupcake recipes, each one will have the frosting recipe with it

        This post is just “how to doctor a cake mix” – any flavor

  10. Shelly posted on February 13, 2012 at 7:18 am (#)

    I’m a pastry chef (don’t get paid to do it anymore, so I’m no longer a “professional”) and one of the jobs I used to do was when I worked for a Swiss chocolatier. The guy who started the business was this 80-year-old Swiss immigrant who learned pastures and chocolate-making by the best.

    He pulls me aside one day and gives me this “secret” to making terrific cakes: used boxed cake mix. (his personal preference was Dincan Hines Super Moist Deluxe SwissChocolate, but I’ve tried his tips on many different brands and it still works) he said that baking is a science (which is true, too much of this or too little of that and it makes all the difference in the world) and the boxes mixed are already perfectly measured out. Saves time and you don’t have to worry about messing it up.

    His addition is *almost* exactly what you have above… You’re about halfway there. His recipe: 1 box cake mix. However many eggs it says to use on on the box, add one. (two if you want it to be really rich.) whatever mount of il it says to use on the box, double it, and use melted butter. And instead of water use whole milk.

    Unless I’m making a special cake that requires a recipe (like my Boston Cream Pie, or my Flourless Chocolate Torte) this is how I make all my cakes and cupcakes. Been doing it for about 15 years now, and I have people that say I make the best cakes in the world.

    • Leta replied on February 13th, 2012 at 5:27 pm

      When you do your recipe do you mean to add double the oil and also the same amount of butter?
      And is 2 % milk ok? Thanks. I always added 1-2 tsp almond flavoring to my cakes.

      • TidyMom replied on February 13th, 2012 at 8:42 pm

        no, I’m pretty sure she means use melted butter instead of oil, and for how much, double what the box says for oil…… if it says 1/2 cup oil, use 1 cup melted butter.

        I have NOT tried this technique yet, but I’m curious to hear if anyone does

        • Leta replied on February 14th, 2012 at 7:45 am

          Thanks. I plan on trying it today. I will let you know how it turns out.

          • donna replied on March 5th, 2012 at 3:22 pm

            Yes! I’ve tried this method… I added one egg, doubled the amt of oil and substiuted butter for it and replaced the water with milk and it was AMAZING! I’ll never use any other method. And the Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe is the BEST box mix out there, 2nd is Betty and dead last is Pillsbury. Hope this helps!

          • Tammy replied on March 19th, 2012 at 1:12 pm

            Has anyone tried using buttermilk instead of whole milk? I love using buttermilk in my cupcakes.

        • Annie replied on September 4th, 2012 at 8:30 am

          I am making this today! I have heard of doing this, but never before heard of doubling the butter. WOW! Sounds super good. I am trying this today because I have a baby shower to bake for this Thursday. Will update as to how this turns out.

        • Annie replied on September 7th, 2012 at 11:32 pm

          Ok. I made them the other day. They are delicious! I made both the Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge cake and Red Velvet. Both tasted great, but I think that the Red Velvet came out exceptionally well. Got rave reviews from the Baby Shower guests.

          • Heather replied on September 18th, 2012 at 10:42 pm

            Just to clarify, you used the milk version right? So, for example, you used four eggs, 2/3 cup butter and 1 cup milk (for the duncan hines dark chocolate)? Making this soon and trying to figure out if i should go this route or the route originally posted (with water and 3 eggs). thanks!

        • Tracy replied on May 17th, 2014 at 2:25 pm

          Doesn’t work with Duncan Hines lemon cake mix. Just tried, and all the cupcake tops spread out instead of rising up, then sank as they cooled. Very disappointing! Have tried before with substituting 1/2 cup butter for oil, 3 eggs and a little less than 1 cup water. Should have stuck with that!

    • Lori M replied on March 30th, 2012 at 1:18 pm

      is that using just 1 cup of milk per box of cake mix or the amount of water it says on the box but replacing w/ milk?

      • TidyMom replied on March 30th, 2012 at 1:27 pm

        1 cup – if you are using Duncan Hines – the box calls for 1-1/3 – so you want to use just a little less liquid than the box calls for.
        FYI – I tried the milk and wasn’t as happy as I am with water.

    • Laura replied on August 9th, 2012 at 4:35 pm

      would this work for brownie mix too?

      • TidyMom replied on August 10th, 2012 at 8:43 am

        I don’t think so

  11. Veronica @ Café con Leche posted on February 13, 2012 at 11:17 am (#)

    could i use a red velvet cake mix with this recipe?!!?? need v-day suggestion! eek!

