The Foodie Gazette

Adventures in good eating — recipes and food writing by Margaret “Meps” Schulte

Cake Mix Brownies (super-easy!)

Lots of people are searching the web these days, wondering how to make brownies from a cake mix. It’s easy — although there is a lot of debate about whether they are an adequate substitute for brownies. Please read the comments below before trying this recipe — there are votes both “for” and “against” the original, unmodified recipe, and I would not want you to be disappointed!

This was originally published as a Hint from Heloise in the late 1970’s.

18-oz devil’s food cake mix
1 egg
3/4 C water, plus a little more as needed*
1/2 C nuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9×13 pan. Mix ingredients to make a thick batter (do not overmix). Spread in pan, smoothing the top. Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on whether you like your brownies chewy (shorter time) or dry (longer).

*In a recent comment, Vicki said that she used a stick of butter (melted, I assume) instead of the water. I haven’t tried it myself, but when I read her comment, I had an “Aha!” moment. I bet this is the secret to turning a chocolate cake mix into real brownies.

While you’re in the cake mix aisle, if you like lemon cookies, pick up a package of lemon cake mix and try these: Lemon Crisps. They are just about the easiest cookies on the planet.

76 Responses to “Cake Mix Brownies (super-easy!)”

  1. emily Says:

    Yummy!! I made these with a cup of semi-sweet choc. chips added and they turned out great!!!

  2. meps Says:

    Great idea — the more goodies you add, the better these get. You could also substitute some coffee for the water, to make mocha brownies, or orange juice or liqueur, to make Valencia brownies.

  3. Kelli Says:

    I made them with coffee sub for water. YUM! I also am going to try substituting different cake mix flavors. Strawberry Brownies! Sounds gooooood!

  4. meps Says:

    OK, strawberry sounds good, but don’t you still have to have some chocolate for them to be brownies? Maybe you should call them Strawberry Blondies!

    You could always top these with chocolate, as described at the bottom of Margaret’s Lucky Butterscotch Brownies

  5. Jaime Says:

    These were great! I was sitting at home really needing a chocolate fix, but all I had was cake mix. This was so easy! I used 1/4c kahlua, 1/4c olive oil and 1/4c water, and also added about 1/4c milled flax seed and some mini chocolate chips. I baked in an 8×8 baking dish, so they came out nice and chewy.

  6. Margaret Says:

    Thanks for the recipe. I bought a cake mix by mistake[wanted brownies]. This saved the day!

  7. Pam Says:

    I had to have some brownies for a church event but did not have a mix. I live miles from a store. I have made cookies from a cake mix so I figured there had to be a way to make brownies. I searched on the computer and found your recipe. Thanks!!

  8. Dottie Says:

    Thanks a heap. My husband loves Brownies, this makes a larger batch, so I don’t have to bake so often. Thanks again, really appreciated !!!!!!!!

  9. katie Says:


  10. jake/charity Says:

    wow ok so were only 11 and 15. and we wanted brownies
    but all we had was chocolate cake mix . this is a gret
    recipe. that says alot coming from a judgemental teenager

  11. Jonni Says:


  12. meps Says:

    The name says it all…these are cake mix brownies. If you are a purist, then I suggest you buy a brownie mix or make something elaborate from scratch, like Mississippi Mud Brownies.

  13. chocolatechipcookie =] Says:

    wowww i saw all the great comments on this page and thought, man these MUST be good, so i made them and i didnt get more batter, i actually got less, and the brownies well, they tasted lk chocolate, but they came out cakey and they were really, i cant explain, they werent like brownies at all they just poofed up like cake, and wen i took them out, they deflated, and it was airy, like air bubbles everywhere… i was seriously disappointed with the outcome of these, try forming a better recipe.

  14. Adam Says:

    I just tried this and it turned out just like cake, but with less eggs. If you want brownies out of a box then I would suggest you buy the brownie mix and not the cake mix.

  15. Teri Says:

    Okay, purist or no, these do NOT qualify as brownies. The texture is all wrong. That being said, I subbed cappuccino for the water, and baked according to directions. I cut the “brownies” into squares and tried one, but there was something definitely missing. So I microwaved a couple tablespoons of Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting (what I had on hand), added a couple of shakes of cocoa powder, and drizzled it over the top. The cake held together very well, and it kind of reminded me of one of Betty Crocker’s flops a few years back…snackin’ cake. It took care of my chocolate fix for the time being, but I doubt I’ll use this one again.

  16. Tracey Says:

    Just a suggestion, for those who do like cake-like brownies, simply add an extra egg to brownie mix. Doctoring up cake mix won’t give you the result you are looking for.

