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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.


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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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About TidyMom

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+


  1. 1
    Lisa Marie says:

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

  2. 2
    Debbi Does Dinner Healthy says:

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

  3. 3
    Pink Martini says:

    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. 4
    TracePoo says:

    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. 5
    the country cook says:

    That does sound really, really good.

  6. 6
    Tanya R. says:

    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. 7

    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. 8

    Would this be yummy with strawberry cake mix?

  9. 9

    Love this! What is your frosting trick?

  10. 12

    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.

    • 13

      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.

      • 14

        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

        • 15

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

          • 16

            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!

          • 17

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

        • 18

          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.

        • 19

          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.

          • 20

            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!

        • 21

          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!

    • 22

      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?

      • 23

        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.

    • 24

      would this work for brownie mix too?

  11. 26

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

  12. 28
    Trudy Elkins says:

    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. 29

    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. 30

    You can also add a tsp of any extract flavoring!

  15. 31

    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.

  16. 36

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

  17. 37
    Deanna Ortiz says:

    I am confused do you use water or milk?

    • 38



      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. 39

    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?

    • 40

      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.

    • 41

      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. 42
    Shelly Jones says:

    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. 43

    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 :).

    • 44

      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. :)

    • 45

      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. 46

    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!

    • 47

      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. 48

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

  23. 49

    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. 50

    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. 51
    Cgenovesi says:

    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. 52

    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!


    • 53

      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.

      • 54

        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. 55

    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. 56

    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. 57

    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!

    • 58

      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.

      • 59

        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!

      • 61

        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! :D

  30. 62

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

  31. 63

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

  32. 64

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

  33. 65

    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. 66

    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!

  35. 67
    Tastebud Applause says:

    I tried both methods above, and I prefer TidyMom’s recipe to the one suggested by Shelly. Although both were good, I found Shelly’s to be a tad too dense for me, although the butter taste was more pronounced (and who doesn’t love that??!). I found TidyMom’s recipe to be very tasty and a bit lighter which we all enjoyed at my home. Thanks to both of you for sharing!

  36. 68
    Sara Gifford says:

    Hey Cheryl! I used this recipe last night! DELICIOUS!! One question though, do you need to make any adjustments for high altitude? I’m in CO and while they were yummy, they were super moist (which is NOT a bad thing), just really crumbly. Nobody complained and half the cake was gone within 10 minutes!! Just curious if I need to add flour or something. Thanks!!

  37. 69
    Andrea deSherbinin says:

    Hi! I just found your website today thru Pinterest :) I’m so excited to try this recipe. I am also wondering if you have any ‘perfecting hints’ for brownie mixes I love your pictures and all of your creative ideas. Thanks so much for all of the work you put into your posts and for sharing.

  38. 70
    Mary Caitlin says:

    Did you use salted or unsalted butter or does it matter?

  39. 74
    Betty Stutes says:

    I have used your method for years and always comes out great. One day while baking a cake I didn’t have enough butter so I used a big spoon of Hellmans Mayo. Never make cakes without the mayo again. Also use when making corn bread. I use the Jiffy box mix add eggs, milk and mayo (2 Tablespoons). Best cornbread ever.

  40. 75

    I used this recipe last night for cupcakes for a graduation party and they turned out amazing! I posted about it today on my blog and linked back to your site.

    • 76

      Sorry that was the wrong link! Its really
      Have a blessed day!

  41. 77

    I am baking my cupcakes right now. I am using a Duncan Hines devil’s food cake mix, but the only thing different from the back of the box is substituting the butter for the oil. The box only calls for one cup of water as well so I’m hoping they turn out okay.

  42. 78

    Question is, why not actually making from scratch? Come on guys, it`s not like it`s hard.. =P

  43. 80

    If you use buttermilk instead of water… LOOK OUT!! It’s amazing!

  44. 82

    In a word this recipe is heavenly! I actually used this recipe using a giant cupcake mold and it came out perfectly. So moist and delicious! Just for fun I added about a cup of mini chocolate chips which added more richness. Yesterday my friend who I made the cupcake for made a batch of reg sized cupcakes using this recipe. She posted a photo on facebook….so did I. Were both so proud of ourselves!

  45. 83

    I have made these 3 different times. they are fabulous, however 20 minutes is way to long to bake them, my last batch I baked for 14 minutes and they turned out super moist and delicious! They were still moist the next day! Love this method, and will never follow the box directions again!
    Thanks so much.

  46. 84

    thank u for this cupcake recipe I made chocolate mini cupcakes with peanut butter frosting and melted choclate on top took them to a party and everyone love them

  47. 85
    tina bean says:

    um, you changed my life. i’ve never been so proud of a tray of cupcakes in my life. thank you!!!

  48. 86

    I used tidy moms recipe for cupcakes with butter, I used duncan hines french vanilla and made my butter cream frosting for my daughters birthday turned out sooo good everyone enjoyed thank you, becky

  49. 87

    This is amazing….made carrot cake cupcakes tonight and did exactly what you said and they are the best cupcakes ever…..thank you for sharing

  50. 88

    Do you think I could do this to make cake pops?


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