    • TidyMom replied on February 13th, 2012 at 8:43 pm

      yes, I said you can use this for any flavor…..just be sure to use a good brand

  12. Trudy Elkins posted on February 13, 2012 at 11:14 pm (#)

    I’ve used Duncan Hines for years. Always the butter Duncan Hines. I’ve never had a complaint on a wedding cake, been doing those for years. I really like you website. Thanks for all the info.


  13. monique posted on February 14, 2012 at 1:51 pm (#)

    I saw on food network that butter makes for a dryer cake than oil. I’ve always used milk instead of water. Maybe I will have to try two cakes at once, one with butter one with oil. Never heard the extra egg thing, will try it! Thanks!

  14. Britt posted on February 15, 2012 at 4:51 pm (#)

    You can also add a tsp of any extract flavoring!

  15. Allison posted on February 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm (#)

    so do i use this and the original ingredients on the box like oil and butter or add a extra 1/2 cup of butter to replace the 1/2 cup of oil or just no oil and continue with only 11/2 cup butter.

    • TidyMom replied on February 17th, 2012 at 4:18 pm

      You use a box mix…..not a prepared box mix

      • sara replied on August 29th, 2012 at 11:52 am

        Okay I don’t get it. What do you mean not a prepared box mix?

        • Angela replied on September 6th, 2012 at 9:05 pm

          She means just use the powdered mix that comes in the box, NOT the mix + everything you’d normally add to it if you followed the box directions…then add the items she instructed!

          • TidyMom replied on September 7th, 2012 at 7:46 am


  16. Meegan posted on February 18, 2012 at 1:38 am (#)

    Just made a batch of chocolate cupcakes, and they are awesome!
    They came out like mini mudcakes :)

  17. Deanna Ortiz posted on February 22, 2012 at 8:32 am (#)

    I am confused do you use water or milk?

    • TidyMom replied on February 22nd, 2012 at 2:28 pm



      1 box mix (any flavor*) – but get the good kind, Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker
      3 Large Eggs
      1/2 cup butter, melted (use butter not margarine….trust me on this!)
      1 cup of water

  18. Meagan posted on February 22, 2012 at 1:26 pm (#)

    I made these today using the dark chocolate fudge mix from Duncan Hines. I baked mine for 17 minutes since the toothpick came out clean at that time. They are moist, but flat! And they don’t spring back when touched. Is this because I didn’t bake for the full 20 minutes or are they supposed to be flat when using this method?

    • Melissa replied on April 29th, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      That has happened to me with chocolate cupcakes before. They need to be baked a little longer, so the full 20 mins would probably fix that.

    • TidyMom replied on April 29th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

      I always bake mine a full 20 mins. and only filly linners 2/3 full, so the baked cupcake just meets the top of the liner.

  19. Shelly Jones posted on February 23, 2012 at 10:13 am (#)

    What about using a gluten free cupcake mix? Anyone doctored up one of those and know of a good mix? We are new to gluten free, but really craving cupcakes since I saw this post :)

  20. andrea posted on February 24, 2012 at 3:45 pm (#)

    I just made these today and had some trouble. I guess my ice cream scoop is bigger than yours because almost all of my cupcakes overflowed and touched eachother in the middle. They didn’t seem that full (about 1/2 way) but the mix must be deceptively dense and it fluffs up much more than I expected. The ones I did salvage were also flat on top (as a previous comment mentioned) but I like that for decorating purposes. I just wondered if there is a more exact measurement I should go by like 2-3 Tbsp or something like that. Otherwise they taste great :).

    • andrea replied on February 24th, 2012 at 4:13 pm

      Okay, let me retract my previous issues lol. In the process of making the batter I was distracted by a 3 year old and a 1 year old and somehow FORGOT to add water. I am laughing and annoyed at myself all at the same time right now. :)

    • karen replied on March 12th, 2012 at 12:44 pm

      I had the same issue with overflowing cakes and confused with the pastry chefs recipe with adding and doubling. The original recipe here worked perfectly no need to change a thing.

  21. Jennie posted on February 26, 2012 at 10:51 pm (#)

    I used a Betty Crocker German Chocolate Cake Mix and added 1 cup melted butter, 4 eggs, and used 2% milk instead of water. Baked according to box instructions.
    It turned out fabulous and everyone was wanting the recipe!

    • rita replied on March 10th, 2012 at 1:19 pm

      I did the same as Jennie. but mine were flat on top too. I just realized as I was typing that I used only 1/2 cup of butter, which is 1 stick instead of 2. Maybe that is the problem? They are yummy, but have a flat top.

  22. Becky posted on February 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm (#)

    I am attempting these, but want to add a filling. Have you attempted this before?

  23. Rachel posted on March 1, 2012 at 7:32 pm (#)

    This is probably a silly question. But is it okay to use unsalted butter? That’s all I have. I have no idea if it makes a difference.

