Substituting Vegetable Oil for Butter in Cake (Kid Pizza)

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      In sorting through my piles of recipes, I [BakerAunt] came across my printed copy of this Baking Circle thread. When it first appeared, I printed it for myself for quick reference, even though in those days we thought the Baking Circle was a permanent fixture. The last reply shows that the thread is from January 2014. CWCdesign had posted a question about using oil instead of butter in a cake, and Cass came to the rescue with his usual baking acumen. Zen had a comment after the cake was baked, which I have included as well. The thread is a good lesson in baking technique, and in how we help each other become better bakers. I have put my occasional clarifications in brackets.

      I found a recipe for a lemon coconut pound cake on Fine Cooking. Can I substitute vegetable oil (I use canola) for the butter in the recipe? And if so, are the proportions the same by weight or volume? Or do I use less oil than butter? I'm a little low on butter and would like to make it without heading out to the store. Also, I'm planning to sub in unsweetened coconut because that's what I have on hand.

      10 oz. (1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened at room temperature; more for the pan
      10 1/4 oz. (2 1/2 cups) cake flour or 11 oz. (2 1/3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour, more for pan
      1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
      1/2 tsp. table salt
      1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
      2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
      3 large eggs, at room temperature
      1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
      1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
      1 cup loosely packed, sweetened flaked coconut
      1 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest
      1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract.

      Thanks for your advice.

      Good morning. Yes, Carol, you can subst. veg oil for the butter. In this case you use 8.25 oz. of oil. And you must add 1.75 oz. of liquid like water. You see, like Frick said, butter has 17% water in it, only 81.82% fat. Oil is all fat.

      I do this all the time. I just now finished doing that with my experiment with blueberry cakes/loaves/muffins. I used corn oil for the butter. My production is on the cooling racks right now.

      If you decide to do this, you do not need to employ your stand mixer if you [would] rather not. Use a bowl that will accommodate the ingredients & begin mixing with a hand held electric mixer. I use my Mom's old GE one. It be about 65 years old.

      [Note: this part is a bit confusing. I have added some notes in brackets.] This is the way to mix it: Blend the dry ingredients together, including the sugar (which should first be run thru the food proc to make a fine type); sift twice.

      [In a large bowl?], mix oil and 1 egg until blended. Add eggs, one at a time and mix for 45 seconds each. Then add the coconut and balance of the ingredients EXCEPT milk.

      Now, then, with a spatula, mix well. Mix flour in by 1/3, then 1/2 cup milk. Toss till no whites are showing. Repeat: Flour is in last. DONE!!! easy.

      It is best to place in oven when the batter is 70/73 degrees

      Good luck my dear friend. CASS

      I am happy you will try my mixing secret. Really you will never read about this style of mixing. It is my discovery many years ago because I screwed up somehow & to save my ingredients, I accidentally came up with this mode for veg oil mixing ONLY. It always works never fails. Carol, understand that I am not passing merit on the recipe. If you have a failure, I will then scrutinize the recipe for a fix.

      Carol, mix the water with the milk. Speed #2....Flour unbleached. Bleached only when employing solid fat. If you have Gold Medal, I would use that. KAF AP may be slightly strong for this recipe.

      Enjoy the rest of the day my friend. CASS

      The good news is it tastes really good--we were glad I used unsweetened coconut because then the cake wasn't too sweet. The texture was surprisingly good despite the fact that it didn't rise as much as I expected. It's a keeper, but I have a couple of questions regarding my technique when you have a minute KP.

      I ran the sugar through my food processor with the lemon zest so there wouldn't be little pieces in the cake. I used KA unbleached AP because that's what I had. Mixed all the dry ingredients together with a whisk but did not sift because I didn't have anything fine enough to sift through.

      I put the oil in the mixer and added the 2 egg yolks and started mixing on speed 2 in my KA. Here is my first question. I used the paddle blade--should I have used the whisk attachment to incorporate more air into the egg/oil mixture. Added each of the next 3 eggs at 45 second intervals.

      And my next question has to do with adding the next ingredients. KP:, you suggested that I add the coconut and the other ingredients, except the flour mixture and milk (combined with water) at this time. I did, but since the other ingredients were zest (which, as I said, was mixed with the sugar) the lemon juice and the vanilla, I wondered if they should have been mixed with the milk/water mixture and added as liquids.

