The 16 Absolute Best Packaged Cake Mixes, Ranked

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Boxed cake mixes have been around since before World War II when times were tough, and fresh ingredients were scarce. Over the years, the convenience of these handy mixes has stood the test of time, and sales are as high as ever. Even experienced bakers love the ease of simply opening a package and adding some water or a few eggs. Boxed cake mixes eliminate the delicate techniques of cake baking, like creaming butter and sugar and gently folding in dry ingredients.

Lately, there has been a trend towards higher quality food products with more emphasis on whole ingredients and care towards dietary restrictions. This change has brought forth new brands of boxed cake mix to challenge the long-standing industry leaders. We rounded up the 16 most popular boxed cake mix brands to see which are worth the effort (or expense) and which will make you wish you just picked something up at the bakery.

16. Nordic Ware

Bundt cake can be notoriously tricky to pull off, and the right recipe and methods have to be used to prevent Bundt cake from sticking to the pan and messing up the beautiful design. Nordic Ware sought to drive sales for its gorgeous Bundt cake pans by creating a line of cake mixes specifically designed to bake well in this kind of application. At $17 a box, these are some of the priciest mixes on this list, and the final result may not justify the cost. Some boxed cake ratings have even called these cakes "super dense and heavy."

It can also be tricky to source these mixes as well, so you'll have to order them special directly from the manufacturer. We have no idea if these mixes work in any cake pan that isn't a Bundt, but the price makes experimentation somewhat cost prohibitive. All these drawbacks put the Nordic Ware mixes at the bottom of our list.

15. Simple Mills

Gluten-free cake can tend to develop textural issues, and some cakes end up tasting dry, sandy, or flavorless. Additionally, some mixes use almond flour as a base, which is tricky from a technical standpoint, as nuts and nut products can go bad if left at room temperature for too long. That is precisely what happened to one Amazon reviewer, who noted a rancid flavor once they added wet ingredients. No one likes to waste money on a product that should be a certainty (such as boxed cake mixes), and so it's hard to give Simple Mills a higher consideration. 

There are many different ways to make a gluten-free cake, and Simple Mills uses both coconut flour and coconut sugar to create its mix. It may not be an issue for some, but coconut-based ingredients can be a huge turn-off for those that don't like the taste. For us, this mix becomes a pass when there are so many other, better gluten-free mixes.

14. Miss Jones

The cake mixes from Miss Jones Baking Co. have the market cornered on a certified organic and non-GMO mix that can also be made vegan, dairy-free, and soy-free. The official instructions call for eggs, milk, and butter and leave it up to you to make the necessary substitutions to make the cake vegan or dairy-free. This could be potentially confusing to some consumers who will have to purchase specialty ingredients to make this cake. Despite a pretty bit of packaging, we were left wondering if the inside of Miss Jones matched the branding. We're sad to report that it doesn't.

While many reviewers do love these mixes, more than a quarter have had issues with everything from taste to texture. One reviewer called these mixes "unreliable," and since the entire point of a pre-made mix is convenience, that's a pretty major flaw. Save yourself the trouble and just make a cake from scratch.

13. Annie's Homegrown

Annie's Homegrown is an organic food company best known for more nutritious versions of typical "kid foods,' like macaroni and cheese. Among its extensive line of products is two cake mixes: classic yellow and confetti (vanilla with sprinkles). These mixes contain no artificial flavors or colors and are made with unbleached flour. The wholesome ingredients make these mixes a great choice for parents or those looking for an alternative to standard mixes. However, there are some things Annie's Homegrown does better than others, and cake is not one of them. 

While many people do love these boxes, there are a few reviews that weren't too keen on the "natural flavor" or the dense texture. Since the ingredients are a fairly standard mix of flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt (aside from the controversial natural flavor), this may be one of those instances where you are better off just throwing together a simple, homemade cake.

12. Wholesome

The Wholesome Golden Cake Scratch Quality Baking Mix is similar in every way to Annie's Homegrown version, down to the requested four eggs and a cup of oil (Annie's calls for ¾ cup). Made with organic, fair trade ingredients, this mix is attempting to distance itself from the Duncan Hines and Pillsbury alternatives. While the absence of all the stabilizers and additives is great in theory, the big companies use these ingredients to ensure quality and consistency in the final product. 

