Photo: Johnny Miller; Styling: Sarah Smart
Hands-on Time
30 Mins
Total Time
1 Hour 30 Mins
Serves 16 (serving size: 1 piece)

We challenged ourselves to come up with a showstopping dessert that uses boxed cake mix as a starting point--and we succeeded. Fresh carrot and apple plus a splash of bourbon boost the flavor of the layers, while the browned-butter glaze is, well, the wildly delicious icing on the cake.

How to Make It

Step 1

Preheat oven to 350°.

Step 2

To prepare cake, combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at low speed for 1 minute or until well combined. Add cake mix to buttermilk mixture; beat at medium speed 1 minute or until well blended. Stir in carrot and apple until just combined. Divide batter evenly among 3 (8-inch) round cake pans coated with baking spray. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans; cool completely on wire rack.

Step 3

To prepare glaze, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat; cook 6 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Cool slightly. Combine browned butter, 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, cream cheese, milk, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at low speed 2 minutes or until smooth.

Step 4

To assemble cake, place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread 1/4 cup glaze over cake layer. Top with second layer and spread with 1/4 cup glaze. Top with third layer. Stir the remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar into remaining glaze. Spread remaining glaze over top of cake. Sprinkle with chopped pecans.

Ratings & Reviews

January 28, 2016
16.5 worked fine for me!  This is a great cake. My husband loved it.

KathyinManvel's Review

November 29, 2013
Great cake! Made this for Thanksgiving. It looks pretty and tastes even better. The moist cake combined with the decadent glaze is a winning combination. The toasted pecans on top really put this recipe over the top. Will definitely make again.

January 28, 2016
You have to use 8" pans or it will be flat. Taste is great though!

Lori47's Review

March 05, 2014
I want to make this cake and have all the ingredients but I noticed that my box of Duncan Hines spice cake is 16.5oz and not 18.25oz. Did anyone notice this and did it affect the way the cake came out?

joygerber's Review

October 28, 2013
Excellent. Always looking for shortcuts with boxed products. This is top notch. I added chopped pecans also.

TheMomChef's Review

November 27, 2013
It's dangerous to taste the glaze before putting it on the cake. Consider yourselves warned! Cooking Light did a phenomenal job with a boxed cake. It was delicious, moist and simply amazing. The glaze definitely steals the show though. Wow, it was good. You can read my full review at Taking On Magazines:

lrose17's Review

November 30, 2013
My cake turned out completely flat. I had to make a few changes from the original recipe, using a pumpkin spice cake mix as the store didn't have regular spice cake mix, and I had 9" cake pans instead of the 8" pans it called for. Other cakes have turned out just fine with minor substitutions, but not this one. It still tasted great.

hmcparlane's Review

November 23, 2013
Wow....really an amazing cake! I highly recommend it!

greenda5's Review

November 04, 2013
Awesome cake! Easy recipe. The brown butter glaze is phenomenal!! I took this to a potluck dinner yesterday and every bite was eaten. This cake will be a great addition to my Thanksgiving dessert table this year.

valspark's Review

October 12, 2013