Butter instead of oil in a cake recipe


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Hi! Can anyone tell me how to work out the quantity of melted butter to use in a recipe instead of oil? I know there are a lot of factors including how much other moisture there is in the cake but for example, if the recipe says 125ml sunflower oil how much butter would you use?

BTW it's an apple and cinnamon cake (pic below). I upped the butter to 168g (bit of a random calculation from some website but can't remember which one. I think I might have got it the wrong way around in using more butter than oil?) - the cake is fine, cooked, tastes nice, but very dense. I guess this is because it has a large quantity of grated apples as well as 125ml apple juice. Maybe I should have used less butter, or just stuck to the recipe which said use oil. The thing is I just felt butter would make it taste better than oil.
 

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Hi! Can anyone tell me how to work out the quantity of melted butter to use in a recipe instead of oil? I know there are a lot of factors including how much other moisture there is in the cake but for example, if the recipe says 125ml sunflower oil how much butter would you use?

BTW it's an apple and cinnamon cake (pic below). I upped the butter to 168g (bit of a random calculation from some website but can't remember which one. I think I might have got it the wrong way around in using more butter than oil?) - the cake is fine, cooked, tastes nice, but very dense. I guess this is because it has a large quantity of grated apples as well as 125ml apple juice. Maybe I should have used less butter, or just stuck to the recipe which said use oil. The thing is I just felt butter would make it taste better than oil.

Oil and butter are both fats. They perform the same function in the cake batter

Oil is 100% fat

Butter is 80% - 83% butterfat, 18% - 16% water, and then a couple percent other solids. The exact compositions brand of butter.

As a general rule, substitute similar ingredients 1:1. So 125 mL of melted butter.

Since their is water in butter, it will change the texture. You change the mixing method to a creaming method to lighten it up.
 
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Oil and butter are both fats. They perform the same function in the cake batter

Oil is 100% fat

Butter is 80% - 83% butterfat, 18% - 16% water, and then a couple percent other solids. The exact compositions brand of butter.

As a general rule, substitute similar ingredients 1:1. So 125 mL of melted butter.

Since their is water in butter, it will change the texture. You change the mixing method to a creaming method to lighten it up.
Thank you so much! I used too much butter. Next time I will do 1-1. Or just stick to the oil.
 
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Thank you so much! I used too much butter. Next time I will do 1-1. Or just stick to the oil.

Just remember when you go to make a substitution consider what you’re substituting. Like for like is generally 1:1 substitution since they perform the same function.

When you’re dealing with things like artificial sugar, you definitely have to rethink the whole recipe. Also in gluten-free, vegan, and allergen free baking, where eggs, wheat flours, milk, butter, and other commonly used ingredients are eliminated.

But for a substitution of butter for oil, you’re okay with a 1:1.
 
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Thanks. That's really helpful. And regarding oil - do you think oil in cakes tastes alright? I mean I don't understand why they say use oil when we can use butter?
 
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Thanks. That's really helpful. And regarding oil - do you think oil in cakes tastes alright? I mean I don't understand why they say use oil when we can use butter?

Two major categories for cake are foam and creamed cakes. Foam cakes or cakes that are leavened with whipped eggs. Examples of foam cakes are chiffon, genoise, and sponge cakes.

Examples of creamed cakes are the Victoria sponge, yellow cake, and fruitcake.

Personally I don’t think it makes sense to substitute oil in a cream cake since the cake is based on whipping air into solid fat (usually butter). The butter serves two purposes: 1) as leavening; 2) as flavoring.

When making cupcakes I can understand the substitution. The small volume of batter causes the cupcake to dry out. But enriching a batter with sour cream can counter the drying effects without resorting to oil.

BUT Sometimes you want the cake to be neutral.

The chiffon cake, which is a foam cake is made with vegetable oil. Which is very neutral it doesn’t add any flavor.

And since the chiffon cake is made with water, and you can substitute a portion of that water with any flavored liquid you want.

I’be use elderflower cordial, freshly squeezed fruit juice, champagne, sparkling fruit juice. I’ve changed out the liquid in that cake with so many different things to create different flavors. The chiffon cake is my go to cake because the oil in the cake is neutral I can flavor that cake as I want. So I suppose it really depends on what you’re trying to create.


Some timed you want that rich buttery flavor. But sometimes you want a neutral flavor because you want to create a unique flavor.
 
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Thank you this is all really helpful. And what about if you want to replace the type of sugar? For example if the recipe says use Demerera and you use caster or granulated white sugar instead? Can it be a 1-1 substitution?

I have all kinds of questions like these which I will need to ask.
 
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Thank you this is all really helpful. And what about if you want to replace the type of sugar? For example if the recipe says use Demerera and you use caster or granulated white sugar instead? Can it be a 1-1 substitution?