As one review stated, the amount of oil requested is absurdly high and resulted in a very oily cake, possibly intentionally developed to overcome a dry recipe. Unfortunately, oily is not the same as moist, so this one gets a pass from us. We appreciate Wholesome's intention in leaving out some of those less-desirable ingredients, but the end product doesn't make up for it.

11. American Crafts Food Crafting

On the other end of the spectrum from the gourmet mixes with premium ingredients are the colorful cake mixes by American Craft. These mixes were not created with wholesome ingredients or taste in mind, and the end result reflects that. Still, some bakers are looking to create edible art more than culinary excellence, and for that purpose, the American Craft mixes can come in very handy.

Rainbow-colored cakes litter the social media scene, driving home bakers to want to recreate these vivid confections in their own kitchens. Food coloring can be tricky to work with, so a mix that comes pre-colored for guaranteed success is handy and won't leave you with random jars of leftover dye. Overall, these mixes are good, not great, and really only work for a very specific kind of baking project.

10. Bob's Red Mill

It's hard to compare a gluten-free baked good to one filled with flour, as the texture will never be quite the same. Even with the addition of gums and stabilizers to mimic the texture of gluten, most gluten-free cakes made from a mix end up a bit gummy or dense. That being said, Bob's Red Mill has created one of the best gluten-free cake mixes out there without having to employ any questionable ingredients.

The vanilla yellow cake mix has tons of flavor, and the texture isn't bad, either. Could this stand up against a comparable mix that uses wheat flour? Probably not, but it is a solid option for those with allergies, aversions, and sensitivities. Chocolate lovers will be happy to know that Bob's also makes a gluten-free chocolate cake mix.

9. Jiffy

A perfectly average cake mix, this product by Jiffy loses points for some questionable ingredients but gains a few back for the price ($0.98 per box) and simplicity. This brand does not make a huge range of cake flavors (though its cornbread mix is extremely popular and well-loved). Instead, many reviewers make their own alterations, adding sprinkles or fruit as they wish to dress up the flavor. The plain flavor may be a tad lackluster on its own, but it provides the perfect base for customization.

One box makes one layer, which can be very helpful for those looking to make just a small cake or perhaps an odd number of cake layers. The instructions call for one egg and a half cup of cold water, with no complicated measuring of oil or other ingredients needed. While making a Jiffy cake might not feel like the most exciting of experiences, it's a quick and easy bake that can come with a lot of nostalgia.

8. Pamela's

The mixes from Pamela's were some of the first to enter the baking scene with gluten-free and dairy-free ingredients — long before it became a trend. Even in a world where the market has become increasingly proliferated with allergy-friendly mixes, Pamela's still remains a favorite among consumers. Compared to cake mixes made with gluten, the texture is fluffy and light without being gummy. The ingredients are wholesome and pure, with a clear commitment to quality and flavor. One reviewer even questioned if the mix was really gluten-free because the texture is so amazing.

Don't expect any mold-breaking flavors, however. Pamela's only makes chocolate and vanilla-flavored boxed cakes. That being said, both can provide an excellent base for customization and add-ins. A small dash of almond extract or pure vanilla can take this great mix to the whole next level. We love Pamela's for how easy they are to make, even while offering some of the most wholesome ingredients on this list.

7. Duncan Hines

Duncan Hines was one of the earliest pioneers of the cake mix concept and after all this time this brand still remains one of the largest manufacturers in America. The mixes have updated and modernized with time and are now full of additives and stabilizers that ensure success every time. These ingredients can be a turn off to some, but the proof is in the pudding. Duncan Hines mixes never fail and deliver consistent results time and time again.

The assortment of mixes is vast, with twenty different flavors of mixes, plus a few from Duncan Hines' new EPIC line which features cake mix flavors like Fruity Pebbles. The core product line has all the most popular cake flavors, from classic dark chocolate fudge to lemon supreme. Overall, the variety makes Duncan Hines a strong consideration, as does the quality of the product.

6. Betty Crocker

Betty Crocker baking mixes call to mind a lovely home baker, wearing an apron and whipping up something delicious. This is no accident, as the parent company General Mills created this fictional character to sell products. The name stuck and continues to call to mind a simpler time when people baked at home often, and pre-made mixes were a novelty.