  17. meps Says:

    The problem is, sometimes you only have a cake mix in the cupboard. Maybe you’re a teenager who can’t drive to the store for a brownie mix. Maybe you are snowed in. Maybe you don’t believe in wasting gas for such a frivolous item.

    Anyway, if you’re willing to make do with the cake mix, this recipe will work. If not, go buy a brownie mix. And if you’re a serious lover of really, really good brownies, you’re much better off making one of these recipes from scratch:

    Mississippi Mud Brownies

    Peanut butter and fudge brownies

    Raspberry (or orange) brownies

    Party brownies

    Export department brownies

  18. REd Says:

    In the for what it is worth category – to make a cake mix work like brownies you can’t use eggs. If you type Chocolate Caramel Brownie Bars into your search engine you will find a heavenly chocolate bar recipe that uses german chocolate cake mix kraft caramels.

  19. Kauai Sis Says:

    I read the first few reviews and ran to make the brownies. While it was baking, I read the later reviews.. UH OH!! Sure enough, the “brownies” were very cake-like and crumbly. We had to eat them in bowls. It’s a good thing I’d added choc. chips because otherwise they tasted very blah. Odd since the recipe isn’t far off from regular chocolate cake. I used Devil’s Food which I always use for chocolate cake. I used 1/4 c. canola oil, 1/2 c. water, 1 egg, chocolate chips, nuts. Possibly more oil would’ve been better.

  20. Faith Says:

    To reply to all those who experienced “cake – like” brownies from this recipe—- Cake mixes have ingredients added that enhance the final appearance and quality of the cake..
    So, to achieve a more firmer, brownie result, simply add additional flour , in the amount of 1/2 cup, ( all – purpose), about 1/8 cup water, and 1 more egg. I add some chocolate chips , as well. If you desire nuts, add those.
    If you cannot stir the “new” mixture, it’s time to now add additional oil. At least, now the end result will be more like your old friend… the brownie..
    Good luck and Happy Baking.. Faith

  21. rookie Says:

    I used 1/2 cup of oil, 1/8 cup or or less water, and 1 egg. Turned out to be terrific! let me know if that works for you too.

  22. Dana Says:

    I made these without reading the comments first. I was excited because I only had one egg to bake with. These are very blah. Just like cake, but not as good…ohh well.

  23. ash Says:

    wow !
    i loved de brownies !

  24. Hope Says:

    I wanted to make brownies then I found out I didn’t have brownies it save me a trip to the store,and I didn’t have to wait longer for the brownies.

  25. Vicki Says:

    These brownies rocked !!!! But instead of water i added 1 stick of butter, vanilla and some cinnamon. These brownies were sinfully moist and delicious.

  26. Teresa Says:

    I too read the later reviews only after I had it all in the oven. This is cake not brownies.

  27. Jade Says:

    I tried this recipe and instead of water I used oil and they came out like brownies. They were delicious. I decided to use oil because as stated by the person who made this recipe- Vicki used butter instead of water. But I had no butter so I used oil and they came out delicious. I am glad I didntlisten to the negative comments.

  28. Bonnie L Says:

    I was looking for a recipe for brownies made from a cake mix on your website because I thought I had misplaced mine. When I saw your recipe I thought it had too much water. I took another look for it and found it. So here is the recipe I have, it too was a newspaper copy from the early 1970 from Heloise: A lady named Wanda sent her recipe, so here it is: One devils food cake mix, 1 egg, 1/4 cup water and add nuts to the batter. It will be thick and hard to stir. Don’t over mix the dough. Place in a greased and floured 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes. This is a chewy brownie I think the problem with the recipe on your website was the use of more water. That would give you a cake instead of a brownie.

  29. Cristi Says:

    I made them and I think they’re a good cross between brownie and cake:

    Brownie mix
    3 T. cocoa powder
    1/2 c. flour
    1/4 c. oil
    1/8 – 1/4 c. water
    2 eggs

    The batter was VERY thick, but they turned out really good. More crumbly than brownies but denser than cake.

  30. Middie Says:

    I prepared the “Brownies” using one box of
    Betty Crocker Super Moist Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix.
    I whole egg
    I stick of salted melted butter
    1/4 cup of leftover AM Coffee.

    350 degree oven – 20 minutes

    Perfect for us.
    A slightly cake-like brownie which hold together beautifully.
    The brownies can be picked up and eaten by hand.
    Yummy Tasting and so easy to do.

    My one tip – I like to cut my brownies into squares as soon as
    the pan come out of the oven. Then allow them to cool before
    removing them from the pan.

  31. Middie Says:

    Not very good at this………

    I, also, greased my 9×13 cake pan with some solid, non-flavored, Crisco.

