Recipe Review

I Tried Ree Drummond’s “Top-Secret” Cake, and It’s the Smartest Boxed Mix Upgrade (So Fluffy!)

published Apr 16, 2024
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Chocolate drizzle on top of chocolate cake.
Credit: Kiersten Hickman

Baking the perfect cake isn’t the easiest task in the world, but Ree Drummond has a special secret for making one of the best chocolate cakes you’ll ever have: Using a boxed mix.

Yes, okay, that seems like cheating — but when you watch Ree bake this chocolate cake, you realize that it’s actually ingenious. Instead of worrying about the proper mixture of dried ingredients, Ree makes the process easy by doctoring a box of dark chocolate cake mix with ingredients you likely already have: whole milk, butter, eggs, vanilla extract, and chocolate chips. These additions promise a richer, moister cake.

So is her “top secret” cake really that good? I decided to test this chocolate cake and see if it really can pass off as a homemade cake with a very big secret.

How to Make It

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a Bundt pan with cooking spray, then set aside.

Next, ignore the instructions called for on the box. Instead, whisk together a box of dark chocolate cake mix, whole milk, melted butter, eggs, vanilla extract, and chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the pan for a few minutes, then remove the cake to a cooling rack and let it cool completely.

Once the cake is cool, make a thick ganache by whisking together heavy cream and chocolate chips in a small saucepan. Once the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth, remove it from the heat and let it cool for a minute before drizzling onto the cake. Add sprinkles or other toppings if desired.

Credit: Kiersten Hickman

My Honest Review

I am pleasantly shocked at how delicious this cake is. Even before baking this cake, I had a feeling it was going to be good based on how light and fluffy the cake looked in the photos. Once baked, the cake came out clean and held a shape that had me positively in awe.

I was delighted to discover that my assumptions were correct; the cake was, in fact, light and fluffy. The texture isn’t too moist or too dry, and the flavor is exactly what I look for in a chocolate cake. The chocolate chips mixed throughout create tiny pockets of melted chocolate, which give the whole thing molten lava cake vibes.

The only thing I didn’t quite enjoy was the use of chocolate ganache here. Because the cake itself was already so chocolaty (thanks to those aforementioned chocolate chips), I felt the ganache made the chocolate a little overpowering (which is saying a lot for a chocolate enthusiast like myself). I think instead I would have preferred a vanilla drizzle on top to balance out the flavors, and let the chocolate cake really shine in comparison.

Tips for Making “Top Secret” Chocolate Cake

  • Sub in buttermilk: If you don’t have any whole milk on hand but do find yourself with some leftover buttermilk in your fridge, I highly suggest making the swap. I tried this recipe using buttermilk and was pleasantly surprised at the richness and slightly tangy flavor of this cake.
  • Try different chips: This recipe calls for using chocolate chips in the batter, but I also think you can mess around with different types of chips. White chocolate chips or dark chocolate chips are obviously a given, but what about caramel chips? Butterscotch chips? Play around with flavors and see what secret ingredient works in your version of “top secret” chocolate cake.
  • Use a different cake mix: Although Ree’s recipe calls for using a dark chocolate mix, I also find Devil’s Food cake mix also works well here. You could even try this out with other flavors of boxed cake mix, like a Red Velvet cake mix! Skip the chocolate chips if you don’t want that extra chocolate and feel free to add in other chips or fixings of your choice.