The Betty Crocker baking mixes are known for a light, fluffy texture and excellent flavor. "There's pudding in the mix!" a tagline on the box reads, which references a baking technique where you add instant pudding to cake batter to increase moisture in the final product. Betty Crocker mixes work well every time and can even stand up to additions of canned fruit or other flavorings. There's a reason this cake mix has staying power, not to mention they are easy to make as well. 

5. Pillsbury

Pillsbury did the cake mix industry (and the world) a favor when they released the iconic Funfetti cake, a simple yet satisfying combination of vanilla white cake and rainbow sprinkles. Many of the other mix companies on this list developed sprinkle-studded mixes in response, so clearly it was a popular idea that stuck. The rest of the Pillsbury product line is pretty standard compared with the other big-name companies, which all seem to have a few different options for chocolate, vanilla, and fruit flavors.

The Pillsbury cake mixes are well-loved by many for simplicity, great price, and excellent flavor. Pillsbury also offers a variety of sugar-free and gluten-free options, which can be a huge score for people with dietary restrictions. Between the fun branding, fantastic flavors, and always consistent outcome, Pillsbury is one of the better pre-mixed cakes you'll find.

4. Sweet Laurel

Another strong contender for the "most beautiful packaging" award, the chocolate cake mix from Sweet Laurel is a feast for the eyes before you even open the box. When owner and baker Laurel Gallucci was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, she decided to make it her life's mission to create a truly delicious chocolate cake without refined sugar, grains, or dairy. 

The brand's chocolate cake mix is made of almond flour, fair trade cocoa, and Himalayan pink salt. You will need to provide your own eggs (or flaxseed meal to make it vegan), maple syrup, and vanilla, but it's a small price to pay for such a delicious and allergy-friendly mix. Sweet Laurel has no other cake mixes as of now, but this is still one of the best options for gluten-free cake mixes on the market.

3. Belle Epicurean

Small batch and gourmet, the cake mixes by Belle Epicurean are in a class of their own. With flavors like Seattle Spice (crystallized ginger and star anise), coconut, and cardamom olive oil, these kits bake up cakes so good that no one will know they came from a mix. Each package makes two 8-inch cakes or twelve cupcakes. And although the flavors and cake consistency are extremely good, Belle Epicurean cake mixes are not as convenient to come by. 

It's unlikely that you will find these in a grocery store, but you can order them through Amazon or directly from the manufacturer. The mix requests fresh eggs, salted butter, and milk or water, which will no doubt create a much better-tasting cake than a mix that only needs fat and water. The quality helps justify the price, which is several times higher than the average mix.

2. King Arthur Baking Co.

The King Arthur Baking Co. is on a mission to educate the public on better baking practices and techniques. What began as a commercial flour company in 1790 morphed and changed over the years to eventually provide all kinds of baking ingredients and accessories. King Arthur now offers a wide range of baking and cake mixes, including a classic golden yellow cake, a "deliciously simple" chocolate cake, and a solid selection of gluten-free and keto mixes.

The ingredients are wholesome, and the flavor is top-tier. The golden yellow cake mix calls for fresh butter, eggs, and milk, so there is no need for artificial flavors or additives. The expert bakers at King Arthur have worked out all the kinks, so even high-altitude bakers can succeed by following the detailed instructions. King Arthur is crafty enough not to fit into the same big brand label as Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker, or Pillsbury, but the company has succeeded in creating a conventional, reliable cake that anyone can bake.

1. The Caker

For decades, a handful of big-name companies dominated the boxed cake mix world, leaving little room for newcomers. The Instagram era changed all that and opened the door for The Caker, a premium, luxury boxed cake mix company by Jordan Rondel. This New Zealand native got her start making custom cakes in her own bakery and later realized there was room in the market for a better-boxed cake mix. While these mixes come at a substantially higher price than every other mix on this list, they also contain no chemical additives, stabilizers, or artificial flavors.

The Caker mixes can enhance the experience of using a premixed package while providing fun and fresh tastes. The creativity in terms of flavor is exceptional, with choices like the flourless chocolate cake (that comes with a sheet of 24-karat edible gold leaf), spiced carrot with salted caramel, or matcha cherry. Some cakes can be made vegan, and some are gluten-free, but none of them require advanced knowledge of baking. With a process as easy as the Big Cake brands, The Caker is a worthwhile splurge.