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Doctored Up Chocolate Cake Mix

This is hands down our favorite doctored up chocolate cake mix recipe!! Doesn’t use pudding or coffee which is great. Always get tons of compliments on it!

doctored up chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream and chocolate curls on white plate
Ta da!!

You didn’t think we would leave you hanging did you?

When we posted this recipe for a doctored up white cake mix a few weeks ago, we got questions about how to doctor up a chocolate cake mix.

So we’re sharing how you can do that!

doctored up chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream and chocolate curls on white plate
The big thing for me when coming up with this recipe was I didn’t want to use pudding mix or coffee as elements to doctor up the cake mix.


There are already a lot of doctored up cake recipes out there that use those things. Plus, a common thing I saw people asking was “What can I use in place of the pudding/coffee?” So we’re bringing you a recipe that doesn’t use those items.

How to make doctored up chocolate cake without pudding

I a lot of doctored up chocolate cake mix recipes call for instant pudding mix or coffee. I wanted to create a recipe that didn’t need either because I saw so many people asking “What can I use in place of the pudding/coffee?”

So that was the goal, doctored up chocolate cake without pudding or coffee. To make doctored up chocolate cake you need to start with a high quality box of cake mix.

This is hands down our favorite doctored up chocolate cake mix recipe!! Doesn’t use pudding or coffee which is great. Always get tons of compliments on it!

What brand of cake mix to use for doctored up chocolate cake

I prefer to use Duncan Hines cake mix (and I’ve heard other bloggers say the same) because they have great balance between flavor and moistness, plus Wilton recommends that brand and I trust those cake people!

The above image compares 2 pieces of cake – the one on the left is a chocolate cake mix, following the directions on the back of the box and the one on the right is our doctored up chocolate cake mix.

You can see that the left one is pretty airy compared to the right one. The doctored up version is incredibly moist and it’s more dense, like a homemade cake would be. The doctored up one also has a deeper chocolate flavor.

doctored up chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream and chocolate curls on white plate
This recipe is perfect for all of us who like the ease of a box mix, but maybe want to jazz it up a bit and have more of a homemade taste. Plus, I feel that this doctored up version of a chocolate cake comes together just as quick as the box mix because you can still put everything into ONE bowl and beat it together.

For this recipe you’ll want to use a 15.25 oz box of cake white mix. I know some boxes out there are 18.25 oz, so be sure you’re getting the right size.

How to improve boxed cake mix

Adding additional dry ingredients to the cake mix like flour, sugar and cocoa powder will improve the structure and texture of the cake.

Adding buttermilk will ensure your cupcakes turn out incredibly moist. Plus the acid in the buttermilk punches up the chocolate flavor.

Adding additional eggs enhances the flavor and fluffiness of the cake.

Use butter in place of oil. Butter has more flavor then oil and improves the texture of the cake.

doctored up chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream and chocolate curls on white plate
And what’s a chocolate cake without chocolate frosting and chocolate curls?!

Want to know my secret for making chocolate curls?

Get a hershey’s bar and use a vegetable peeler to make curls, it’s so simple!

slice of doctored up chocolate cake on white plate with text overlay

For a step-by-step of how to make this doctored up chocolate cake recipe, watch this short video

Looking for a doctored up white cake mix recipe?

Doctored Up Chocolate Cake Mix

Doctored Up Chocolate Cake Mix

Yield: 9x13 inch cake
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours

This is hands down our favorite doctored up chocolate cake mix recipe!! Doesn’t use pudding or coffee which is great. Always get tons of compliments on it!



  • 1 & 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 box devil’s food cake mix, 15.25 oz
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • dash of milk or heavy cream if frosting becomes too thick



  1. Preheat the oven to 350º F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine the buttermilk, melted butter, eggs, vanilla extract, devil’s food cake mix, sugar, flour, and cocoa powder, beat with an electric mixer until combined, 2-3 minutes.
  3. Spray a 9x13 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 30-32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely before adding frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream

  1. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter using an electric mixer until fluffy. Add in the vanilla extract and cocoa powder, gently mix by hand with a spatula. Begin to add the powdered sugar, about 1 cup at a time, mixing by hand. Continue adding powdered sugar until the frosting no longer looks wet and tastes good to you. Then I use my electric mixer one last time to make sure the powdered sugar is really incorporated and ready to go. If the frosting becomes too thick, add a dash of milk or heavy cream.
  2. Spread on top of the cooled cake, add chocolate curls if desired.

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  1. Hi
    First of all, can I say a huge THANK YOU for not including coffee or pudding – I’m allergic to both, so finding a lovely quick cake recipe like this without them is an absolute godsend!
    However, I live in the uk and I can’t get buttermilk in the shops near me. Is there a way to make it? So many us recipes call for it, but I have no way of buying it and no idea what it actually is or how to make it!!
    Donna xxx

  2. I have several of the Cake Mix Doctor books. Unfortunately they were written years ago, before they reduced the size of the cake mixes. I used to make her Darn Good Chocolate cake all the time but since they changed the size, it just turns out as good chocolate cake. I am glad this one incorporates the smaller size and can’t wait to try it!

