Cake Mix Cupcakes

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Cake Mix Cupcakes start with a cake mix (obviously), but instead of following the box instructions, we add our own secret ingredients to make these cupcakes taste truly indulgent! Don’t worry — they’re still super easy to make! Pipe on the tastiest chocolate buttercream frosting and be prepared to fall in love with these cupcakes!

Love cake mix cupcakes, but want a vanilla version with cream cheese frosting? Try these Easter Cupcakes and just leave off the toasted coconut and candies on top!

Cake Mix Cupcakes with frosting and fresh raspberries on top

Cake Mix Cupcakes

Cupcake recipes can sometimes be finicky depending on altitude, humidity, ingredients used, how the batter gets mixed, etc. This cupcake recipe, however, is my faithful go-to recipe. It’s tried and tested, never fails, and the cupcakes taste downright amazing!

These cupcakes start with a boxed cake mix, but no one can ever tell! I make them frequently and always get requests for the recipe — everyone is convinced they’re made from scratch. And, without fail, people enjoying these cupcakes always comment on the small chocolate chunks throughout — the added miniature chocolate chips further the illusion by adding a great texture and additional chocolate flavor.

These chocolate cupcakes are unbeatable and especially because they’re so easy to make. They whip up *just* about as quickly as a boxed mix, with only a few extra ingredients added to maximize the flavor. You’ll still only need one bowl and the mess is kept to a minimum!

Boxed ingredients required for this recipe

Cake Mix Cupcakes: The Cake Mix

We’ve tried several different cake mixes, and truly none even come close to Betty Crocker’® Super Moist Triple Chocolate Fudge Mix (pictured above). Betty Crocker doesn’t pay me to say this; it’s simply our preference for this recipe.

We love the softness, fudgy-ness, and deep rich flavor this cake mix contributes to the cupcakes. Use the cake mix, but don’t follow any package directions for preparing the cake; we’ll add our own ingredients!

Process shots-- images of the wet ingredients being whisked together

The Secret To Getting Rich and Moist Cake Mix Cupcakes

Beyond the cake mix, we add one other store-bought mix — chocolate pudding. This is the “secret” for a deeply chocolate, rich flavor and soft, moist texture. The dry pudding mix adds so much to these Cake Mix Cupcakes!

While it would be nice if any boxed pudding worked in this recipe, this part of the recipe is very specific. We’re looking to use chocolate instant pudding mix not the cook-and-serve type. We also want to use regular pudding mix–not sugar-free or reduced-calorie — those varieties won’t work the same. 

The other thing to keep an eye out for is the pudding box size. Most stores carry two sizes — a larger and smaller one. We want to get the small 3.9-ounce (111g) box. If you only have a large box, measure out 3.9 ounces with a food scale and save the rest for a different recipe or make a small batch of pudding with it.

When using the pudding mix in these cupcakes, use the dry mix — don’t prepare it according to package directions. 

Process shots-- images of the dry ingredients being added on top of the wet

How T0 Make Cupcakes With A Cake Mix

The process is almost as easy as preparing cupcakes according to the directions on the package — we simply add in a few more ingredients! We’ve already discussed the cake mix and pudding mix, so I’ll break down the remaining ingredients below:

  • Large eggs. Be sure to use large, not medium or small for best results.
  • Full-fat sour cream. This ingredient adds a nice density and moistness to the cupcakes. Full-fat honey vanilla Greek yogurt (made by Greek Gods®) works really nicely as well.
  • Oil. Vegetable, canola, or melted coconut oil all work nicely.
  • Vanilla extract. A hearty addition (1 full tablespoon) of vanilla extract infuses a nice rich flavor.
  • Warm/hot water or coffee. The hot water “blooms” the cocoa powder in the cake and pudding mix, making the cupcakes more flavorful. Don’t use cold or room-temperature water. Use leftover coffee if you like a subtle mocha flavor.
  • Miniature chocolate chips. The chocolate chips disperse throughout the cupcakes, adding pockets of melted chocolate to every bite — this is always taste testers’ favorite cupcake addition! If you don’t have miniature chocolate chips, coarsely chop a chocolate bar; we found large chocolate chips to be a bit overpowering.

Image of the cupcakes batter being mixed together with chocolate chips; then added to the prepared cupcakes pan; and fresh out of the oven.

Chocolate frosting

The frosting is rich and indulgent — my all-time favorite chocolate frosting! The cocoa powder is what really sets this frosting apart. I recommend using Dutchprocess instead of natural or plain cocoa powder. Dutch process offers a more robust and intensely deep chocolate flavor. Regular cocoa powder will create a less-flavorful and slightly drier frosting. That said, if you don’t like a dark or intense chocolate flavor, you may prefer natural or unsweetened cocoa powder instead.

