Whether you’re a seasoned baker or just beginning your baking journey, you probably know that butter is a crucial ingredient in many desserts. That’s especially true in pound cakes.
But what happens when you don’t have butter or can’t eat it? Don’t worry! You can find several butter alternatives that’ll give you an equally delicious cake as the original.
In this article, we’ll walk you through how to make a pound cake without butter. We’ll also discuss what each option does to the cake. So, keep reading for all the details!
Here are six butter alternatives that you can substitute at a 1:1 ratio:
Shortening is a staple in baking. That’s especially true in pastries since the former is a 100% fat product, providing the desired flakiness.
In cakes, shortening makes them more tender and soft. Again, that has to do with it not containing milk solids or water.
Unlike butter, shortening is made of hydrogenated oils. The former is a process that involves adding hydrogen to vegetable oils to change them into solids at room temperature.
So, how does shortening work in a pound cake?
When creamed, the 100% fat product traps more air, like butter. That air expands during baking, producing a loftier and fluffier cake.
The only problem is that the former only contains vegetable oils. So, you don’t get the same buttery, creamy taste as using dairy butter.
Not to mention, shortening can contain trans fats. The former raises the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), increasing the risk of heart disease.
However, that happens when the oil is partially hydrogenated. For that reason, opt for a fully hydrogenated, trans-fat-free shortening to use in your pound cake.
Nothing is better than margarine for those looking for a non-dairy butter equivalent. The former is a type of shortening since it’s made from vegetable oil hydrogenation.
However, unlike shortening, margarine isn’t 100% fat. It contains water, flavorings, salt, and additives to mimic the taste of butter.
Texture-wise, margarine can be liquid, semi-solid, or solid, depending on the fat content. The higher the fat content, the more solid the margarine is and the less water it contains.
When baking a pound cake, opt for a high-fat stick margarine. That’s because the other types contain water, which can throw off the balance between the wet and dry ingredients.
Consequently, your batter can contain too much moisture, producing a gummy cake.
Since it’s made of hydrogenated oils, margarine might pose the same health risks as shortening. So, make sure to buy the trans-fat-free version of the former to reduce the chances of heart disease.
Although it won’t yield the same texture or flavors as butter, you can still use oils in your pound cake recipe. In fact, it produces a loftier and moister cake!
That’s because oil remains liquid at room temperature. As for the butter, it solidifies once the cake cools, producing a slightly dense texture.
Still, you won’t get the rich, buttery taste of the pound cake when you use oils. The best part is that you have plenty of oil options to choose from!
For instance, canola oil is a favorite in baking since it lacks flavors. So, it won’t impact the taste of your cake.
If you want to take your pound cake to the next level, try using nut oils, such as peanut, almond, or coconut.
Vegetable oils are another good alternative since they have a high smoking point. The former ensures that the fat doesn’t burn in the oven and produces hazardous chemicals that produce a bitter taste.
As you might know, sour cream is a staple addition to a pound cake. The former helps produce a fluffy, moist pound cake.
Greek yogurt works the same way, thanks to its fat content. It helps add moisture, tenderizing the cake.
Yogurt is also rich in proteins. Not only do those nutrients help improve the cake’s structure, as they form a network when baked, but they also play a role in the taste.
The amino groups in the proteins react with the carbonyl groups in the sugar, producing new organic chemicals. Those products undergo further reactions, browning the cake and giving it a caramelized taste—a process known as the Maillard reaction.
That being said, opt for high-fat yogurt, as the low-fat options can give you a dry pound cake. You can also use ricotta cheese. The former provides a base for the ingredients to cling to and mix well. However, it contains a considerably lower fat content than butter.
So, your cake might turn out a little dry, having the texture of a breakfast cake that’s best served with tea or coffee.
Heavy or whipping cream is an excellent butter alternative in pound cake since it’ll provide the same creamy flavor.
Additionally, both dairy products give a similarly dense, custardy inside cake texture, like traditional pound cake.
In case you’re wondering, heavy cream contains more milk fat than whipping cream. However, the difference isn’t that significant.
Typically, heavy cream has at least 36% fat, while whipping cream contains between 30% and 36%.
Regardless of your choice, both cream options will give you satisfactory results similar to the original recipe.
While it’ll yield a completely different recipe, you can swap butter for applesauce when making a pound cake. Still, you’ll need to add oil or other fat alternatives to avoid having a dry, quick-bread-like cake.
As you might know, applesauce is high in moisture, which helps in gluten development. Not to mention, it won’t trap air like butter during the creaming process.
Consequently, you get a dry, chewy cake, which isn’t pleasant. However, applesauce comes with some perks.
For starters, the former is loaded with fibers and nutrients that support your heart and digestive health. Plus, it’ll add sweetness and tanginess, providing a nice complexity to the cake’s flavor.
Start by swapping 20-30% oil with applesauce and testing the results. If the cake comes out dry, reduce the amount of applesauce until you reach the desired, moist, velvety texture.
Here’s how to make a pound cake without butter:
Before you mix ingredients, make sure to preheat the oven to make sure you hit the right temperature. The former step is crucial for your cake to rise properly because it ensures the incorporated air doesn’t escape before your cake sets.
Simply heat the oven for 10-15 minutes at 350ºF before mixing the wet and dry ingredients.
Additionally, you want to grease the pan prior to mixing so that it’s quicker to pour and bake the batter.
In the case of solid fats, like shortening and margarine, cream them with sugar using a mixer on medium speed.
The process should take between 3 and 7 minutes until the sugar dissolves. Then follow the same steps as the original pound cake recipe.
If you’re using oil or other mentioned liquids, then beat the eggs with sugar until the batter is light from the incorporated air. Don’t forget to use room-temperature eggs, as they blend and rise better.
This step might be tricky since you can easily weigh down the egg mixture and knock off all the incorporated air. As a result, your cake will collapse in the oven.
To avoid the hassle, add the dry ingredients gradually while alternating with the heavy cream, yogurt, oil, or applesauce. After blending everything well, pour the batter into the greased pan and bake for an hour or until golden brown.
So, how to make a pound cake without butter?
The short answer is: use a butter alternative. You can use shortening or margarine to get the closest results to the traditional recipe.
You can also use other fat sources, like oils or dairy. For a low-fat, non-dairy option, applesauce is a great alternative.
The best part is that you can substitute all the above for butter at a 1:1 ratio! Whichever option you choose, one thing is for sure: you’ll get to bake and enjoy a butter-free pound cake that’s equally delicious as the traditional version!
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.