Three easy sheet cake mix recipes for the novice home baker

Chef Nicole Barua tweaks three cake mix box flavours to come up with delicious and original sheet – or, as she calls them – 'cheat' cakes

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Although I’ve always loved baking, developing a cake recipe from scratch could render me catatonic before I joined culinary school in Dubai, as I trawled the internet for tips to make sure my cake wasn’t a sloppy mess. I realise many others shudder at the thought of baking from scratch. In order to remedy this and give you some confidence in the cake department, I’ve doctored three Betty Crocker cake mixes for the novice baker.

Cake mixes do practically all the work for you. My biggest issue with them is that they are too sweet, but the flavour combinations in the recipes that follow result in sheet cakes that are so polished no one will believe they came out of a box.

So the next time you have midweek guests or the PTA needs you to make a cake, grab a box mix and one of these recipes to make a resplendent dessert that will have people calling you for the recipe.

Just ensure the eggs and butter are at room temperature and bake all the cakes on the middle shelf, with 1 ½ cup of water as bain-marie to make them moister. Make them pretty and then step aside to make way for your sheet cakes or, shall we say, “cheat cakes”?

Brown butter chocolate cake with brown butter nutella icing

Serves 12

Brown butter chocolate cake with brown butter Nutella icing. Courtesy Nicole Barua

Ingredients for the cake mix

1 box Dark Chocolate cake mix

160g salted butter (keep a bit extra on hand)

137ml milk

137ml warm water

3 eggs

Pinch of salt

1 tsp instant coffee

1 tsp vanilla essence

Ingredients for the icing

1 cup salted butter

80g Nutella

2½ tbsp icing sugar

(*20gms extra butter)

*Grease tray with butter & dust with cocoa.


Heat the butter in a small pot on a medium flame until it turns brown and smells nutty. Remove from flame, cool slightly and remeasure, and add more butter to bring it to 160g again. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Mix the water and coffee, then add to all the cake ingredients including the brown butter and mix as directed on the box. Pour the batter into the tray and give it a hard tap on the table to spread evenly.

Place the tray in the bain-marie and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool the cake completely in its pan on a cooling rack. Brown the butter for the icing, then remove from the stove, add the Nutella and stir to mix. Allow it to cool to a soft buttery state.

In a stand mixer whip the Nutella-butter mix with the sifted icing sugar for five to eight minutes until it is fluffy.

Slather the icing on to the cooled cake and serve as is or top with Maltesers for a bit of crunch. (My secret indulgence is adding potato chips to every piece of cake I eat.) Store on counter for one day and in the fridge for no more than three days.

Summer angel fruit cake

Serves 12

Summer angel fruit cake. Courtesy Nicole Barua

Ingredients for the cake mix

1 box Supreme Vanilla cake mix

¾ cup sour cream

½ cup flour

4 egg whites

1 cup water

1 tsp vanilla essence

½ tsp almond essence

½ tsp salt

Ingredients for the topping

400ml whipping cream (cold)

1 tsp almond essence

1½ tbsp sugar

Fruit & edible flowers of choice, to top

2 tbsp apricot jam or marmalade


Preheat the oven to 180°C, then butter and flour the cake tray. Mix all the cake ingredients gently in a stand mixer as directed on box.

Spread the mix evenly in the tray and bake for 30 to 40 minutes in a bain-marie. Do not overbake the cake, check it at 30 minutes with a tester; it is done once the tester comes out clean.

Cool the cake in its pan on a cooling rack. Only transfer once it is cool.

Whip the cream, essence and sugar in a cold mixing bowl, until the cream comes to billowy soft peaks.

With a palette knife, spread the whipped cream all over the cake in a thick layer. Once smooth and even, top with the fruit and edible flowers of your choice.

Heat the jam in a bowl in the microwave for a few seconds. Add a splash of water to it, then gently glaze your fruit with a pastry brush so it doesn’t oxidise.

Refrigerate and allow the cake to sit on the counter for five minutes before serving with a side of extra whipped cream.

Neapolitan cake with a trio of cream

Serves 12

Requires piping bags and nozzles

Neapolitan cake with trio of cream. Courtesy Nicole Barua

Ingredients for the cake mix

I box of White Chocolate Swirl cake mix (marble cake)

½ cup flour

275ml full-fat laban

60ml oil

20ml melted unsalted butter

3 eggs

2 egg whites

1 tsp vanilla essence

Pinch of salt

Ingredients for the flavourings

½ tsp vanilla essence + ½ vanilla pod (optional)

Cocoa packet from the cake mix box

2½ tbsp cherry jam (sieved) + pink gel food colour (optional)

Ingredients for the cream

20ml cream

20g dark chocolate

400ml whipped cream

1½ tbsp icing sugar, sifted

½ tsp almond essence

2 tsp cherry jam

½ tsp instant coffee, sifted

Method for the cake mix and flavourings

Preheat oven to 180°C, then flour and butter your baking tray. In a stand mixer, add all the ingredients listed under the cake mix. Mix on medium for two minutes, then divide into three for your Neapolitan flavours.

To one part, add the vanilla essence and the insides of the vanilla pod. To the second part, add the cocoa and mix slowly until incorporated. To the third part, add the jam and mix. If you want it to be pinker, add the gel food colour. You can use piping bags to distribute the different batters in the tray or you can spoon them on, but do not swirl them, leave them distinct.

Bake for 30 minutes in a bain-marie and check with a cake tester. If the top of your cake is browning too much, cover it at 20 minutes lightly with parchment paper. Cool the cake completely before transferring or icing.

Method for the cream

Heat the cream to boiling point, then pour on top of the dark chocolate. Leave for five minutes then stir to create ganache. Set aside to cool.

Combine the whipped cream and the icing sugar and whip until the cream gets a little thicker. Divide this into three bowls – two bowls with 100g each and one bowl with 200g.

Add the almond essence to the bowl that has 200g of cream and whip until it is fairly firm.

Add the cherry jam to one of the bowls with 100g of cream and whip until it is fairly firm. You may need to add a splash more cream and half a teaspoon more of icing sugar to help it firm up. Do not overwhip.

Add the sifted coffee and the ganache to the other bowl with 100g of cream and whip until it is almost firm.

Place the three whipped cream flavours into piping bags fitted with nozzles as soon as they are ready and refrigerate the bags for at least half an hour (you can cool them in the bowls if you want to spread the cream on).


To decorate the cake, first spread 100g of the whipped cream with the almond essence all over the cake and sides in a nice flat layer. Refrigerate the whole cake for 45 minutes.

Next pipe the three different whipped creams all over the cake; you can be abstract or make lines or bands with a palette knife.

Refrigerate and consume within three days.

*While piping, refrigerate the other two piping bags when not in use. The key is to keep the whipped cream cool.