I have all kinds of questions like these which I will need to ask.
Yes you can substitute 1:1 BUT you need to understand the difference between sugars to understand the flavor and texture difference that they will make and baked goods.

When sugar is refined, juice is extracted from the cane, boiled, then centrifuged to remove the liquid (molasses). The more times it is centrifuged, the whiter the sugar since less molasses is in the sugar.

Now sugar starts to get complicated.

Any sugar that is labelled organic cane sugar is not the same as granulated sugar. It is a single crystallized sugar. This means the sugar cane is crushed; solids are removed; the cane juice heated to concentrate into a syrup; it’s then centrifuged once to separate the sugar from the molasses. But some molasses remains in the sugar.


After centrifugation, the sugar syrup is then crystallized. This less refined sugar has more minerals and some molasses in. It has larger and irregular shaped crystal than conventional granulated sugar. This sugar will be darker and coarser than conventional granulated sugar.


Since there is some molasses in the sugar, it will have some flavor of molasses. Molasses is an invert sugar. And since molasses has some water molecules, it will cook and bake differently than conventional granulated sugar. The water molecules will create a softer texture and weaker dough/batter structure.


And since there are trace amounts of molasses in the sugar, it will not caramelize as well as conventional granulated sugar.


Molasses is also acidic, so the ph of organic cane sugar is slightly acidic.


It is not to say organic cane sugar is bad to bake with, only that it will perform differently because of the way it is refined.


Conventional granulated sugar that most of us are familiar with differs in that it is made by re-melting conventional single crystallization sugar and processing it a second time to remove all traces of molasses and minerals. It is then recrystallized a second time. Since there is no molasses it will not impart any molasses flavor or additional moisture. Since there is no moisture, it caramelizes beautifully.

Brown sugar is made by mixing molasses back into conventional granulated sugar.

By contrast, sugar beet sugar will not caramelize well at all. And the molasses from sugar beet sugar is so inferior, that it is not used for human consumption. It is used for animal feed, and other industrial uses.

A true Demerara sugar is made from sugar cane and is a partially refined sugar. It is not a brown sugar in that molasses it’s not added back in. The sugar crystals still contain the molasses, where brown sugar had the molasses removed and put back in.

So when you replace demerara sugar with granulated sugar, you lose the moisture from the molasses and the flavor from the molasses. And if you use sugar beat granulated sugar, you potentially run into problems performance with caramelization.

If you are going to substitute Demerara sugar, it would be better to substitute with brown sugar.
 
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Hi Norcalbaker59. Thank you so much for that explanation, it's really helpful. Sure I understand about the flavour difference between the brown and white but are there some recipes where it won't matter? Like for the shortbread I asked about for example - I have two recipes - one says use caster sugar, the other one says use brown. So I wasn't sure if it matters.
 
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I’ve seen you mention beet sugar before Norcal so I looked up production in the UK and it seems it’s only available commercially. All sugar in stores here is cane sugar. Is beet sugar sold in stores in the US?
 
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I’ve seen you mention beet sugar before Norcal so I looked up production in the UK and it seems it’s only available commercially. All sugar in stores here is cane sugar. Is beet sugar sold in stores in the US?
Yes sugar beet sugar is sold in the US, and it is NOT labeled as such. It’s just labeled sugar where sugar cane sugar is labeled as cane sugar sold in the US. I’m not surprised that sugar beet sugar is not sold in the UK because sugar beet sugar is GMO.

Farmers lost control of GMO sugar beet fields; natural cross pollination occurred between non GMO fields and GMO fields. Eventually, the farmers gave up trying to control the pollination, and they just started planting the GMO varieties. Europe and most Asian countries have strict policies against GMO produce.

A couple of years ago some GMO wheat was detected in shipments from Canada, and Asian immediately stopped imports until the source was located and the GMO was eliminated from the wheat stores. A couple years ago a farmer in Oregon spotted what he believed was GMO wheat in a field and he contacted the government to report it. His suspicions were confirmed and they immediately destroyed the field. Export markets are extremely important, so farmers don’t want to risk losing those markets.

I don’t if I’ve showed you this photo before, if so, disregard. The cream brûlée on the left is topped with sugar beet sugar. The one on the right is topped with sugar cane sugar. You can see how poorly the sugar beet sugar performs. The photo is from a 1999 San Francisco Chronicle food section article on sugar.


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Yes sugar beet sugar is sold in the US, and it is NOT labeled as such. It’s just labeled sugar where sugar cane sugar is labeled as cane sugar sold in the US. I’m not surprised that sugar beet sugar is not sold in the UK because sugar beet sugar is GMO.