      I ask these questions because the cake rose about an inch short of the edge of the Bundt pan. I expected a higher rise. Oh, and I forgot to check the temperature of the batter, but since it was raining, the heat was off and the house was about 73 degrees, I figured it was probably OK. and my baking powder is fairly new.

      I will definitely make this cake again, and I will definitely try Kid Pizza's oil method again. I just want to get it right. Thanks!

      Good morning Carol. I am glad you enjoyed your cake. You mentioned that "YOU WANTED TO GET IT RIGHT" YES Carol!!!! I think you did get it right. You mixed everything correctly. As far as the using the whisk attachment, next time you can. I use it in my hand held mixer because that is all I have. However you have a choice either way will produce a viable baked product as you have described.

      It did not leaven as much as you described Carol, because the recipe author neglected to post the ingredient BAKING SODA. Notice Carol, the recipe sports 1/4 cup (2 oz.) of lemon juice. That is very acidic. We should consider adding 1/4 tsp. of soda into the mix. If you [would] rather not then the appropriate amount of baking powder would be to increase the powder to 2 1/2 tsp. (We need 1 to 1 1/4 tsp. per cup of flour.) I didn't take notice of this recipe omission because I just wanted to answer your question "CAN I SUBST OIL FOR BUTTER" & you have successfully.

      Your cake didn't rise as much as you expected because oil doesn't contribute to the formation of the foam network cakes depend on the way butter does. Commercial cake mixes get away with using oil instead of butter because they are loaded with chemical emulsifiers to overcome that lack. You may be able to improve the rise of the cake by substituting an extra egg yolk instead of one of the whites.

      Also I may have missed this--but did you take into account the amount of moisture in butter compared to oil? You should use about 80& the amount of oil--4/5ths of the butter called for, which would be 8 oz. by weight of the oil. And increase the amount of moisture by adding 2 oz. of water (roughly 1/4 cup). You could also add an extra egg instead.

      CWSDESIGN REPLY (on January 12, 2014)
      Hi, Zen. Kid Pizza worked out the oil/water proportions for me and then gave a mixing method to allow for not creaming the butter and sugar--it's in his first post and is actually quite an interesting method. The cake already called for 3 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks. but your suggestion about all the emulsifiers is interesting. If you think about it, though, there are other dense cakes--carrot cake comes to mind--that do use oil instead of butter.

      Anyway, the boys like it and so do I, and I will definitely make it again with the minor tweaks, such as using the whisk attachment instead of the paddle--didn't get much volume with that--and adding a little baking soda to counteract the lemon juice. It might be a while though, because we still have most of the cake and were given a batch of brownies today.

      Spread the word

        Interesting thread BA. I’m not sure I ever made that cake again - I seem to always be onto the next recipe that catches my eye - squirrel!


          CWCdesign: Well, at least you are cooking and baking various recipes. I do, to some extent, but I seem to do more squirreling away of recipes than I can ever hope to bake or cook. (I am working on that.) I must have printed this thread--in case I ever needed it--then promptly forgot about it in the piles. Back then, I was still using copious amounts of butter in my baking. While I now know a lot more about oil-based cakes, given my efforts to cut my cholesterol numbers, had I remembered this thread, it would have shortened my learning curve on a few points:

          Oil has not water; butter does. When replacing oil, some additional liquid is needed. (That seems to be key for the gourmet soda crackers using all oil that I have been baking).

          Oil cakes do not rise as much as butter cakes, but that means I can use a pan that is not as large.

          Oil cakes become tough if overmixed when the flour is added.

          I diverge from KP here in that I have started mixing the sugar with the wet ingredients. I think that later makes it easier to mix in the flour mixture.

          Something else I have learned: oil cakes last longer than butter cakes, which dry out faster.

          I also find that adding some milk powder seems to create a more tender cake.


            I remember another thread on the old BC about mayonnaise based cakes. The poster's daughter had eaten one and liked it but wanted a recipe that didn't use mayo because she did not use that product. I suggested an oil based cake because you mix the egg yolks with the oil essentially making mayo on the spot.

            Mike Nolan

              There are recipes online claiming to be knockoffs of the Portillo's mayonnaise chocolate cake, but I've not tried any of them. The Portillo's cake is pretty doggoned good!

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