    The brownies are not greasy or oily and can be removed from the pan
    as easy as can be.

  32. Kate Says:

    I used this recipe as a guide, but in an attempt to make it somewhat healthy I used two egg whites, a chocolate cake mix and about 1/2-3/4 (maybe close to a cup, I eyeballed it) applesauce. I baked them at 350 until a knife incerted in the center came out just slightly messy…I let them set up for 10 minutes and they were so delicious! My daughter loved them for an afterschool snack!

  33. Shitfinger Mcgee Says:

    I tried this,and it worked great!I merely substituted whiskey for the water,bacon for the eggs,and freeze-dried gerbil intestines for the cake mix!It made a great after school snack for the slaves in the basement.

  34. GraveRobber Says:

    Sh!tfinger is amazing! Those sound like wonderful substitutions. I usually just collect waste from the slave’s outhouse and bake that. Smells horrible, but they seem to love it.

  35. jane Says:

    this actually works but instead of nuts i uce little chocolate kissess

  36. Anonymous Says:

    Wow! I’m only 13 and have to make brownies for a party tonight. You saved my day!

  37. Danielle Provost Says:

    I subbed 3/4 melted butter w 1/4 water..added choc chips..and topped w a quick pb fluffy frosting…perfecto!

  38. Browniegirl:) Says:

    THis turned out ahh–mazing!!!I substitued water for melted butter and right then and there it had a brownie like texture!!Made it for my dad and it was rockin yummy!

  39. darlene Says:

    i made them using butter instead of water and chopped up Snickers bars!! MMMMMMM!!

  40. kunana Says:

    Thank you so so much for this recipe! I also substituted melted butter for the water. I used yellow cake mix and also added macadamia nuts and mini chocolate chips and topped it off with roasting marshmallows. It was wonderfully delicious!!

  41. Brianna Says:

    Is it ok if i used vegetable oil? Me and my brother had decided that the mix was WAAAAY to thick and powdery so we added more water, then my brother put a little milk in it. So yeah. Its rising like a cake though… is there anyway that it can derise or whatever to make them more uh brownish?

  42. Rianna Says:

    Didn’t Like It. Just Like Cake. I Wanted BROWNIES!

  43. Veena Lekamge Says:

    I just read it. But didn’t make. Because I have no idea what “devil’s food cake mix” is!! Pls help me out!!

  44. meps Says:

    If you are not in the US, you might have trouble finding devil’s food cake mix. It’s a very dark chocolate cake mix.

  45. Ana Says:

    I used butter instead of water, and added a little oil and a tiny bit of water so the mix was mixable. Cooked it for about 25 minutes and let it cool for a bit. Very cakey and tasted a little off… im gonna go with just buying brownie mix.

  46. Nicolette Says:

    only use 1/3 cup of water and they will be less cake-like and more brownie-like. also add 1 tbsp of oil

  47. Anonymous Says:

    I’ve been playing with this for a while – and I think I have it licked! 1 cup oil, 1/4 cup water, 1 egg – add 1/4-1/2 bag of chocolate chips sprinkled on top, bake for 20 mins at 325. Moist, dense, chocolaty – they are still slightly less rich than brownie mix, but pretty dang close (and my husband now prefers these to a standard brownie mix). hope this helps!

  48. Anonymous Says:

    oh yeah – 9×9 pan seems to work best!

  49. n Says:

    years ago i found a recipe on the cake box. i used it for years until the kids grew up and i didn’t need to eat it. it did NOT use cream cheese as another recipe i found. No matter what, the crowning glory is chocolate chips poured on top and spread when melted. ummmm!

  50. Lacey Says:

    I am so glad I found this page! My brownies turned out amazing. I used Devil’s Food cake mix, then added one egg, a tablespoon of oil, a tablespoon of Chambord, 1/3 cup of water and then I melted 4 pieces of baker’s chocolate and a stick of unsalted butter together and added that! The result was heavenly, classic brownies and I will be making this again!

  51. Kennedy Says:

    does it have to be devils food cake

  52. LPalmer Says:

    I had a devil’s food cake mix handy in the pantry, but wanted to make a special brownie treat for a Christmas party. Following this recipe, I used 1 egg but replaced water with 1 stick of melted butter, and added about 1/2 bag of semi-sweet chips (omitted the nuts). The batter was thick, so I rolled 1 inch balls and put in mini-muffin tin with liners and cooked for about 11 minutes at 350 degrees. After I let them cool for about 5 minutes, I pressed an unwrapped Mint Truffle Hershey’s Kiss in the middle. OMG!!! I even made a trip out to the grocery store for more liners because I didn’t want any of the batter to go unused! You could substitute any type of flavored Hershey’s Kiss with similarly wonderful results!!

