how to make store-bought cake + icing taste like the real thing

Real talk? By Oli's birthday I was done with baking cakes. I love baking, but starting in late August, we have a birthday every 2-4 weeks in our family until Oli's at the end of October, and by then I'm kind of crawling to the finish line.

I was at the grocery store a couple days before Oli's birthday and I saw that both boxed birthday cake and icings were on sale for $1.99 each. I mean, common'. So I grabbed one box of cake mix and two icings, and with a few sneaky tweaks, it didn't taste very store bought at all! See, I'm not just turning up my nose at boxed cake mix because I think baking from scratch is everything. There are plenty of store-bought options that I swear always taste better than my home made attempts (gravy and Hollandaise sauce, for example). The thing is, I really just don't like the taste of store-bought cake and icing. It tastes flat and artificial to me. Like overly sweet, with no other defining flavours. Enter: the hacks.

Shape: Traditional box cake bakes into two 8-9 inch pans, a 9x13 pan, or cupcakes. I made thinner cake rounds in three 9 inch pans and did a triple layer cake so it already looked a little different. These are my favourite cake pans, fyi!

Cake: The directions state to add three egg whites, water, and oil. I add full eggs and milk instead of whites and water. It gives the cake a richer taste and texture. For flavour, you'll want to add two teaspoons of vanilla no matter what end flavour you're going for. Adding citrus zest or loose leaf tea are both amazing ways to naturally infuse flavour into a bland cake, too!

Icing: I bought the classic white icing as well as the cream cheese flavoured icing. Honestly, they both tasted almost identical - overly sweet and artificial. They're not made with real butter so there's no salt to balance the hyper-sweetness. I add several pinches of salt and more vanilla extract. Almond extract is great too. You can add the zest or loose leaf tea right into the icing as well! I love chamomile or earl grey icing!

Fun toppings: I got these neat gold sprinkles and added a few and then we topped his cake with a Lego man from the set we bought him for his birthday! We got him the Lord of the Rings Lego set off Kijiji (where we get all of our Lego because the regular prices are bonkers!) so this little dwarf was his clue for his gift :)

Some occasions call for a legit homemade cake, but sometimes you've got to cut corners and that's aiiight. 


  1. I think you should take more photos of that cake to show everyone how great it is. Thank for giving a good experience. Sometimes fixing the frosting we bought in store is a good idea to increase our cooking skill.

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