These amazingly chewy vanilla gluten free cake mix cookies are made with just 4 ingredients. And they're not even cake-like at all!
What's the difference between a cake and cookies?
Most baked goods have very similar ingredients, namely butter/oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla for wet ingredients and flour, baking powder/soda, and salt for dry ingredients. If you'd like to make something chocolate flavored, there will almost certainly be some unsweetened cocoa powder added—and some of the butter or oil may be replaced with melted chocolate.
So what makes one recipe into a cake and another into a cookie? The balance of these basic ingredients is typically what makes the difference. Plus, a cake will have added liquid like milk or water, and the cookies won't.
Why start with a cake mix?
During the holiday season, I make many, many dozens of cookies. But cookies are by far the easiest dessert to throw together when someone's had a bad day and needs a pick-me-up. Starting with a cake mix means that I can have cookies baked in less than 10 minutes longer than the time it takes for them to bake in the oven.
In my second cookbook, Gluten Free on a Shoestring Quick & Easy, I have a whole chapter on make-your-own baking mixes. I promise I understand that the whole point of purchasing a ready-made cake mix is the convenience, though!
But it can be difficult to find a really good quality boxed gluten free cake mix, mostly because the flours tend to be gritty and the blends unbalanced (the same issue with most ready-made and available all purpose gluten free flour blends). But if you have one that you love, use that! Just make sure that it's a full 16 ounces of mix.
What other cookies can you make from a cake mix?
You can make almost any flavor of drop cookie from a cake mix. If you'd like to make chocolate cookies, you'll start with a chocolate cake mix. I haven't tried this particular recipe with a chocolate cake mix, but I bet it would work well.
My first cookie made from a cake mix is these cheesecake cookies, and they remain one of my favorite cookies of all time. With a few other tweaks, I was able to make those into chocolate cheesecake cookies, too.
Most cake mix cookies are, well, cakey since they begin with a cake mix—and a cake mix tends to have a fair amount of chemical leavener in it. But these cookies have just the right amount of butter and eggs added. Bake them just right (not too long!) and you've got perfectly chewy cookies—in 15 minutes flat. ⏱
Ingredients and substitutions
Dairy-free: The vanilla cake mix that forms the base of these cake mix cookies contains dairy in the form of buttermilk powder. If you need to be dairy-free, I have had success replacing that powder with finely ground blanched almond flour in an equal amount, by weight.
To replace the butter in this recipe, I'd try half Earth Balance buttery sticks and half Spectrum brand nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening. The miniature M&Ms contain dairy, but could easily be replaced by another dairy-free mix-in, like Enjoy Life miniature chocolate chips.
Most varieties (including plain and mini) of M&Ms are gluten free in the U.S. If they're not gluten free where you live, try using any other mix-in you like. Chocolate chips (regular or mini) would be great.
Egg-free: I haven't tried replacing the eggs in this recipe, but since there are only 2 eggs you can try replacing each with a “chia egg” (1 tablespoon finely ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel). Since this is such a simple recipe, though, I'm not sure how well it would work.
Vanilla Cake Mix Cookies
1 (16-ounce) box gluten-free yellow cake mix, or 1 recipe Gluten Free Vanilla Cake Mix
6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs (100 g, out of shell) at room temperature, beaten
1 cup (6 ounces) M&Ms minis (or an equal amount, by weight, regular M&Ms)*
*Most varieties (including plain and mini) of M&Ms are gluten free in the U.S. If they’re not gluten free where you live, try using any other mix-in you like. Chocolate chips (regular or mini) would be great.
Preheat your oven to 325°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper and set it aside.
In a large bowl, place the cake mix and whisk to break up any lumps. Add the butter and eggs, mixing well after each addition. The dough will be thick. Add the M&Ms, and mix until they are evenly distributed throughout, handling as little as possible so the colors don’t run.
Drop the dough by rounded teaspoon on the prepared baking sheet (a #50 cookie scoop works perfectly), 2 inches apart. With wet fingers, press each piece of cookie dough into a 1/2-inch thick disk. Place the cookies in the center of the oven and bake until lightly browned on the underside and edges, about 9 minutes. Allow to cool until set on the baking sheet until firm. They will flatten as they cool.