  53. PL Says:

    Flavors OK as I added lots of chocolate chips but it’s just cake with c chips not brownies.

  54. madeleine Says:

    Try ommitting egg, add 1/2 cup oil, 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar,1/.4 cup apple sauce

  55. Laura Says:

    Everyone loved these!

  56. silviaa Says:

    so I somehow got stuck making brownies for a few people tomorrow and all i had was a box of devils food so i decided to look it, found this and made them. they turned out really good. i did change it, didn’t use the water instead melted a stick of butter added one egg, a little bit of vanilla and a bit of coffee. and they taste amazing. :)

  57. Ashley Says:

    ***These turned out fabulous. BUT I did have ti change a few things.

    First let me say to all the bakers who had “cake-like” brownies. HELLO, your using cake mix. (: that usually makes a difference. Second, I also didn’t have eggs in my fridge, I’m allergic. So I used mayo. (;

    My ingredients:

    1/4 cup water (Instead of 3/4)
    3 eggs (or in my case, 3 tablespoons mayo.)
    1/2 oil which this recipe leaves out. (It helps keep the ‘brownies’ together)
    *if u use mayo ONLY ADD 1/4 cup oil. Mayo will have the other part.
    *u will notice the batter will be extremely thick, this will be okay, makes the brownies very chewy. Less chewy add 1/4 cup extra water.

    **hope this helps everyone having issues. (:

  58. Alicia Says:

    I did these and loved them!

    But I did use 2/3c of butter instead of the water. Also, I mixed the melted butter completely into the Mix BEFORE I added the egg. The Mix absorbed the moisture from the butter and retained it, then I baked them for 12 min on 350F in the oven. Then I turned the oven off and left it in there for another 10min.

    I couldn’t tell the difference from cake-mix and brownie mix. (well maybe as an after taste)

  59. Lovella Says:

    well…. I am awaiting results. The real brownie lovers should know there is hardly any water that goes in a brownie mix. I knew straight away I wouldnt add 3/4 c of water.I went with 1/2c oil plus a few drops and a few splashes of coffee to get the right consistancy. Still a little thich but I’m hoping it will make them chewy-er. :)

  60. amroy02 Says:

    My variation ( out of desparation for a Brownie like flavor out of the cake mix) I used 1egg;1/2cup oil,
    1/8 cup water, 2tbsp mayo. Thank you for the basic recipe and the opportunity to play with it- Yummy!

  61. CP Says:

    I used a chocolate cake mix, and 1/3 of each of the extra ingredients called for on the box (which for me was 1 egg, 1/6 c water, 1/3 cup oil). Baked according to the box. Turned out pretty good!

  62. Paul Says:

    I was very glad to find this because cake mix was on sale and brownie mix wasn’t. I knew how to do this back in the day so I bought some but when I got ready to make it I was drawing a complete blank. Seems to me they used to put brownie instructions on cake mix before they discovered that they could sell it for more if they called it brownie mix to begin with. These are great by the way, that is unless you like them like the so-called brownies that Little Debbie makes.

  63. Rafael Says:

    As has been mentioned, brownies don’t really have milk or water, just eggs and oil as liquids.

    Cakes typically have a 1:1:2:2 ratio sugar:flour:eggs:liquid, whereas brownies are 2:1:2:0.

    Taking that into account, I added to a box of cake mix an additional cup of sugar and dropped the milk and water entirely. I beat four eggs in a two cup measuring cup, added half a cup of vegetable oil, then whisked in 1/2c melted butter]. I stirred the liquid into the combined dry ingredients then folded in a cup of coarsely chopped walnuts then dumped the whole mixture into a greased 13×9″ pan then put it into a preheated 325* oven for about 40 minutes. You may need a little longer if you don’t have a convection oven like I do. I pulled them when the batter stiffened in the center but still left a shmear on a toothpick.

    To get even closer would require adding three cups of sugar and probably 8 or 10 eggs but that would have created a double batch and I don’t have two 13×9 baking dishes.

  64. Susie Baker Says:

    All you haters have much to learn. For starters, if you’re using an electric mixer STOP IT! You’re only beating air into it and that’s why it’s cakey. Second, DON’T USE MARGARINE! Margarine contains water and less fat. You don’t want water in your brownies, you want fat!

