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7 October 2021

Best chocolate cake mix

We enlisted a panel of taste testers to find out which cake mix from Betty Crocker, M&S, Cadbury, Aldi and more, is the easiest to bake and produces the tastiest chocolate cake for your celebration.
Joey Willoughby-Rainsford

If baking isn't something you enjoy or you want a delicious cake quickly and easily, a shop-bought cake mix can come in very handy. 

In September 2021 we baked and blind taste tested 10 chocolate cake mixes from big brands including Betty Crocker, Dr Oetker and Cadbury, as well as supermarket own-brand cake mixes from M&S, Asda, Aldi, Sainsbury's and more. 

Find out which cake was the easiest to make and proved to be the biggest crowd-pleaser thanks to its satisfyingly moist texture and rich chocolate taste.

Pricing and availability last checked 24 September 2021


Join Which? today to find the best freestanding cookers in our tests to help you bake your delicious chocolate cake.


The best chocolate cake mixes from our tests

Editor’s Choice: Betty Crocker Tempting Chocolate Cake Mix

Cheapest price: £1.99 available from ASDA. Also available from Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Tesco

Size of cake: Two-tiered 20cm cake which serves 12

Ingredients required: Either 3 eggs, 120g melted butter and 230ml milk, or 3 eggs, 125ml vegetable oil and 230ml water 

Is icing included: No

Our verdict: A perfectly moist and indulgent chocolate cake from Betty Crocker that's also easy to make.

This cake is ideal for grandparents or parents to make with children as the instructions are clearly laid out on the back of the box and are very easy to follow. 

You can adapt this mix to be vegan if you so wish by using vegetable oil and water and swapping the eggs for a vegan egg substitute, although we used butter and milk in our test.

The suggested baking times produced a great-looking cake that was the favourite for flavour and texture according to the majority of our taste testers. 

Pros: Clear and simple instructions, outer cardboard packaging is recyclable

Cons: Doesn't come with icing, inner plastic packaging isn't recyclable

Editor's Choice: Mr Kipling Space Chocolate Cake

Cheapest price: £2.50 available from ASDA, Sainsbury's

Size of cake: Two-tiered 20cm cake which serves 12

Ingredients required: 3 eggs, 160ml milk and 110ml vegetable oil

Is icing included: No, but Mr Kipling Space Vanilla Flavour Icing is available for £2.50 from ASDA, Sainsbury's

Our verdict: A fun and unusual-looking chocolate cake from Mr Kipling that will keep children entertained.

This sweet, light and fluffy cake was preferred by the youngest of our taste testers, however, some of our older taste testers said the blue frosting was too sweet for their palates. 

Although the photo on the box features the blue vanilla-flavoured icing, it's sold separately for a similar price to the cake mix.

The instructions are easy to follow and simple to complete, so almost all ages should be able to take part in the making and baking, and the cooking times were accurate.

There are space-themed pictures on the inside of the box for little bakers to colour in while the cake is baking in the oven.

Pros: Very clear and simple instructions, outer cardboard box is recyclable

Cons: Doesn't come with icing, inner plastic sleeve isn't recyclable


If you've got leftover cake, save some for later with our best reusable freezer bags.


How the rest of the chocolate cake mixes from our tests fared

Here's our verdict on the other chocolate cake mixes we tested, listed alphabetically.

Aldi The Pantry Heavenly Chocolate Cake Mix

Cheapest price: £1.25 available from Aldi

Size of cake: Two-tiered 20cm cake which serves 12

Ingredients required: 3 eggs, 120ml vegetable oil and 230ml water

Is icing included: No

Our verdict: A rather lacklustre and not so heavenly chocolate cake from Aldi according to our taste testers.

This cake doesn't have much of a chocolate scent and it was described by many of our volunteers as bland and not overly flavourful.

We found the instructions difficult to follow as the text is small and written in a single paragraph, but the timings to bake the cake are correct.

Pros: Outer box is recyclable

Cons: Doesn't come with icing, instructions are hard to read, inner plastic sleeve isn't recyclable

ASDA Chocolate Fudge Cake Kit

Cheapest price: £1.75 available from ASDA

Size of cake: Two-tiered 18cm cake which serves 10

Ingredients required: 2 eggs, 45ml vegetable oil and 90ml water

Is icing included: Yes

Ingredients required for icing: 100g unsalted butter

Our verdict: Asda claims it's a chocolate fudge cake, but it's hard to taste the chocolate in the sponge, let alone any traces of fudge. 

