Creating delicious desserts doesn't have to take hours.

Start with a basic boxed cake mix and try one of these simple recipes for classic family favorites. For all three variations, I used a yellow cake mix that just required the addition of eggs, oil, and water. For each of these recipes, include whatever it takes to make the cake in addition to the ingredients listed.

Two of the recipes require cream cheese frosting. Using store-bought is fine, but you can easily whip up your own with one block of softened cream cheese, one stick of butter, and two to three cups of powdered sugar (start tasting after you add the second cup). Fluff it up with a hand mixer and store any leftovers in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Skillet Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

If you don't have a cast-iron skillet, you can start this recipe in a frying pan and transfer it to a regular 8-inch cake pan.


  • 4 T. salted butter
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 can of crushed pineapple, drained
  • maraschino cherries (optional)
  • 1 box yellow cake mix and the necessary batter ingredients (eggs, water, oil, etc.)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the brown sugar. Stir well to combine. Squeeze the drained, crushed pineapple and add it to the skillet. Mix it all together, remove from the heat, and carefully spread out the fruit to cover the entire bottom of the pan.

Add half of the cake batter (use the other half for a loaf or cupcakes) and bake according to the box instructions. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before turning out onto a platter. Drain your maraschino cherries and decorate the top of the cake with them.

pineapple upside down cake

Strawberry Celebration Cake


  • 1 box yellow cake mix and the necessary batter ingredients (eggs, water, oil, etc.)
  • 1 quart fresh strawberries, washed and sliced
  • 1-1/2 cups of cream cheese frosting


Prepare the cake according to the directions on the box and make two cake layers. For this article, I just used one of the cake layers and cut it in half.

Lightly frost and pipe a border of cream cheese frosting on the bottom half. Add a layer of sliced strawberries and top with the second layer of cake. Spread a thin layer of frosting in the center of the top layer and pipe a decorative border along the edge. Arrange your remaining strawberry slices in a pretty pattern and don't forget to take a picture of your creation!

strawberry cake

Coconut Cupcakes


  • 1 box yellow cake mix and the necessary batter ingredients (eggs, water, oil, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream (optional)
  • 1-1/2 cups cream cheese frosting
  • 1 cup of sweetened, shredded coconut flakes


Prepare the cake mix according to the box and stir in 1/3 cup of the coconut flakes. If you're using it, replace 1/4 cup of the oil with 1/4 cup of the coconut cream. Bake as cupcakes, taking care to fill the liners about two-thirds of the way up. You want a nice, rounded dome on top after they're done.

Whip the cream cheese frosting with the remaining coconut cream if you're using it. Spoon it into a plastic bag with the tip snipped off and pipe the frosting onto each cupcake. Carefully roll each one in the coconut flakes.

coconut cupcakes

*The photos in this article are by Sarina Petrocelly.

What do you think about these cake mix hacks? Do you have a similar family favorite? Share it with us in the comments!