Don’t you hate it when you’re in the middle of baking a cake and find out you don’t have a specific ingredient? Well you don’t have to just give up. This post is all about cake baking substitutions plus there’s a free printable reference guide.
So, I have done this myself countless times and wished I had an easy ‘cheat sheet’ I could pull out with substitutions. I figured I can’t be the only one, so I wanted to pull everything together in one place to give you lots of options.
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Now before we get too far into the substitutions, I need to point out a few things.
SUPER IMPORTANT: PLEASE NOTE THESE THINGS BEFORE USING SUBSTITUTIONS!
First, ingredients do different things in cakes. The best thing to do is to use the ingredients that the recipe calls for, but if you absolutely cannot, then I’ve listed out a number of substitutes to try.
Now ‘try’ is the operative word here. None of these subs are ideal because it’s not what was called for, so there’s going to be some give and take…especially with the oil and egg substitutes.
Using some of these will change the cake texture. (especially the egg substitutes) Please be aware of that.
Many times food bloggers get bad reviews when ingredients are substituted in our recipes and they don’t come out the same or the results just aren’t what is expected.
Please be aware that the ideal is to use what the recipe calls for and that normally, we (recipe writers and testers) are unable to test out every type of substitution you might need for each recipe we write. (There’s just not enough time in a day to do that.)
Basically, use these substitutions at your discretion and just know that they are fall-backs only when you can’t get the ideal ingredient, or perhaps you have an allergy to what the recipe calls for. Just know you may have to experiment with different options here to get the right texture/taste.
Please also note that I have not tried out every single one of these substitutions. I have tried many, but not all. Even if I had, different substitutions will work differently for each individual recipe. Using substitutions, especially in baking, really is an experiment and trial and error.
Alright, with all that said, let’s get to the list of cake ingredient substitutions. And don’t forget, at the end of the list is a handy printout you can click on and it will automatically download. You can save it to your phone, computer, or print it out for reference.
Ok, let’s get to the list now.
Cake Baking Substitutions:
By the way, I’ve tried to organize these substitutes into sections.
- Allspice (1 tsp = ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp ground cloves, ¼ tsp ground nutmeg)
- Pumpkin pie spice (1 tsp = 1 tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp ground ginger, ⅛ tsp ground cloves and ¼ tsp ground nutmeg)
- Vanilla extract (3 tsp = 1 whole vanilla bean split OR maple syrup in the same amount)
- Brown sugar (1 cup = for light brown: 1 tbsp molasses plus 1 cup white granulated sugar or for dark brown: 2 tbsp molasses plus 1 cup white granulated sugar) Note 1: you can also try using maple syrup if you don’t have the molasses. Note 2: light brown and dark brown sugar can be substituted for each other.
- White granulated sugar (1 cup = 1 cup packed brown sugar)
- Powdered sugar (1 cup = 1 cup granulated sugar in a blender plus 1 tsp cornstarch or arrowroot powder)
- Cake flour (1 cup = 1 cup of all purpose flour, remove 2 Tbsp of it and replace it with 2 Tbsp cornstarch)
- All purpose flour (1 cup = 1 cup cake flour plus 2 more tablespoons cake flour OR Use self-rising flour and leave out the baking powder and salt from the recipe – use this substitute as long as the recipe calls for about ½-1 tsp of baking powder per 1 cup flour. If the recipe calls for more baking powder than ½-1 tsp, you’ll need to add in more baking powder to make up the difference)
- Self rising flour (1 cup = 1 cup all purpose flour plus 1 ½ tsp baking powder plus ¼ tsp salt)
- Eggs (1 egg = ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce OR ¼ cup mashed banana or pureed fruit OR 1 tbs flaxseed (or chia seeds) mixed with 3 tbsp hot water until absorbed and thick OR use commercial egg replacer OR ¼ cup silken tofu pureed OR 1 tsp baking soda with 1 tbsp vinegar OR ¼ cup yogurt or buttermilk OR 2 tbsp arrowroot powder mixed with 3 tbsp water OR 3 tbsp liquid from canned beans OR 1 tbsp soy lecithin)
Substituting Leavening Agents:
- Baking powder (1 tsp = ½ tsp cream of tarter plus ¼ tsp baking soda OR ¼ tsp baking soda mixed with ½ tsp vinegar OR use self-rising flour in place of the flour called for in the recipe-the amount depends-see flour substitute section)
- Baking soda (1 tsp = 3 tsp baking powder and reduce the salt called for in the recipe by half and perhaps replace acidic ingredients in the recipe with non acidic ones (ie: use regular milk instead of buttermilk OR you can try whipping your egg whites and cream before adding them to your cake batter to incorporate a bit more air to help with the leavening.)