Our taste testers described this cake as somewhat bland, however the icing that comes with this cake mix improved the flavour according to our volunteers.

The box has very clear and easy to follow instructions. It even includes an alternative recipe so you can bake a vegan-friendly cake. 

Pros: Comes with icing, includes instructions to make a vegan option, outer packaging is recyclable, instructions are clear

Cons: Inner plastic sleeves aren't recyclable

Cadbury Sponge Cake Mix

Cheapest price: £2 available from Sainsbury's. Also available from ASDA, Ocado, Waitrose

Size of cake: Two-tiered 20cm cake which serves 12

Ingredients required: 3 eggs, 160ml milk and 100ml vegetable oil

Is icing included: No

Our verdict: Don't expect this Cadbury cake to taste anything like Cadbury chocolate.

This is an average cake and none of our taste testers were particularly impressed with the flavour or aroma.

We also needed to add five more minutes to the baking time each time we made this cake and the instructions are overly wordy.

Pros: Outer box is recyclable

Cons: Doesn't come with icing, inner plastic sleeve isn't recyclable, cake needs a bit more time to bake than the instructions indicated 


Check out our best kitchen scales for the most accurate and most convenient scales to use when baking.


Creative Nature Cacao Rich Chocolate Cake Baking Mix

Creative Nature Cacao Rich Chocolate Cake Baking Mix

Cheapest price: £2.99 available from Ocado. Also available from Creative Nature

Size of cake: One tier 20cm cake which serves 12

Ingredients required: 250ml milk (or milk alternative) and 110ml vegetable oil or 100g melted coconut oil 

Is icing included: No

Our verdict: This Creative Nature cake stands out for it's unique flavour and soft and gooey texture, which is similar to a brownie rather than a cake. 

This cake mix is designed to be vegan, but you don't have to make a vegan cake with it. We used cow's milk and vegetable oil in our test.

Unfortunately it didn't rise very much, so it was flatter than all of the other cakes in our test. 

A second cake we baked rose slightly more after we spent more time mixing the ingredients, so we'd encourage you to mix it well.

Our taste testers also ranked this cake last for flavour as it wasn't particularly chocolatey. One volunteer described it as 'cherries dusted with cocoa powder.'  

The instructions are quite wordy and fluffy, but the suggested timings worked fine.

Pros: Can be made vegan or non-vegan

Cons: Doesn't come with icing, overly wordy instructions, packaging isn't recyclable, cake comes out very flat

Marks and Spencer Chocolate Cake Mix

Cheapest price: £2.50 available from Ocado

Size of cake: Two-tiered 20cm cake which serves 12

Ingredients required: 3 eggs, 100ml milk and 100g unsalted butter

Is icing included: No

Our verdict: A light and fluffy chocolate cake from M&S, but it falls apart very easy because it's so delicate.

This cake was rated well for flavour and texture, but it lacked the wow factor according to our taste testers.

The instructions were straightforward and well written, but we had to add five minutes onto the cooking time.

We also found this cake crumbled easily, so it needed extra care not to be torn apart while we iced it. 

Pros: Instructions are clear, box is recyclable

Cons: Doesn't come with icing, inner sleeve isn't recyclable, cake needed a bit more time to bake than the instructions indicated 

Sainsbury's Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix Kit

Cheapest price: £1.50 available from Sainsbury's

Size of cake: Two-tiered 18cm cake which serves 10

Ingredients required: 2 eggs, 30ml vegetable oil and 120ml water

Is icing included: Yes

Ingredients required for icing: 100g unsalted butter

Our verdict: This Sainsbury's cake looks the most impressive thanks to the included icing, but it's a faff to make.

Even though it costs roughly the same as the others in our test, this cake mix also includes the ingredients to make buttercream fudge frosting and the results are impressive. 

This cake was enjoyed by most of the panel of taste testers and it was rated well for flavour, but it lacked any aroma.

The instructions are well-written and easy to follow, and the suggested timings worked well. 

Pros: Comes with icing, instructions are clearly laid out

Cons: Inner plastic sleeves aren't recyclable

Tesco Chocolate Sponge Cake Mix

Cheapest price: £1 available from Tesco

Size of cake: Two-tiered 20cm cake which serves 8

Ingredients required: 2 eggs and 120ml water

Is icing included: No

Our verdict: This chocolate cake mix from Tesco was the cheapest in our selection, but it received lukewarm feedback from our taste testers.

It's a rather average chocolate cake that was a little bit on the bland and boring side.

