Large Layer Cake Instructions, Revised

This recipe is from the inside of a Duncan Hines cake box from about 15 years ago. The recipe works really well as a simple way to make a nice, more dense cake than a regular box mix. The texture is more like a bakery cake. The added bit of density is important in making a large layer cake, as the cake needs a little structure to hold up to being stacked. Building a layer cake is a technical skill that can be learned quite easily by watching several YouTube videos.

A few years ago, Duncan Hines decreased the amount of cake mix in their boxes. In order to make one recipe, you will need to buy two cake mixes. Use one full cake mix, and then use your kitchen scale to add cake mix from the second box until you weigh out 18.5 oz of mix. This equals one mix plus about 1/5 of the second mix, depending on the weight of the mixes [Right now, in my cupboard, my Swiss Chocolate mix is 15.25 oz, and my Orange cake mix is 16.5 oz.]  

If you are making more than one recipe of batter, you can estimate that one extra cake mix will supplement about 5 recipes. Store the extra mix in a zip-type baggie in your freezer to supplement future cakes. (Thanks, Emily, for the tip!)

One recipe makes 5-1/2 cups of batter. Check the chart below to see how much batter you will need to fill your pan. If your pan is not on the chart, fill your pan with water, counting how many cups it takes to fill just over halfway.

Preheat the oven to 325° F. You will bake all pan sizes at this temperature. Grease and flour the pans very well, including the sides. Use shortening on the pans if possible, rather than a spray-on oil, since oil tends to cook at a higher temperature, burning or browning the edges of the cake too much. 

Pans deeper than 2 inches are not recommended. 

They do not recommend using the Golden Butter, Fudge Butter, or Angel Food cakes with these instructions. I like to use French Vanilla Cake Mixes a lot more than the White Cake, since I find the White Cakes a little dry.

Chocolate or Flavored Cake Large Layer
This recipe is for Duncan Hines chocolate cake mix (Devil's food, Dark Chocolate, Swiss) or any other flavor (French Vanilla, Orange, Strawberry, Lemon, etc.) but not white cakes:
18.5 oz cake mix (by weight)
1-1/4 cups water
3 eggs
1/4 cup oil

White Cake Large Layer
This recipe is for a Duncan Hines White Cake Mix:
18.5 oz cake mix (by weight)
1-1/3 cups water
3 egg whites
1 Tb. oil


Add any flour needed for high altitude cooking. If you are making a big cake, you can double the recipe, but don't triple it, unless you have a big commercial-type mixer (or a Bosch).

Blend at low speed until moistened. Beat at medium speed for two minutes.

Pour batter into pan (just above half full – no more than 2/3 full) and bake immediately (very important to the texture of the cake). Don't under-fill your cake pan, or your cake will be a skinny-inch thick on the sides, and three inches tall in the middle. If you have extra cake batter left over, put it in the fridge, and after your cake is done baking, re-beat the batter for two minutes and make cupcakes. They still turn out fine, just not as good as if you had baked them immediately.

Bake using time on the chart below, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Cool about 10 minutes in the pan on a wire cooling rack. Don't let it cool completely in the pan, or it may go soggy and stick to the pan. If the cake looks like it is stuck around the edges of the pan, run a sharp knife carefully around the edge of the cake to loosen the cake from the pan. Lay a wire cooling rack over the top of the cake pan, and holding the cake and rack together, carefully flip the cake over onto the wire rack. Pull off the pan, and then lay another wire rack on top of the cake. With the cake sandwiched between the two wire racks, flip the cake back over onto the flat surface which is the bottom of the cake. 

When the cake is cool, if you want to trim off the domed cake top and have a flat surface, you can slip the cake back into the cake pan. Take a long thin knife and cut off the domed part of the cake, using the pan edge to hold up the knife. Your cake will be an even 2 inches thick without any fancy tools.

Large layer cakes freeze well before being decorated. You can wrap the completely cooled cake layers in several layers of plastic wrap and then freeze them. If you want to use the pans to store or protect your cake in the freezer, just make sure that your cake is wrapped in plastic before you put the cake back in the cake pan, or the thawed cake will stick to the pan. 

Remove the cakes from the freezer a few hours before you need to frost them, and let them defrost without unwrapping the plastic. If you unwrap a frozen cake and let it thaw on the counter, it will dry out.

Pan sizes and baking times

Pan Size Pan Volume 
Bake Time
(2 inch deep pans) (amount of batter) (325°)
(1-inch slice)
6" x 2" round pan
2 cups
30-40 minutes
8" x 2" round pan
3 cups
35-45 minutes
10" x 2" round pan
5-1/2 cups
40-50 minutes
12" x 2" round pan
7-1/2 cups
40-50 minutes
14" x 2" round pan
10 cups
45-55 minutes
16" x 2" round pan
13-3/4 cups
45-55 minutes
18" x 2" half round pan
10 cups
50-60 minutes
127 (63 per half)
11" x 15" x 2" rectangle pan
11 cups
45-55 minutes

*To get this number of servings, you need to cut the cake into fairly thin slices. Google "How to cut Wedding Cake."

Melinda's Notes: When I actually do make a birthday cake, I use these instructions, because I like the texture of the cake better. I like the 10 inch round, because it uses one recipe for each layer. So, three boxes of mix, and I have a two-layer cake that will feed 18-20 people. Frost using decorator's icing, mousse, ganache, etc. Here is a link to my favorite Decorator's Buttercream.


  1. How do I figure out how much batter is needed to feed 80 people?

    1. I've added the number of servings per cake in the table above. Servings assume that the cake is a two-layer cake, cut in 1-inch slices. So to serve about 80 people, you could make two 12-inch cakes. You would need to bake 4 layers, which would take about 22 cups of batter. That would be four batches of the recipe, using 5 or 6 cake mixes.

    2. Of course, if I had 80 guests coming, I would probably make a bit of extra cake, since I would rather have leftover cake instead of running out early!


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