    Preheat oven to 350*
    Grease a 13×9 pan.
    Chop some nuts if you want them.
    In a glass measure, nuke 3/4 c. chocolate chips & 1 cube REAL butter for 1 minute, stir, nuke a few more seconds until melted. Stir smooth and set aside.
    Crack 2 eggs into a large bowl and stir slightly.
    Dump in a regular sized box cake mix, the chocolate mixture, and 1 tsp. vanilla.
    Stir with a wooden spoon just until blended.
    DO NOT OVER STIR! It should appear sugary.
    Gently blend in nuts if desired, it will be very stiff.
    Spray or butter your hands and spread batter evenly into the greased pan.
    Bake for 20-25 minutes or until it tests done.

  65. karen Says:

    i used 1/4 c melted butter and 1/2 c water, egg and mix.

  66. karen, ontario Says:

    i used 1/4 c melted butter and 1/2 c water, egg and mix.

  67. Chris, Ontario Says:

    I made this recipe with 1/2 cup orang juice and 1/4 cup of water. I chopped up a box of macaroon chocolates and mixed them in. The brownies baked for 25 minutes. I then used Duncan Hines creamy chocolate icing, added 1/2 cup of cocoa powdered, 2 tablespoons butter and mixed it well. In a pot I put 1 cup of pulp free orange juice and 2 tablespoons of sugar. It was reduced to a thick orange sauce and I added it to the icing. What an incredible brownie this is! Definitely doing it again :D

  68. Julie & LT Says:

    Thank you for this recipe! We made them this morning for a spontaneous treat to take to school.
    They are very good , so quick & easy ;-)

  69. Xana Says:

    If you are baking and it seems to rise like cake.. take it out just before you think it “should” be done… If in a 9×13 inch pan I put another 9 x 13 inch pan on top of it with some plastic wrap in between… seems to keep the moisture in.. push the air out.. and you end up with a chewy moist brownie… brownies are supposed to be dense.. if air is the problem.. push the air out.. when its still hot to save the moisture.. it works..

  70. Jacqueline Says:

    Why would you get brownies from a cake mix if you didnt use brownie ingredients? You have to add the same things to the cake mix as you would a brownie. And the more eggs you add the more cake like they will be. Brownie mixes call for 3/4 cups of oil and 1/4 cup water with two eggs. Three eggs if you want cake like brownies. I used to think people were basically intellegent, guess I was wrong. Reading these comments before me made me feel bad for these lost souls with no brains.
    duhhhhh people!

  71. Nick Says:

    I tried these out of PMSi desperation and in my pjs for the night. I added 1/4 cup Hershey double chocolate syrup it was a German chocolate cake mix 1 table spoon mayonnaise and 1/4 cup sour cream 1/4 teaspoon instant coffee dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water some chopped up Hershey candy bars and 1 egg. No frosting needed these were chewy chocolate bliss. Of course I put some homemade whipped cream and sprinkled a bit of cocoa powder for good measure on top because why not. Shortly after I was headed for a sugar coma and ever so sweet dreams

  72. Ali Says:

    I did not use water, added one stick of butter, 1/2 cup chocolate chips, pecans and 1 T. vanilla. Baked for 15 minutes. Exactly the kind of brownie my family loves. Topped with a dip of vanilla ice cream and we were in brownie heaven! Thanks for this recipe and those who posted revisions! PS I also lined a 9×13 pan with non stick foil, took the whole brownie out and then just cut the brownies with a plastic knife so there was no sticking.

  73. Ali Says:

    And, I used a Betty Crocker chocolate fudge cake mix!

  74. the perfectionist Says:

    There is one thing missing for the people who didn’t like this & that is oil. Brownie mixes are nothing but a cake mix you just put different things in them.a brownie mix calls for a 1/4 cup of water, 1/2 cup of oil & 2 eggs but I use one egg because I like them gooey and chewy. Remember some brownie mixes give you option for cake like brownies which means 1/4 cup water, less or no oil & 2 eggs. I hope this helps.

  75. Missy Says:

    I’m glad I read the comments first. :) I used 1 stick melted butter, 1 egg and 1/2 cup applesauce (because I felt the batter was too thick) and probably 2 Tbs instant coffee. They turned out pretty good…even my hubby liked them and he is super picky with brownies.

  76. Donna Says:

    Thanks to all the previous writers. I had a box of Duncan Hines devil’s food cake in the pantry taking up space so I added one stick of melted butter, one egg, a splash of brewed coffee to make the batter more moist. I liberally sprinkled chopped walnuts on top of the batter and pressed them in. I used a small rectangular glass pan that I sprayed with baker’s joy. I baked it for 25mins at 350*. I payed attention to the advice given to NOT over mix. I think they were delicious. My family agrees. Maybe not identical to brownie mix, but still a good use of cake mix that’s sitting in the pantry. I’m glad I tried it.

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