A lighting cavity is a reflecting box with light sources inside. Its exit side is covered with a diffuser plate to mix and distribute light, which addresses a key issue of luminaires, display backlights, and other illumination systems. We derive a simple but precise formula for the optical efficiency of diffuser plates attached to a light cavity. We overcome the complexity of the scattering theory and the difficulty of the multiple calculations involved, by carrying out the calculation with a single ray of light that statistically represents all the scattered rays. We constructed and tested several optical cavities using light-emitting diodes, bulk-scattering diffusers, white scatter sheets, and silver coatings. All measurements are in good agreement with predictions from our optical model.