For more info on baking soda and baking powder (why they’re not interchangeable) see this post: Baking soda and Baking Powder: What’s the Difference?
- Buttermilk (1 cup = 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup. Let it stand for 5 minutes before adding to cake batter OR 1 ¾ tsp cream of tarter plus 1 cup milk. Let stand for 5 minutes before using OR ¾ cup yogurt plus ¼ cup whole milk OR ½ cup sour cream plus ½ cup whole milk)
- Yogurt (1 cup = 1 cup buttermilk OR 1 cup sour cream OR 1 cup cottage cheese blended smooth OR 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup. Let it stand for 5 minutes before adding to cake batter)
- Sour cream (1 cup = 1 cup full fat yogurt OR ¾ cup sour milk or buttermilk mixed with ⅓ cup melted butter. To make sour milk, or buttermilk, measure one cup of milk and take out a tablespoon of it. Add in a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar.)
- Milk (1 cup = canned coconut cream OR ¾ cup sour cream mixed with ½ cup water OR ½ cup evaporated milk mixed with ½ cup water OR 1 cup water mixed with ⅓ cup nonfat dry milk OR ½ cup half and half mixed with ½ cup water OR 1 cup buttermilk mixed with ½ tsp baking soda)
Substituting Chocolate/Cocoa Powder:
First, I do not recommend using regular melted chocolate to substitute for cocoa in a cake recipe. The main reason is because cocoa gives a much stronger flavor to the cake. It’s essentially concentrated, so you are going to get much more of a chocolaty taste using cocoa than melted chocolate.
With that said, if you really have to substitute, feel free to try these out:
- Natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not dutch processed cocoa powder) (3 tbsp = 1 oz unsweetened baking chocolate (melt and add to the batter) then omit a tablespoon of butter or oil that the recipe calls for OR 3 tbsp dutch processed cocoa powder plus ½ tsp cream of tarter mixed with lemon juice or white vinegar)
- Dutch processed cocoa powder (3 tbsp = 3 tbsp natural unsweetened cocoa powder plus ⅛ tsp baking soda for every 3 tbsp cocoa powder that’s called for.)
- Semi-sweet chocolate, melted (1 oz = 1 oz unsweetened baking chocolate melted and mixed with 1 tbsp granulated sugar OR 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder plus 3 tbsp sugar plus 1 tbsp butter or shortening.)
- Unsweetened chocolate (1 oz = 3 tbsp natural unsweetened cocoa powder mixed well with 1 tbsp unsalted melted butter or oil.)
For a more in-depth look at the differences between dutch and regular cocoa powder, you’ll want to check out this post: Which Cocoa Powder Do I Use? (What’s the Difference?)
- Vegetable oil (1 cup = ½ cup unsweetened applesauce or fruit puree OR 1 cup melted butter plus 1 more tbsp of butter OR 1 cup coconut oil OR 1 ½ cup mayonnaise)
- Vegetable shortening (1 cup = 1 cup butter OR 1 cup coconut oil)
- Salted butter (1 cup = 1 cup shortening plus ½ tsp salt or ¾ cup vegetable oil plus ½ tsp salt OR ½ cup unsweetened applesauce plus ½ tsp salt OR 1 cup coconut oil)
- Unsalted butter (1 cup = 1 cup shortening or ¾ cup vegetable oil OR ½ cup unsweetened applesauce OR 1 cup coconut oil)
For more information on the differences between salted and unsalted butter, see this post: Salted Butter vs Unsalted Butter (Best butter for baking cakes)
And below is the printable substitution list.
Just click on the graphic below or the button below that and it will automatically download. You can then save it to your phone, computer or print it out for reference later.
For all the cake baking tips on the blog, click here: Cake Baking Tips
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