Cupcakes are fluffy, two to three-bite cakes that are cute to look at and delicious to the palate. The ingredients in a cupcake recipe serve a purpose, and cooking oil is no different. Baking is a scientific process based on measures and balances; therefore, to get the right result you need the right ingredients and proportions. If you want to replace cooking oil with butter, you need to consider the recipe first.
Anatomy of a Cupcake Recipe
Your cupcake recipe consists of four parts: dry, liquid, fat and leavening. Dry ingredients include items like flour and sugar; liquid includes eggs, water or milk; fats include butter or oil; and leavening agents are items like baking powder or baking soda. In addition, your recipe might have flavorings, such as vanilla extract, fruit zest or chocolate. In a cupcake recipe, your fats help bind ingredients together and add moisture, which yields a tender cupcake.
The Power of Substitutions
You can substitute butter for cooking oil, as long as the butter performs the same job as the oil in your cupcake recipe. Since oil is in liquid form, you'll want to soften your butter and make it as liquid as possible to help bind the ingredients that are similar to vegetable oil. If you don't melt your butter, you can still use it in place of vegetable oil, but you might notice a different texture to your final product.
Doing the Job
Use 4 parts of butter for every 3 parts of cooking oil called for in your recipe. For example, if your recipe calls for 3/4 cup of vegetable oil, you will need to use 1 cup of butter. While you could use equal proportions, doing so may result in a drier cupcake. Since cooking oil isn't salted, use unsalted butter as your substitution. If you cannot find unsalted butter, use salted butter, and then reduce the amount of salt in your recipe by a 1/2 teaspoon for every 1 cup of salted butter you add. This keeps your cupcake from being too salty.
What Will Your Cake Taste Like?
Your cupcake is likely to have a richer, more buttery flavor than if you used cooking oil. And, since butter has a higher fat content than cooking oil, you might notice that your cupcake is more tender and moist. If you're going for a white cake, you might have a yellowish tint thanks to adding butter, and you might notice a more goldenish crust to the top and sides of your cupcake -- this is because butter sold in the United States has a coloring agent, referred to as annatto, added to give it the yellow color.
Butter isn't the only substitute you have to replace the oil in your cupcake recipe, either. For a lower fat alternative, try applesauce. Mashed bananas can also be used to replace oil or butter, but you'll notice a denser, banana-like taste to your cupcake.
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Shailynn Krow began writing professionally in 2002. She has contributed articles on food, weddings, travel, human resources/management and parenting to numerous online and offline publications. Krow holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles and an Associate of Science in pastry arts from the International Culinary Institute of America.