Originally published in 2o12. Recipe unchanged, photos, video and much of the text is new.
Debbi Proverbs says
Do these freeze well? I would like to make them for a wedding.
Nicole Hunn says
Yes, Debbi, they freeze beautifully!
Ruthe in Idaho says
The breadsticks are very good. I like the sourdough taste. I will try the cake mix cookies tomorrow. I have copied many recipes from you and all are good. I have been baking gluten free for more than ?20 years. My grandson was diagnosed when he was 7 and he is30 now. As a result several additional family members were also diagnosed including me and my sister. Thanks for all the help.
Thank you SO MUCH for adding the dairy free tips also. I have to use both in cooking and it is hard sometimes! I appreciate your recipes so much! Again, thank you!
Susan Gapinski says
Do you know how many carbs would be in each cookie if made exactly, as recipe is posted?
Nicole Hunn says
I’m afraid not, Susan. I haven’t calculated nutritional values for this recipe, but feel free to plug it into an online nutritional calculator, which is what I would do anyway!
Nicole Hunn says
You sure can, Lindajean! Just be sure to measure the add-ins by weight, if possible.
It srikes me that I can use dried cranberries and pecans instead of M&Ms for these cookies, also mini butterscotch chips if I can find them. Love this for fast & easy! Also chocolate cake mix with chips & pecans comes to mind. LOVE IT.
Lisa Thompson says
I made these today, but with chocolate chips instead of M&Ms. I needed a treat that my boys could have at school with their special Turkey dinner and I had a GF cake mix that doesn’t make the best cake. M&Ms are not ‘nut safe’ but the chocolate chips are ok. I had a bit of chocolate icing leftover from cupcakes that we made. I called them ‘cupcake cookies’ and they went over well. Thanks! (I also whipped my butter first, it’s cold here today, so ‘room temperature’ is chilly!)
Julie Simmons says
Dear Nicole, because of your great books, blog and recipes like this I am going to get so pudgy. Darn it! :)
OOO YUMM! I actually just made 2x loaves of your white bread, the graham cracker dough is in the fridge and so is the butter cookie dough….then it will be on to bake this afternoon and enjoy the fruits of my labor with a glass of rice nog…yeah not as appealing sounding as egg nog, but with an egg allergy, what’s a girl to do?? make a mock and enjoy it anyway! Thanks for your hard work and keep the cookbooks coming!!!
Sarah Collier says
I think you totally read my mind (which is a rather scary idea)!! I was just looking through your website and the internet in general for recipes to use for this random box of gluten free cake mix I happen to have in my cupboard. It is my turn to make a treat for a Bible study today, and I was so hoping to use up this cake mix. I am THRILLED, I tell you! Thrilled! Only problem, my cake mix is 22+ oz. Guess I’ll be doing a slight bit of math. I might even have to buy a huge bag of m&ms, just in case ;-)
Dana Schwartz says
I love quick and easy and my girl loves m+m’s with an alarming passion. She calls them, M O M’s, which is really cute until I’m talking smack about my mother in law and I spell out MOM to my husband and she thinks I’m talking about candy. Anyway… I’ll be making these asap!
I love your cookbooks and everything I have tried is AMAZING. I do love the cookies with the cake mixes – i have been baking for christmas for my family all these gluten filled cookies. So its nice to make something for myself that is super easy. Will be making these this weekend the cheesecake one were awesome even my kids liked them. I only got 3 out of the batch :(
Judy Ameigh Grover says
have your first book, going to send for the new one, recipe sounds easy and great ty
See, these I will make! And soon!! Yum! Your best friend, Tim, had an assignment for Spanish to make a food from a Spanish speaking country. He chose cookies (this is why he is your best friend, and not mine!), some kind of lemon ones from Paraguay. Leaving aside the fact that he “forgot” to make them over the weekend and had to rush to do it last night (and the corresponding Powerpoint presentation, complete with photos), and he doesn’t actually bake much, they turned out really well. Oddly, the recipe called for only 1/2 cup flour (he used Better Batter, of course) and 1 1/2 cups of corn starch. I think the lack of flour helped the conversion to GF, but I thought it was a lot of corn starch. They are pretty tasty so he must have done it right! We’d gift you some if you lived nearby . . . Anneke