QUICK TIP

  I use (and highly recommend; it’s amazing!) this cocoa. You can find Hershey’s “Special Dark”® cocoa powder at most grocery stores and it’s a great easier-to-find choice.

Process shots-- images of the frosting ingredients being whipped together

Cake Mix Cupcakes Storage

Once completely cooled, store the cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature. Enjoy these cupcakes within 2-3 days.

These cupcakes freeze beautifully, but the frosting doesn’t. I recommend freezing unfrosted cupcakes and then making up a batch of frosting when you’re ready to frost and enjoy the cupcakes.

To freeze/thaw (without frosting):

  1. Cool cupcakes completely
  2. To freeze: Set unwrapped cupcakes on a sheet pan and place in the freezer for 3o minutes. Then remove and wrap each cupcake individually in plastic wrap and then place in large freezer bags. Freeze for 2-3 months.
  3. To thaw: Set out at room temperature until thawed. They do end up slightly more moist once thawed (but still tasty!) Frost cupcakes after fully thawing.

Process shots--finishing up the frosting and then piping it on of the Cake Mix Cupcakes

Cake Mix Cupcakes FAQs

1Is cupcake mix the same as cake mix?

Yes — both batters are prepared the same way. The only differences are the pan used and how long they spend in the oven.

This recipe can make a cake instead of cupcakes (see this Bundt Cake post for more details on that)

2How do you make a box cake taste like a bakery cake?

Add some extra ingredients that aren’t listed on the box. Pudding mix, sour cream, and vanilla extract all will contribute to a superior taste and texture than you’ll get from following the directions on the cake mix.

3What cake mix is best for cupcakes?

We’ve been very impressed by Betty Crocker’s Super Moist Cake Mixes (not sponsored, just a fan). If you use another brand, look for one with pudding in the mix. I know, we add our own pudding as well, but that double dose of pudding is what takes it over the top!

4What happens if you fill cupcakes to the top of the liner?

If the liners are overfilled, there won’t be enough space for the cupcakes to rise. The batter will likely spill over the sides and you’ll be left with flat cupcakes.

For this recipe, we want to fill liners 3/4 full. This batter should evenly fill 24 cupcake cavities.

5Can you fill cupcakes before baking?

If you want to add a filling to the cupcakes, it’s much better for this recipe if you do it after baking.  These cupcakes fill up very nicely after being baked. Simply pipe a filling into the center, or remove a little bit of cake from the center to insert chocolate chips or sprinkles.

We’ve used these cupcakes for Gender Reveal parties, adding colored sprinkles to the centers.

6What size cake mix do I use?

The standard size cake mix works great in this recipe. We use a box that is 15.25 oz. (432g)

7What cake mix cupcake tips do you have?

We have several tips to make this an easy-breezy process.

  • Use a big ice cream scooper to portion batter into a muffin tin
  • Use muffin liners — they save a lot of mess and ensure the cupcakes come out nicely.
  • Cool on a wire cooling rack — they need to be elevated so air can circulate around all sides as it cools. Otherwise, moisture (from the heat of the cupcakes and pan) will condense on the bottom of the cupcakes, making them damp and slightly sticky.
  • Once the cupcakes have fully cooled, place them in another cupcake liner for beautiful-looking cupcakes!
  • Only frost the cupcakes when they have completely cooled.

8How do I know when cupcakes are finished baking?

  • Make sure your oven is correctly calibrated; wait for the oven to fully preheat before adding the filled muffin tin to the oven and position the tin in the center of the oven. I recommend baking only one tray at a time.
  • Visual cues for doneness: Cupcakes have pulled away from the edges of the pan ever so slightly.
  • Physical cue for doneness: A toothpick (or fork) inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean or with a couple of moist (not wet) crumbs. When touching the top of a cupcake, it will lightly spring back.

