Kitchn Love Letters

The $2 “Perfect” Boxed Cake Mix My Aunt Swears by for All of Her Holiday Baking

published Dec 23, 2023
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Boxed cake mix is the unsung hero of the dessert world. A fixture on supermarket shelves, its versatility makes it a game-changer for home bakers. Beyond cake (an obvious use, no doubt), I use these mixes in some of my most memorable cookies, quick breads, and breakfast baked goods.

I’m no stranger to a good semi-homemade hack. I typically opt for traditional flavors like Funfetti or devil’s food, but this year I’m taking inspo from my husband’s aunt, who used the same boxed mix a few Christmases ago. Duncan Hines Spice Cake Mix contains all the coziness of the holiday season, featuring notable warming spices — cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.

Credit: Rachel Reiss

What’s So Great About Duncan Hines Spice Cake Mix?

For less than $2 per box, the mix easily comes together with a few other kitchen staples (oil, eggs, water) to create a perfect moist and fluffy cake that’s as good for dessert as it is for breakfast. It’s formulated to yield consistent results every time, and doesn’t require the complexity of ingredients or technique that other (from-scratch) spice cakes do.

What’s more, it’s available all-year round, so no need to worry about it flying off the shelves during the height of the holidays. The long shelf life of boxed cake mix makes it perfect to keep around for when the mood strikes.

Credit: Rachel Reiss

What’s the Best Way to Use Duncan Hines Spice Cake Mix?

While enjoyable on its own, I was surprised to discover the unique flavor profile of this spice cake mix makes it a versatile canvas for many different treats. I recently stocked up on several boxes to last me throughout the holiday season and made what is perhaps my favorite pairing for a warm, wintry beverage: biscotti. 

These spice cake mix biscotti make for a crunchy, dippable afternoon snack or accompaniment to morning coffee. Prepare the mix according to boxed instructions — swapping the oil for unsalted butter, and adding flour in place of water to create a dough. I shape and bake as I would with most any biscotti and, once cooled, drizzle mine with a layer of white chocolate. You could also mix some pecans, dried cranberries, or candied ginger into the batter for some extra pizzazz. 

If you’re looking to branch out from biscotti, spice cake mix can become the basis for a variety of minimal-effort treats. Paired with a can of pumpkin, you can whip up the easiest two-ingredient muffins — then, stuff said muffins with a spread of cream cheese frosting for the easiest pumpkin spice whoopie pies. Speaking of pumpkin, for easy entertaining, the cake portion of this pumpkin roll could easily be swapped for the boxed mix to create a dessert that’s bound to impress.

The mix also creates the perfect foundation for different flavor profiles. Add molasses and cloves for gingerbread, applesauce for apple cake, or, a personal favorite, carrots, raisins, and walnuts for carrot cake. 

After discovering all of the simple, straightforward, and customizable possibilities, I’ll be baking through my boxes for sweet, spiced treats the rest of the season. 

Buy: Duncan Hines Perfectly Moist Spice Cake Mix, $1.99 for 15.25 ounces at Kroger

What’s your go-to baking mix for the holidays? Tell us about it in the comments below.