A cake recipe is asking for "one cup" oil!!

I don't want to eat so much "oil", can I replace it with yoghurt or something else?

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    How are you "drinking" oil by eating a cake made with it? Have you ever eaten a salad with vinaigrette or balsamic dressing? Whatever your concern is (fat, calories, ...?) I think you're vastly overestimating its effect, especially compared to all the sugar and flour in it. – Aaronut Feb 27 '12 at 14:38
  • Have you considered a cake recipe that calls for less oil, if you don't want to use a cup of oil? Also, does it make a large cake or a cake with a small serving size? Unless you are planning on eating the whole thing yourself, you won't be downing that much oil. – justkt Feb 27 '12 at 14:39
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    @Aaronut You said: Have you ever eaten a salad with vinaigrette or balsamic dressing? No, I haven't, nor I ever will (I think). I don't even know about names that you have mentioned here. I live in India. "One cup" oil is too much. BTW, it can also be the case that by now all I have done is eating readymade cakes so maybe I was eating 1 cup oil without knowing? – Aquarius_Girl Feb 27 '12 at 16:28
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    Why is a cup of oil too much? A quantitative limit has to be based on some quantitative criteria. Did you try this and end up with a distinctly oily texture? If so, that would be a more interesting problem to tackle. – Aaronut Feb 27 '12 at 21:33
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    @Anisha Kaul: by the way vinaigrette is an emulsion of olive oil and vinegar (sometimes with others flavours added) that is generally used in French/mediterranean cuisine as a dressing for salads. – nico Feb 28 '12 at 15:59

Short answer - not really. Fat is an essential component in any cake, and milk just isn't very fatty - about 5% for whole milk. You can make cakes with milk, but they require totally different recipes: you can't simply substitute milk for oil.

Bear in mind that you're distributing the cup of oil throughout a whole cake, so that any one slice will only have a fraction of the oil. I assume you'll also be sharing the cake with others, so you'll be 'spreading the calories' somewhat.

You should be using a neutral oil like canola (rapeseed) oil anyway, as it has a relatively mild flavour. A popular alternative these days is to substitute all but a couple of tablespoons of the oil with apple sauce (really), but this can be hit and miss and doesn't work with all recipes - it usually works best with things like quick breads (scones etc).

Of course, there's also the point that cakes are supposed to be a treat, and they'd be less of a treat without the fat, in which case why bother? If you want to be healthy, make a salad. If you want a treat, make a cake and don't worry about the contents too much.

  • Actually, the two cakes which I made by now didn't require oil more than 1/4 cup - banana cake and the plain cake. They just asked for 1 cup milk. Is there a reason behind this? – Aquarius_Girl Feb 27 '12 at 12:46
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    @AnishaKaul Did they require butter? Butter's a more common fat for baked goods than oil – Yamikuronue Feb 27 '12 at 13:14
  • @Yamikuronue yes, but 1/4 cup only. – Aquarius_Girl Feb 27 '12 at 14:25
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    @anisha The cakes you have baked (which needed less oil) are a different type of cake, which has a different texture at the end. If you want the cake outlined in a recipe, you can't replace the fat, it is a vital component. If you want to eat less fat, you will have to eat a different kind of cake and find a tested recipe for it, but a cake which needs this much oil won't function well with a low-fat replacement. The fat ratio determines both the taste and structure of the cake. – rumtscho Feb 27 '12 at 16:05
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    Milk is naturally acidic, and yogurt/sour cream are even more acidic. Using them in a chemically leavened cake recipe (i.e., recipes that call for ingredients like baking soda or baking powder) might alter the way the cake rises. In other words, you will likely need to add more basic ingredients like baking soda to balance out the pH of the batter. Also, if your batter is too acidic than that will hinder browning. – ESultanik Feb 27 '12 at 18:35

It's a popular suggestion to replace oil (yes, a whole cup of it is common in cakes and quickbreads) with applesauce. I've done so and liked the results. I've also used nonfat but sweetened yogurt (a caramel flavour to be specific) with great results in a cake made with zucchini and raisins, and now do that every time I make that cake.

I think you'll run into trouble with milk. Part of the purpose of the oil is to keep the flour from finding other flour and getting breadlike. So you have to experiment a little, and the successful experiments always seem to be something sweet - not all the way to honey or corn syrup, but at least slightly sweet.

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    @AnishaKaul - note that the applesauce suggestion has several caveats helpfully outlined in this question. It's really not trivial, and no, yogurt is not going to work. – justkt Feb 27 '12 at 14:38
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    I have used yogurt on more than one occasion and it has worked. Not unsweetened yogurt, I would not expect that to work. I don't know why it works, just that I tried it, it did, and I routinely use it for that cake now. As for applesauce, despite all the caveats in that question, I've had no disasters from substituting it. Important Point this is always for quick breads with a lot of fruit or veg in them - banana bread, zucchini cake, carrot cake etc. I wouldn't do this for a birthday cake or the like. – Kate Gregory Feb 27 '12 at 15:36
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    @Kate Gregory Your seconds paragraph hits the main point. Cake without sufficient oil/fat is called bread, and tastes like bread, not cake – TFD Feb 28 '12 at 6:01
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    It really depends on what you call a "disaster", I suppose. I hear this often about low-fat/low-carb/low-calorie/non-dairy substitutes, that they "taste fine", but that's only when you're used to them and aren't comparing them side-by-side with an original/traditional recipe. Obviously I've never personally tasted your cakes - but I've certainly had quite a lot of cakes and cupcakes in my day that were dry and gritty as a result of insufficient oil/fat or just overbaking, and I'd definitely call that a disaster. Of course, true quick breads are more forgiving because they're... breads. – Aaronut Feb 28 '12 at 13:44
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    If yogurt works at all as a substitute then I suspect it would either be due to the pectin that's added to many commercial yogurts, or the sugar, or both. That will help to slow gluten development in a similar fashion as fat, but it will be much less effective per unit of weight (and obviously will also add sweetness, and many such as myself can't stand over-sweetened cakes). I wouldn't hesitate to use applesauce if making low-fat scones, muffins, banana bread, etc. - but as you say, applesauce is not very good in cakes, and yogurt would be worse than useless. – Aaronut Feb 28 '12 at 13:46

A great substitute for oil is an equivalent amount of apple sauce. It makes it more moist and healthier. I've heard that for people with juicers, the pulp can be used, but I'm not sure how much.


Most people do not know that bean puree can be substituted for ALL THE FAT! If you are new to this, you may want to experiment by only replacing 1/2 the fat with bean puree. Keep in mind that you never want to choose a bean that is darker in color than the cake you are making. For instance, if you are making a white cake; use white beans. If you are making a spice cake; use pinto beans. If you are making a chocolate cake; use black beans. Never use black beans for a white cake. To make the bean puree: you can either cook beans yourself as directed on the bag or use a can of beans, then dump the beans and some water in a blender or food processor and puree. You don't want it runny but add enough water until it looks pureed. If the recipe calls for 1 cup oil or butter, you can use 1 cup of bean puree OR use half oil/butter and 1/2 bean puree. Not only will this lighten the fat but it will also "health-i-fy" your recipe by upping the amount of protein and fiber AND save you money (have you seen the price of butter lately--whew!). I do this ALL THE TIME with my family and they still love the sweet treats.

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