Celebrity baker Duff Goldman recognizes that boxed cake mix has untapped potential. His tip is to add your favorite spices and ingredients to upgrade to a boxed cake mix easily.
Add a teaspoon or two of pumpkin pie spice, masala chai spice, or Chinese five-spice. If you'd like a single flavor to stand on its own, go for nutmeg, cinnamon, or cardamom.
A teaspoon of lemon zest imparts a zip of citrus. Consider the flavors in your box mix — if vanilla is present, try tempering it with ½ a teaspoon of almond, maple, or rum extract.
Pecans, walnuts, or almonds are nice additions to pre-made spice, chocolate, or carrot cake mixes. You could also incorporate a ½ cup of chopped chocolate, raisins, or toffee bits.
As for the more dense mix-ins, a common hack is to mix one 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree into one box of cake mix, but make sure you nix the other wet ingredients.
You can also imitate this hack by adding a cup of applesauce to a box cake mix. The cake's texture will change slightly, but it'll still be a moist and flavorful dessert.