Farmers lost control of GMO sugar beet fields; natural cross pollination occurred between non GMO fields and GMO fields. Eventually, the farmers gave up trying to control the pollination, and they just started planting the GMO varieties. Europe and most Asian countries have strict policies against GMO produce.

A couple of years ago some GMO wheat was detected in shipments from Canada, and Asian immediately stopped imports until the source was located and the GMO was eliminated from the wheat stores. A couple years ago a farmer in Oregon spotted what he believed was GMO wheat in a field and he contacted the government to report it. His suspicions were confirmed and they immediately destroyed the field. Export markets are extremely important, so farmers don’t want to risk losing those markets.

I don’t if I’ve showed you this photo before, if so, disregard. The cream brûlée on the left is topped with sugar beet sugar. The one on the right is topped with sugar cane sugar. You can see how poorly the sugar beet sugar performs. The photo is from a 1999 San Francisco Chronicle food section article on sugar.


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That’s a massive difference isn’t it? Ooh, love a creme brûlée.
 
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That’s a massive difference isn’t it? Ooh, love a creme brûlée.
Yup, that’s why bakers are so picky about their sugar.

When my niece got married some years ago, this small restaurant in the little town of Spokane, Washington near the hotel I stayed at served the best crème brûlée I had ever eaten. Every night I went to this restaurant just for the crème brûlée. The caramel crust on their crème brûlée was so thin and perfectly caramelized. It would just gently shatter with the touch of the spoon. And the brûlée was just so fluffy and light. One night I ate two—seriously, this woman has no shame.
 
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Yup, that’s why bakers are so picky about their sugar.

When my niece got married some years ago, this small restaurant in the little town of Spokane, Washington near the hotel I stayed at served the best crème brûlée I had ever eaten. Every night I went to this restaurant just for the crème brûlée. The caramel crust on their crème brûlée was so thin and perfectly caramelized. It would just gently shatter with the touch of the spoon. And the brûlée was just so fluffy and light. One night I ate two—seriously, this woman has no shame.
You know I’ve only made it once, for my husband as he loves them. I made a raspberry one and you know sometimes when you just luck out? It was perfect. I’ve been too scared to make another as theres no way it’s going to be as good. :D
 
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You know I’ve only made it once, for my husband as he loves them. I made a raspberry one and you know sometimes when you just luck out? It was perfect. I’ve been too scared to make another as theres no way it’s going to be as good. :D

Raspberry sounds really good. I haven’t made one in years, not since I was in Italy. They used to be all the rage here, on every menu. Now you rarely see it:(
 
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Hi Norcalbaker59. Thank you so much for that explanation, it's really helpful. Sure I understand about the flavour difference between the brown and white but are there some recipes where it won't matter? Like for the shortbread I asked about for example - I have two recipes - one says use caster sugar, the other one says use brown. So I wasn't sure if it matters.

in shortbread using brown sugar will give you a softer, thicker cookie; using caster sugar will give you a crispier, thinner cookie.

All sugar is hygroscopic meaning that It pulls water from the environment. Because of the molasses in the brown sugar is much more hygroscopic than granulated sugar is adds more moisture to the dough, and when it pulls moisture from the environment, it will keep the baked goods softer.

The caster sugar which is granulated has no moisture in it. So the cookie will spread more. It will be thinner and crispier.
 
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Hi there
Beet sugar is grown and sold in the UK. All of Silverspoon white sugar is from beet


 
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When making cupcakes I can understand the substitution. The small volume of batter causes the cupcake to dry out. But enriching a batter with sour cream can counter the drying effects without resorting to oil.

Hi @Norcalbaker59,

I decided to use oil in my muffin batter.

With oil/melted butter being 40% of the flour in the usual baker’s percentage -
Does it make sense to reduce oil to 35%, and add 5% water to make to the difference.
Since butter itself is about 82% fat. And remainder - water and solids.

Or am I over complicating my recipe?

Thanks a lot
 
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Hi @Norcalbaker59,

I decided to use oil in my muffin batter.

With oil/melted butter being 40% of the flour in the usual baker’s percentage -
Does it make sense to reduce oil to 35%, and add 5% water to make to the difference.
Since butter itself is about 82% fat. And remainder - water and solids.

Or am I over complicating my recipe?

Thanks a lot

No do not reduce it. 35% fat is too low to make a good muffin. Keep in mind when you use 100% oil there will be no added flavor. So extracts and spices are a must. Also the texture is different. Not bad just different.
 
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Thanks @Norcalbaker59,

I’m pairing the oil with full fat yogurt and extracts and spices.

The melted butter and milk seems to dry out a little too quickly over a day or two. :)

I’ve seen the buttermilk, creme fraise and sour cream alternatives, they look like good options, but a tad pricey and does not keep as well as yogurt in the fridge. :)
 
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