But the instructions presented on the packaging are easy to follow and clearly laid out. The cooking times are also accurate. 

Pros: Clear and simple instructions

Cons: Doesn't come with icing, non-recyclable plastic bag packaging

Wright's Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix

Cheapest price: £1.40 available from Ocado. Also available from ASDA, Sainsbury's, Wright's Baking

Size of cake: 2lb loaf cake which serves 12

Ingredients required: 200ml water and 60ml vegetable oil

Is icing included: No

Our verdict: If you're after a dense cake full of chocolate and fudge flavour then Wright's is the cake mix for you. 

According to our taste testers, this cake has a deep and rich flavour, and a slightly stodgy texture. 

The instructions are well laid out and clear, but unfortunately very small. It says this cake mix can be used to make 15 brownies, 24 cupcakes, 12 muffins or one cake. 

It suggests baking the cake in a 2lb loaf tin, but it could easily be baked in a round tin.

Pros: Small and recyclable paper bag packaging

Cons: Doesn't come with icing, instructions are clear but very small

Should you grease and line your cake tin?

Should you grease and line your cake tin?

Some cake mixes will ask you to grease or line your cake tins with greaseproof baking paper, while others will say to grease and line.

In our experience it pays to always do both to ensure that your cake comes out of the tin easily. 

After all, you don't want a broken cake after going to all of that effort.

Three tips to jazz up your cake mix

Three tips to jazz up your cake mix

1) Replace eggs with duck eggs

For a sponge that is both richer and fluffier, try duck eggs.

You'll end up with a much more intense flavour compared with using eggs from a chicken.

Both types of eggs are packed full of nutrition, but a duck egg has more bang for its buck, including more fat, which helps the cakes to rise higher.

2) Replace water with milk

Most cake boxes cake recipes say to add water, however, swapping water for milk will enhance it's richness.

The added fat from milk (or a high fat milk-alternative) will go a long way to make the cake seem more homemade.

3) Use coffee instead of water

A cake for the coffee aficionado's out there.

Use a strong-brewed coffee instead of water to deepen the flavour of your favourite chocolate cake mix.

For even more tips check out our 10 ways to jazz up your cake mix.


Fancy cake and ice cream? Check out the best ice cream makers in our tests.


What's the best way to ice a cake?

If using a spatula, it is best to ice in two layers. 

The first layer is likely to get crumbs in it, but that's fine as it also creates an even surface to seal in cracks and uneven surfaces. Then after chilling for a short time you can add the final second coat.

Here's how we iced the 20 cakes in our test: 

  1. Once your cake has cooled, use a pastry brush to remove any loose crumbs. 
  2. Starting at the top of the cake, use your spatula to place a dollop of frosting. Slowly spread and cover the top of the cake. You should still see the sponge through the thin first coat. 
  3. Add a dollop of frosting to the sides of the cake and use a back and forth motion to spread the icing around evenly. 
  4. Now let the first layer set for at least 30 minutes. For the best results chill the cake in the fridge. 
  5. Then repeat the process of icing the top and the sides, taking your time. 

How to make a vegan cake from cake mix

While many cake mixes will call for non-vegan recipes, the mixes themselves aren't always non-vegan. 

If you are unsure, always check the packaging for the ingredients list. 

Should you find a vegan cake mix with a non-vegan recipe, here are some ways to bake yourself a fully vegan cake. 

  • Swap the eggs for a vegan dairy-free spread.
  • Swap cows milk for a plant-based alternative (but look for one with fat content).
  • Swap unsalted butter for coconut oil or a vegan dairy-free spread.

How we tested chocolate cake mixes

How we tested chocolate cake mixes

To compare these 10 chocolate cake mix kits we put each one through the following tests:

Ease of use

Our researchers made two of each cake, following the instructions provided on the packaging of each mix.

The best cake mixes had clear and easy to read instructions. 

The worst were either poorly worded, overly wordy or too small to easily make out. 

We also considered the timings given in the instructions of each and how accurate they were. 

Presentation

Once each cake had been baked, they were photographed and a panel of researchers was asked to rate each one, without knowing which was which. 

The panel considered how well the cakes had risen, as well as how appetising they appeared. 

Taste test

Finally, a group of nine volunteers aged from 13 up to 40 years old were presented with 11 cakes in a random order. 

In between tasting each cake, each tester drank water and ate water biscuits. 

The volunteers were asked to consider the following as they recorded their thoughts about each cake:

  • Aroma
  • Texture
  • Flavour

We bought all the products we tested.