I recently made a simple box cake, the one where you just add water and oil to the mix, but once I ate it I thought that it was way too sweet. I looked up how to temper this sweetness, but the best I could find was a suggestion to add lemon rind or - I assume - lemon essence (to a vanilla mix cake), to try and balance the sweetness. Is there a better way to do this? The best I could think of is to add flour, but the website also said not to do that as it would make the cake ingredients disproportionate. What could I do instead?

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    Is there anything that keeps you from doing the cake from scratch? From your post, you have oil and flour, as well as lemon essense or vanilla essence. Oil, Sugar, baking soda and eggs should be around, too? If you have these things around, you are halfway to your cake anyway!
    – Layna
    Commented Sep 11, 2016 at 8:56
  • @Layna I suppose I'll have too. From the answers it seems like that's my only choice! Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 12:14
  • From scratch works. Also trying a different brand mix may help. In my experience: Pillsbury is very sweet. Duncan Hines is the least sweet, at least for yellow cake. I don't know which you used.
    – Paulb
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 17:07
  • @Layna From what I've read and from my experience so far, it's very difficult to achieve the softness of a boxed cake mix from scratch. Apparently many bakeries will even use (but not admit to using) boxed cake mixes. See this video for more info: youtube.com/watch?v=CZDFwqHkPec Commented May 31, 2022 at 3:41

5 Answers 5


There's not really anything easy you can do. Even adding lemon zest or essence isn't really going to help; it'll just give you a lemony but still sweet cake. I suppose theoretically you could add sour things, since that does tend to balance out sweetness, but it's tricky since acid will interact with the leavening. A sour icing, or a sour sauce to serve it with, might be a better bet in that vein.

So unfortunately, you'd be best off shopping around for cake mixes that are more the level of sweetness you want. You might be able to use the nutrition facts to help get a sense of how sweet they are before you buy them.


Add 2/3 cup Flour, 1 egg, 1 Tsp baking powder and 1/2 cup water to the mix ( u need to incorporate this added ingredients to those already listed on the box (ex: egg, water , oil, etc)...


You need an alternative to regular boxed cake mixes, rather than trying to compensate for them.

Rather than going the "from scratch" route, you could buy a box of cake flour at your store. Some have simple cake recipes on the box. You do have to add additional ingredients, but since the sugar is added, you can adjust it however you like.

If the product has a website you might find some recipes there too. For example: http://www.pillsburybaking.com/products/softasilk-764 has some recipes.


Stop buying cake mix. Instead, find a solid cake recipe to test and love, then buy all those components and preblend your dry ingredients. Make your own cake mix with less sugar!


Replace some of the cake mix with flour. It's basically just cake mix but without flavour, so it could replace some of the sweetness. It's what I do at home and tastes perfectly fine.

The amount you replace really depends how sweet you want the cake to be. I replace half of the cake mix so that I can use the other half next time.

  • How much do you supplement? This could be helpful but needs some specifics (1/4 cup? 2 cups?)
    – Erica
    Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 15:26

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