Secret Ingredient Boxed Cake Cupcakes

Two posts in one week! I’m killing two birds with one stone because I missed a post last week, and I’m coming to you live with a clutch recipe just in time for Valentine’s Day. This recipe is so simple, yet it is one that my friends continue to request I make for parties, picnics, or random get-togethers. It’s so simple that it’s not really a recipe. I’ll call it a non-recipe for the fellow food bloggers out there.

Don’t hold back on the Valentine’s Day decorations like I did…

I first discovered this recipe hack on Pinterest when I was in undergrad, back when I had even less free time than I do now. This non recipe first trended because it reduces the amount of fat that is usually present in a boxed cake mix. Instead of adding oil, eggs, and water to a dry cake mix (store bought, sorry Ina!), you add a can of soda or seltzer water.

I’ll be honest; the motivation behind this decision makes me want to eat these cupcakes less, not more. I believe we should not sacrifice flavor (see: fat) in desserts because usually we end up with a dessert deemed “healthier,” but usually less satisfying. However, I promise that this combination of a carbonated beverage and cake mix does not compromise on flavor. Also I make up for the lost fat by adding more frosting, the best part of cake, in my opinion. I believe cake preferences are opposite of brownie preferences because the more emotional, feeling types on Myers Briggs are more likely to prefer a corner piece of cake with extra frosting. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my last post here, where I discuss my totally scientific Brownie Personality Theory.

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Here, I mixed Zevia cream soda with strawberry cake mix.

Seriously, y’all will be surprised with how amazing the cupcakes turn out when you use seltzer, beer, or soda instead of the wet ingredients the box mix requires. I usually prefer pies to cakes because cakes can be so dry and tasteless, but I’ve discovered that this recipe/nonrecipe actually produces a perfect cake that is moist, light, and full of flavor.To be honest, I prefer this type of cupcake to a totally homemade version. You save time, eggs, and oil without sacrificing taste. Because you omit oil and eggs, these cupcakes happen to be #accidentallyvegan, so you’re getting two recipe hacks in one!

I mixed strawberry seltzer water with Devil’s Food cake mix for the most festive Valentine’s Day cupcakes.

The most fun part about this recipe, besides spending the majority of your time decorating cupcakes instead of baking them, is that you can customize your treats based on the occasion or the ingredients you have on hand. I’ve played around with many combinations over the years, and throughout this post, I’ve included some pictures of my favorites. Chocolate cake mix combined with stout beer is my favorite concoction to date, but I also love chocolate cake mixes with cherry or strawberry flavored colas and seltzer waters. Creme soda is great with vanilla or funfetti cake mixes, and you can’t go wrong with plain club soda and any box cake your heart desires. Whether you whip up a batch for yourself and significant other, your kids, your kids’ classes, or yourself, I am sure this recipe will save you time, while serving as the perfect Valentine’s Day indulgence.

Secret Ingredient Box Cake Cupcakes 

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Here I used a bottle of Founders Breakfast stout with a Chocolate Fudge cake mix.

Yields: 16 cupcakes


Muffin pan liners
1 box cake mix of your choice
12 oz can carbonated drink of your choice (I’ve used seltzer, soda, and beer, and all produce amazing cupcakes)
Frosting of your choice


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Place muffin liners in a muffin pan.
  3. Pour cake mix into a large mixing bowl.
  4. Mix the carbonated beverage in with the cake mix.
  5. Let rest for 5 minutes.
  6. Divide the mixture between the 15 muffin liners.
  7. Bake for 15-18 minutes, depending on your oven. This step is key because it differs from the instructions on the box of cake mix.
  8. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for at least ten minutes, then let them cool on the counter for 30 minutes to an hour.
  9. Frost the cupcakes, and top with your favorite garnishes.

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