Hoda Kotb’s 2-Ingredient Cake Is the Ultimate Boxed Cake Upgrade|Recipes Spots

  • on August 10, 2023
Hoda Kotb’s 2-Ingredient Cake Is the Ultimate Boxed Cake Upgrade

Hoda Kotb Ritz Cracker Cake
Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm / Getty Images

Some people think that because I’m a professional baker I don’t go near boxed cake mixes. That’s not true at all. I find them to be a reliable option at home when I’m in a pinch. And I’m no stranger to easy upgrades that take a basic box of cake mix to the next level, like flavored extracts, an extra egg, and even instant pudding.

So when earlier this week I watched Today Show host Hoda Kotb get a special birthday surprise on live television—a cake made with yellow cake mix and Ritz crackers—I thought, so smart! It seemed like a genius way to turn a boxed cake mix into a heavenly sweet and salty dessert. Possibly the ultimate boxed cake upgrade! I reached for my favorite cake mix and got to baking.

Ritz crackers and yellow cake mix
Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

How To Make Hoda’s Ritz Cracker Cake

Anthony Contrino, the Today Show’s culinary producer created the four-layered Ritz cracker cake for Hoda. I followed the recipe as is. It calls for two boxes of yellow cake mix and a box of Ritz crackers.

I made the cake mixes in two separate bowls, following the instructions on the box. Then I crumbled one sleeve of crackers, divided them evenly between the two bowls, and gently stirred them into the batters. I scraped the batters into two cake pans and baked them.

Once the cakes were fully cooled, I flexed my pastry chef muscles to decorate the cake using the cream cheese frosting from Contriono’s recipe and the remaining Ritz crackers. See below for a picture of the four-layered majestic cake!

Hoda's Ritz Cracker Cake
Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

Why the Yellow Cake and Ritz Cracker Combo Works

This cake is a revelation. The use of yellow cake mix is so smart. Compared to say white cake, yellow cake is richer from the addition of egg yolks and lots of butter, which stands up nicely to the crackers. The crumbled crackers melted into the cake, yet the cake retained its fluffy texture.

Not only was the cake a sweet counterpart to the salty crackers, it emphasized the unmistakable butter and salt flavor of the Ritz crackers I know and love. (That’s why I swear by Ritz crackers as a base for Christmas cracker candy.)

Hoda's Ritz Cracker Cake
Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

My Pro Baking Tips

I thoroughly enjoyed the cake as written but couldn’t help but tinker and experiment. Here’s what I tried and what I recommend when you make it:

  • Add salt to the frosting: The recipe doesn’t call for any salt in the cream cheese frosting. To play up the sweet and salty flavor, I added 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt (1/4 teaspoon fine salt). Now, I can’t imagine it without it. Of course, but you could use store-bought frosting to make it even easier.
  • Don’t pulverize the crackers: I was curious how the cracker crumbs would incorporate into the batter. In one of the cake mixes, I used fine crumbs. In the other, I left the crackers in larger pieces. While the crackers didn’t keep their crisp texture, I still preferred the version with larger pieces for the distinguishable pockets of salty crackers.
  • Halve your cake and eat it too: With two boxes of cake mix, the recipe makes a towering four layers. Baked as is, it was the easiest cake of that stature I’ve ever made. It looked impressive and would supply a sizeable slice to 16 people. But it’s easy to halve the recipe for easier assembly and smaller crowds.
  • It’s best the same day: The cake is at its best while the crackers are still crispy the day it’s made. Over time, they soften. I still enjoyed a slice the next day because they don’t lose their buttery, salty flavor. If you plan to bake and frost the cake ahead of time, save the Ritz cracker decorations until just before serving.

This Cake Inspired Me

While I frosted the cake, new ideas spun around in my head like the turntable. I love chocolate sea salt, so I couldn’t help but imagine that a Devil’s food cake mix and chocolate frosting would be amazing. Would peanut butter frosting work as well as Ritz crackers with creamy peanut butter? Definitely. Adding salted caramel could be too indulgent, or would it be just the right amount of indulgent? I can’t wait to find out.

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