I have found that whenever I really need to make a cake will coincide with the day that I am out of eggs or butter or milk or another very important ingredient involved in baking a cake.
It can never be as simple as whipping up a nice, fluffy cake without any hurdles- there is always, always something missing!
Luckily, there are many ways to make cake even if you are missing key ingredients. This guide will show you how to bake a cake even if you don’t have all the right things. Let’s get started!
No Need For Butter! (Cake Without Butter)
1 – Many cake recipes ask for butter and it seems like a pretty important thing to have when you’re making a cake. But what if you don’t have any butter? No problem. The first thing you can reach for is shortening.
While shortening won’t have the exact rich flavor of butter, it will act in much the same way inside your batter. Shortening will get nice and fluffy when creamed together with sugar and it will moisten the cake as it bakes (maybe even more so than butter).
Use the same amount of shortening in the recipe as butter and you will be good to go!
2 – Another substitute for butter is oil. Canola oil, vegetable oil or coconut oil can all work when baking a cake. While oil does not cream together the same way that butter and sugar do, it will keep the cake moist and act as a perfect fat replacer as far as flavor goes (coconut oil will also add a subtle yummy tropical taste!).
When substituting oil, your cake will be a little more dense than if you were using butter. Use 3/4 of a cup of oil for every 1 cup butter and also cut back on any liquid ingredients in the cake (aka milk or water) by 25%.
3 – Applesauce is a great healthy butter replacer. Using butter will have the same effect as if you used oil in that it will make your cake much more dense, however, still delicious.
Using applesauce will not only solve your missing butter problem but also make you cake lower in fat. Use 3/4 cup apple sauce for every 1 cup butter.
Oh no! No Eggs! (Cake Without Eggs)
So you’re out of eggs but do you have a banana? Maybe you have some flaxseeds? What about some vegetable oil? Any of those will work great and let’s see why.
4 – Using a banana in place of eggs will keep your cake soft and also add a slight banana flavor. The cake will be a little dense but this substitute is a perfect quick fix when you have no eggs. Use about one small mashed banana (1/4 cup) for one egg in a cake recipe.
5 – Flaxseeds are my favorite substitute for eggs when making cake as they act as a binder for the batter, holding the cake together as it bakes, and also flaxseeds add some great nutrients to the cake. Omega 3s and antioxidants are both inside of flaxseeds and will therefore be in your cake as a bonus health boost.
Consider this flaxseed cake healthy!! Simply use 1 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds with 2 tablespoons water for every 1 egg.
6 – Two tablespoons water, one teaspoon vegetable oil and two teaspoons baking powder can be whisked together to make a great egg substitute. This mix will help in keeping the cake soft and also act as a leavener, something that eggs are sometimes needed for in a cake recipe.
What is great about these three ingredients is that you usually need them for a basic cake batter anyway, now you’re just using a little more!
Where’s My Sugar… (Cake Without Sugar)
7 – If you’re missing sugar, you might think that is the end of your cake baking for the day. After all, cake needs to be sweet right? Well, there are many ways to sweeten a cake without sugar! Let’s start with honey.
Honey is a natural choice for a sugar replacer in cake batter (natural as in its an obvious choice and natural because it’s made by bees!). Use 3/4 cup honey in place of 1 cup of sugar. Your cake will be a little more dense but have a richer flavor thanks to the honey.
8 – Another ‘natural’ choice to replace sugar is maple syrup. I love this option because the decadent maple flavor is so tasty in most cake recipes. 3/4 cup of maple syrup in place of every 1 cup of sugar will do the trick!
9 – No-calorie sweeteners like stevia, splenda or equal are also solid substitutes to use in place of sugar when making cake. With these sweeteners, you just have to check the potency before measuring and adding it to your batter.
There are many versions of these sweeteners that are made for baking and can be used in the same ratio as sugar would be (aka 1 cup of sugar to one cup of splenda). However, be aware that stevia is frequently much sweeter than sugar and therefore should be used less.
Typically, 1 tablespoon of stevia will equal one cup of sugar but check your package! You don’t want a super saccharine cake!
But What About Brown Sugar? (Cake Without Brown Sugar)
10 – If your cake recipe calls for brown sugar specifically, there are a few things it can be replaced with. First, reach for the molasses in the back of your cabinet- it will finally come in handy!
For every one cup of brown sugar, use one cup white sugar and one tablespoon molasses to create the same taste and texture that brown sugar would have in your cake.
11 – No molasses, just use white sugar. You’re cake may not be quite as rich and full of warm flavors but it will still bake perfectly. White sugar to the rescue!
The Milk Has Gone Bad (Cake Without Milk)
12 – Maybe you don’t have any milk or maybe your milk has gone bad (please don’t use old milk to make cake!), either way, you need a replacement.
Milk has a dual role in cake making. Not only is it needed to add moisture to your cake, but it also adds fat which makes the texture and flavor of cake oh so irresistible.
So, to replace milk, you can simply use water and a little extra fat. If your recipe calls for butter, reach for more butter. Using oil? Add a touch more. For every one cup of milk you are replacing, use one cup of water and 1 1/2 teaspoons extra fat.
Baking Without Baking Powder (Cake Without Baking Powder)
13 – If you don’t have baking powder when making a cake, let’s hope you have baking soda! If so, then this is an easy ingredient to replace. Baking soda is three times more potent than baking powder so a little bit will go a long way.
For every 1 tablespoon of baking powder, use 1 teaspoon baking soda plus 2 teaspoons vinegar or lemon juice. Cake problem, solved!
Cake Flour? Who Has That? (Cake Without Cake Flour)
14 – Cake flour is one of those specific ingredients that you need just to make cake (hence the name…) and never actually have on hand. You can easily make your own cake flour by combining all purpose flour and cornstarch. The cornstarch will lighten up the all purpose flour and make your cake bake and set fluffy.
For every two cups of cake flour, use 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour whisked together with 1/4 cup cornstarch. You’ll never need to buy cake flour again!
No Flour at all… (Cake Without Flour)
If you don’t have any flour on hand but need to make a cake, maybe you have oats or almonds. Bothe of these will help!
15 – Grind rolled oats in a food processor until very, very fine, like flour! Use 3/4 cup of oat flour for every 1 cup of flour the recipe asks for. Using oat flour will also add fiber and a nice nutty flavor to your cake.
16 – Speaking of nuts, grinding almonds in the food processor until fine is also a great flour substitute. The same ratio as oat flour: one cup regular flour replaced with 3/4 cup almond flour will do it!
After all of these little tricks and tips on how to make cake without key ingredients, I am sure you are ready to get baking! One last tip before you preheat your oven, while substituting one or two ingredients will work well, be wary when replacing multiple ingredients in your cake batter (three or more is pushing it).
If you really are missing so many ingredients, look for a new recipe that will use ingredients you have at home or just save the cake baking for another day. But if you have almost everything for your cake and are just missing one, semi important thing, use one of our perfect substitutes and be on your way! Happy baking!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.