Can You Substitute Butter if a Cake Mix Calls for Oil?

Written by sarah rogers
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Can You Substitute Butter if a Cake Mix Calls for Oil?
Generally speaking, you don't have to follow cake mix instructions to the letter. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Cake mixes are commercial mixtures of the dry ingredients used to make a cake. They are typically used by inexperienced bakers who like the limited list of ingredients and simple instructions as well as by more experienced bakers who wish to reduce some of the time and effort needed to bake a cake. Cake mixes usually call for the addition of water and oil; however, butter can just as easily be substituted for the oil.

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The Building Blocks of Cake

It is important to understand how cakes are made before you begin to introduce substitutions into the recipe. At the most basic level, cakes consist of four elements: dry ingredients, liquid ingredients, fats and a leavening agent. The dry ingredients are typically flour and sugar, the liquid ingredients eggs and/or milk, the fats butter or oil and the leavening agent baking powder or yeast. Different types of cakes use different proportions of these ingredients and add different types of flavourings like vanilla extract, fruit zest and juice and melted chocolate.

Substituting Ingredients for Baking

Substitutions may be successfully made in baking as long as the substituted ingredient performs the function of the original ingredient, and preferably mirrors the texture as closely as possible. For example, the Joy of Baking suggests substituting plain flour with a mixture of ¾ cup all-purpose flour and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, while substituting buttermilk with 1 tablespoon of vinegar added to one cup of milk.

Butter as a Substitution for Oil

When a cake mix calls for oil, it is asking for a liquid type of fat. If you do not have oil on hand, you can easily substitute the same amount of melted butter. Additional substitution options include room temperature butter, vegetable shortening and lard. While all of these substitutions would work with your cake mix, they may change the taste slightly. In fact, the addition of melted butter instead of oil will most likely yield a richer tasting cake.

Substitutions and Additions

Some bakers use cake mixes as a starting point for their cakes and do not follow the recipe developed by the cake mix manufacturer. Not only might they do simple substitutions like using milk instead of water and butter instead of oil but they might add extra ingredients for a fancier or more personalised cake. Examples of such additions include nuts, fruit, liqueur, almond extract, pudding mix, confectioner's sugar, sour cream and cream cheese.

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