Yellow cake with chocolate frosting is almost synonymous with birthdays and celebrations. It’s both classic and retro and is just as good dressed up with a variety of fillings or a simple shower of rainbow sprinkles. While we will always opt for a homemade slice, box cake mixes can be useful to save time, so we set out to find if any mixes come close to the real thing. Courtney of Cake by Courtney, who is the queen of all things cake, joined us as we sampled 11 different box cake mixes to find the one that we would endorse in a pinch.

To keep things “highly scientific” (but mostly fair and easy), we tested only yellow or butter cake mixes. The ideal yellow cake has rich flavors of both butter and vanilla, is moist and fluffy, and never dry or dense. All the mixes were prepared according to the directions on the box and were served without frosting. A good cake should always be able to stand on its own, even though we’d always opt for a swirl of chocolate buttercream given the chance.

Watch our full review here.

The Contenders

  • Food Club Butter Recipe
  • Trader Joe’s Vanilla Bean Cake 
  • Pillsbury Yellow
  • Betty Crocker Super Moist Butter
  • Duncan Heins Classic 
  • Cup4Cup Yellow
  • Food Club Yellow
  • Pillsbury Golden Butter
  • Betty Crocker Gluten Free
  • Bobs Red Mill Gluten Free
  • Betty Crocker Yellow

The Results

Least Favorite Box Cake Mix

Betty Crocker Super Moist Butter

Betty Crocker missed the mark on this mix. The cake reads more like a pancake or muffin and was definitely missing the light and fluffy texture we were looking for. Paired with a super bland flavor, this cake was not something we wanted a second bite of.

Cup4Cup Yellow

While this mix ended up being our top gluten-free choice, overall it was not a favorite. The gritty, muffin-like texture wasn’t ideal, and the cake would definitely need to be propped up with a homemade chocolate buttercream to be servable. And with a very vanilla-forward flavor that skips the yellowy-butter nuance entirely, we weren’t blown away.

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free

We highly recommend using a cup-for-cup gluten-free flour substitute in a homemade yellow cake recipe for the best gluten-free cake, and this cake mix demonstrates exactly why. The gritty texture and unpleasant test were off-putting. Unfortunately, gluten-free cake mixes are just not great, even from a reputable company with otherwise high-quality products.

Betty Crocker Gluten Free

Everything about this cake was unappealing: its compact, overly dense crumb made it hard to cut into, and its dry, heavy texture was off-putting. The flavor was missing completely, and when we had a hard time finishing even one bite, we knew this cake was not for us.

Best Box Cake Mix 

Betty Crocker Yellow

While Betty Crocker delivered two of our least favorite cake mixes, they have one of the best mixes, as well. The yellow mix is made with oil instead of butter, which helps keep the crumb light, fluffy, and never dry. This is the yellow cake from your childhood, and it’s still quite good.

Food Club Yellow

For an economical option, this store-brand yellow cake mix delivers a delightfully buttery cake with a great fluffy texture and moist crumb. It outperformed most of its more expensive counterparts in nearly every category, and we’d be happy to eat a slice.

Pillsbury Yellow

Pillsbury Yellow was the run-away favorite for best box cake mix. With an impressive rise, it would make a great layered cake in a pinch. The buttery vanilla flavor was spot on and is the flavor homemade yellow cakes aim to mimic. Though it’s not quite as good as a homemade cake, this is the next best thing.