  24. Mia posted on March 6, 2012 at 9:29 am (#)

    I love doctoring mixes as well. Just another tip that helps a really moist cake, is to bake it at 325 instead of 350. It may take a few minutes more. But it really helps make a better cake. =o)

  25. Cgenovesi posted on March 13, 2012 at 11:51 am (#)

    I have used this conversion 3 times in the past week for my boy’s birthday. The only adjustment was I used buttermilk in the Red velvet. I used whole milk in the Chocolate and Vanilla. All 3 cakes/cupcakes turned out awesome. Everyone raved about them.

  26. Kelly posted on March 26, 2012 at 6:23 pm (#)

    Hi TidyMom,

    do you have any recommendations for how to use this recipe in high altitude? I’m in 7,000 elevation and baking is hard enough, let alone trying to convert recipes to work up here.

    Thanks for the help!


    • TidyMom replied on March 27th, 2012 at 9:01 am

      I don’t think you need to do anything different for high altitude. To my understanding that’s only for recipes with yeast.

      Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

      • replied on May 23rd, 2012 at 2:32 pm

        I have spent all but 2 years of my life living at high altitude (I currently live in Denver) and in my experience, you always have to adjust for high altitude when baking cakes! Because the high altitude=lower air pressure, baked goods tend to rise faster and then they collapse, leaving your cupcakes with dents and your cakes looking like someone sat in the middle. LOL It’s the reason I rarely ever make a scratch cake, since most of those recipes are written for lower altitudes and require tinkering to make them work here. The boxed mixes always have you add a bit of flour and add a bit of extra liquid. I would follow those, then proceed with the rest of the alterations (extra eggs, butter, etc.) If you are baking from scratch, you can also reduce the amount of leavening (baking soda/powder) and the amount of sugar by a Tbsp or 2.

  27. April posted on March 30, 2012 at 4:51 pm (#)

    Just tried this with Betty Crocker SuperMoist Chocolate Fudge mix…WOW, soooo good! What a difference! I’ll be using this way from now on!! Thanks!!

  28. Jodi posted on March 31, 2012 at 12:32 pm (#)

    Thanks for sharing, I already have a batch of your prefect cupcakes in the oven! I can tell this is going to be good. :)

  29. Serena posted on April 10, 2012 at 6:18 pm (#)

    I just made these to practice for our little ones first birthday party later this month. They turned out so yummy! I used 4 eggs instead of 3 and water instead of the milk the pastry chef suggested. I will try another batch with milk to see how it turns out too. You can’t go wrong with this recipe! The batter was so thick and fluffy. I did learn that you really only need to fill your cups 2/3 full and not 1/2 to keep them even. Thanks for sharing your secret!

    • TidyMom replied on April 11th, 2012 at 7:10 am

      Let me know what you think if you use milk……..I tried it and wasn’t as happy as I am with the water that I’ve always used.

      • Serena replied on April 21st, 2012 at 9:25 pm

        Used milk with my recipe today and was not happy with the results at all! They kept sinking In the middle. They tasted great but, I’ll stick with water the next time!

        • Jeanette replied on September 4th, 2012 at 11:30 am

          I had the same issue with sinking cupcakes when using milk. They were yummy, though. I’ll try water next time, too. :)

      • Jeanette replied on September 9th, 2012 at 4:51 pm

        OMG. I just tried your method with the water, not the milk–see comment above (#58). They are incredibly light and fluffy and soooo yummy. And I haven’t even made any frosting yet. I am having one happy chocolate fix! 😀

  30. Colleen P posted on April 13, 2012 at 8:52 am (#)

    Sounds yummy! I have some birthday cupcakes to bake today, so I’ll get to try this out. Pinning the tip too. Thanks!

  31. Debbie Buchanan posted on April 25, 2012 at 6:21 am (#)

    hey thanks – I am always looking for ways to improve on my cup cakes – gonna sure try this one.

  32. Bobbie posted on May 5, 2012 at 12:18 am (#)

    WOW! These are really great! Thanks so much for sharing. :)

  33. cori posted on May 7, 2012 at 1:40 pm (#)

    just made these and they were super watery. did i do something wrong? i followed the exact instructions. they slipped right off the spoon into the cupcake liners. help! they turned out the same as boxed cupcakes. i used duncan hines golden butter

  34. Talia posted on May 10, 2012 at 10:28 am (#)

    This recipe saved my daughter’s birthday cake after my scratch cake failed miserably! I got so many compliments on how good the cake was! I used the Pillsbury butter recipe gold mix. I also used this method for my chocolate cupcakes but wasn’t as thrilled with them. I think I’ll try a Betty or Duncan chocolate mix next time instead of Pillsbury. I will be using this as my go-to cake recipe from now on!

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