Cake Mix Cupcake ready to be eaten

More ways to use cake mixes:

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Cake Mix Cupcakes

5 from 3 votes
Cake Mix Cupcakes start with a cake mix (obviously), but instead of following the box instructions, we add our own "secret" ingredients to make these cupcakes taste truly indulgent! Don't worry -- they're still super easy to make! Pipe on the tastiest chocolate buttercream frosting and be prepared to fall in love with these cupcakes!
Print Recipe

Cake Mix Cupcakes

5 from 3 votes
Cake Mix Cupcakes start with a cake mix (obviously), but instead of following the box instructions, we add our own "secret" ingredients to make these cupcakes taste truly indulgent! Don't worry -- they're still super easy to make! Pipe on the tastiest chocolate buttercream frosting and be prepared to fall in love with these cupcakes!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword cake mix cupcakes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Total Time 38 minutes
Servings 24 cupcakes
Calories 462kcal
Author Chelsea
Cost $7.32

Equipment

  • Muffin tin and muffin liners

Ingredients

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup (156g) sour cream use full fat
  • 3/4 cup (146g) vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 box (15.25 oz.; 432g) Super Moist Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix Betty Crocker is our preferred brand
  • 1 package (3.9 oz.; 110g) chocolate pudding mix dry
  • 1/2 cup (122g) hot water, you can also use leftover coffee or add in some espresso for a heightened chocolate flavor
  • 1 cup (192g) miniature chocolate-chips, or coarsely chopped chocolate baking bar

Dark (or milk) Chocolate Frosting

  • 1 and 1/4 cups (2 and 1/2 sticks; 511g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 cups (317g) powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup (57g) Dutch-process cocoa powder (I use Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder)
  • 1/4 cup (56g) heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/16 teaspoon (tiny pinch) salt

Instructions

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • PREP: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (176 degrees C) and line a cupcake pan with liners. This recipe makes 24 cupcakes. Set aside.
  • BATTER: In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with a fork. Add in the sour cream, canola oil, and vanilla extract. Stir until completely combined. Add in the cake mix and pudding mix, stirring a few times to moisten. Add in the hot water and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. If you're using chopped chocolate instead, chop it pretty small to about the size of miniature chocolate chips.
  • BAKE: Fill cupcake liners 3/4 the way full. (The batter should yield a full 24 cupcakes.) Bake only 1 tray at a time for 18-23 minutes or until a toothpick (or fork) when inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. When lightly touching the top of the cupcake, it should bounce back. Remove and let the cupcakes cool in pan for 5-10 minutes before removing to a wire cooling rack to finish cooling completely. (See Note 1)

Frosting

  • MAKE IT: Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter in a medium bowl on medium speed for 3-4 minutes. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Mix on low. Add 3 tablespoons of heavy cream and the vanilla extract. If the frosting is too thin, add more powdered sugar (up to 1 cup) until you get the desired consistency. If the frosting is too thick, you can add more heavy cream (up to 2 tablespoons). Add in the salt. If the frosting is still too sweet, add a dash more salt.
  • DECORATE CUPCAKES: Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a star tip and frost the completely cooled cupcakes. Cupcakes are best enjoyed with 1-3 days.
  • STORAGE: Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature. To freeze/thaw (unfrosted; frosting doesn't freeze/thaw well): Cool cupcakes completely before wrapping and freezing. To freeze: Set unwrapped cupcakes on a sheet pan and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Then remove and wrap each cupcake individually in plastic wrap and then place in large freezer bags. Freeze for 2-3 months.To thaw: Set out at room temperature until thawed. They do thaw slightly more moist (but still tasty!) Frost cupcakes after fully thawing.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Cooling: Cool the cupcakes on a wire cooling rack — they need to be elevated so air can circulate around all sides as they cool. Otherwise, moisture (from the heat of the cupcakes and pan) will condense on the bottom of the cupcakes, making them damp and slightly sticky. Cool the cakes in the pan for 5-10 minutes and then remove them to the wire rack to finish cooling.
To make MINIATURE cake mix cupcakes: Line a miniature muffin tin with liners and add about 1 rounded tablespoon batter into each. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until a fork/toothpick comes out clean or with moist crumbs. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 462kcal | Carbohydrates: 58g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 58mg | Sodium: 246mg | Potassium: 208mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 46g | Vitamin A: 447IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 65mg | Iron: 2mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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14 Comments

  1. These cupcakes look absolutely beautiful! I’ve never added pudding mix to the batter and can’t wait to try it now. Pinned!

  2. OMG….Can I just have a little cupcake with that frosting? I could take a spoon and the bowl of frosting, sit down…and ENJOY!

  3. 5 stars
    for the chocolate baking bar instead of the mini chocolate chips, does it matter of it’s unsweetened or like say 60% cacao?

  4. WOW! A friend asked me to make chocolate cupcakes for a celebration they were hosting. I found your recipe and loved that it was an elevated version of a boxed recipe. These cupcakes were such a hit! Everyone raved about them being the “best chocolate cupcake” they had tasted! Your recipe was simple, easy, and quick. It is my new go-to dessert recipe for events and gatherings! Thank you!

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