  3. Hi Beth!
    I enjoy all your recipes, I would like to know if this recipe can be used to make layers or larger sheet cakes without compromising the flavor by doubling it?

    • Hi Iona! I would certainly think this cake could be used in a layered cake. I think doubling it would be fine, but the baking time would be affected.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful cake recipe!!! I made it for Cub scout campfire pack meeting (in case you don’t know, 8-11 year old boys and their family gathering for awards!!) and it was a huge huge huge hit!!! It’s yummy but on top of it, it’s SO EASY to make!!!! Please imagine bunch of boys faces covering with cake crumbs and frosting :) :) means, HAPPY FACE!!!!

    • Wooohooo!!!! We’re happy to hear this!

    • I used yogurt-worked fine!
      I also made a mistake.  I didn’t realize there was a frosting recipe and  I was afraid  I put in 2/3 cup of cocoa instead of 3 tbl!  Then I decided  to add one tsp of baking powder, thinking I had too much dry ingredients.  I was lucky, the cake was great!

    • Whew! So glad it came out well!

  5. This was very good. Sadly I flubbed the frosting with too cold butter. Do you have a white/yellow cake mix recipe?

  6. Can this cake be frozen? I like to try new things and make the portions to freeze. can the portion sizes be adjusted? this recepie did not show how may people can be served by the recepie?

  7. Am making chocolate cake with the buttercream icing, it calls for 1 cup of butter, but in method you say to cream butter and shortening, is this an error if not how much shortening are you supposed to use?

  8. Hi Beth,
    I fixed this cake for my grandson’s birthday and it was not good. The chocolate taste did not come thru in the cake, tho I have to say it was moist and beautiful. I looked at the recipe over and over and I do not see what I did wrong. Do you or anyone else have any ideas? The icing was excellent. Corrections please. I would like to use this again if I can solve this issue. Thanks for your recipe and for your help.

    • Hi Rita! I’m sorry to hear it didn’t turn out for you. I will say that a box of chocolate cake mix isn’t as chocolatey as a homemade chocolate cake mix – maybe you were expecting like a chocolate fudge cake? However this recipe is still really good and we use it a lot!

    • “For this recipe you’ll want to use a 15.25 oz box of cake white mix. I know some boxes out there are 18.25 oz, so be sure you’re getting the right size.”

      I almost wrote “white cake mix” on my grocery list, got down to the recipe and saw it was actually devil’s food. Perhaps this got Rita, too ;). Making for my son’s bday this weekend. Thanks for the recipe! 

  9. If you want a more chocolate cake try using the Duncan Hines chocolate fudge cake mix for this recipe. I also add a teaspoon of cinnamon because cinnamon also gives chocolate flavor a boost. I made a layer cake but followed the recipe except for the cake flavor and the cinnamon. Hope this helps you.

  10. Beth, I love this cake. Everything turned out perfect. So perfect that I am making this for my Mother’s Day cake for myself. I am going to add fresh strawberry to the top when finished. Thank you for a great recipe.

  11. I recently made this cake recipe and followed your instructions exactly. I did add 1/3 cup of coffee. The cake was moist and delicious. I used your buttercream icing but without chocolate. It too was delicious. Thank you for this recipe using the smaller cake mix size. I will be making this again.

  12. Unfortunately, I was so excited to make this that I picked up a Betty Crocker Super Moist Devil’s Food cake mix instead of Duncan Hines! :( Will an already moist cake mix still be ok to follow this recipe? I would like to make this asap for a birthday dinner.

  13. Trying this recipe now! Also was wondering why this isn’t printer friendly???

  14. While it turned out fine, I found that with all the additions to a boxed cake mix (sugar, flour, cocoa, buttermilk, vanilla) beyond the usual cake mix additions, you can just as easily make a better chocolate cake from scratch.

  15. Should the butter for the cake and also for the frosting be salted or unsalted? Thanks!

    • Hi Rachel! I always use unsalted butter – but it’s a personal preference!

    • It truly is personal preference! I really enjoy the tiny bit of salt to cut the sweetness in a super sweet chocolate frosting, while others have to watch their sodium intake or just dont care for it. Do whatever suits you and your family as its delicious either way.

  16. Can this be made as cupcakes? If so, how would you recommend adjusting the bake time?

  17. What would be the recipe if I’m trying to do 3 layer 8 inch pan.

    • Hi Sandra! Hmmm.. this is just a guess because I haven’t tried it myself, but I would probably double the recipe. That would give you plenty of batter for three 8 inch pans – probably even a little too much batter, maybe enough to make a fourth 8 inch pan!

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