If you’re into home baking, chances are –like me– you’re also looking for ways to make your cakes better!
Whether to improve the cake’s flavor, texture, density, or moisture, I love incorporating different ingredients into my batter to test out their effects.
I was especially excited when I started adding sour cream to my cake recipe.
I admit I had my doubts, but I’d also heard many chefs and fellow bakers rave about this ingredient changing their cake game forever. My curiosity won –as always– and I just had to see what sour cream could do for myself!
I’m happy to report that the tangy dairy product has become a staple in my cake ventures, which brings us to today’s article. I’m here to tell you why and how you should use sour cream in your cake mix from now on!
What Is Sour Cream?
Sour cream is literally what its name suggests – cream that tastes sour.
People make it by adding lactic acid-producing bacteria to dairy cream. Not only does this add different flavors to the cream, including a tangy sourness, but it also thickens its consistency.
A similar dairy product, crème fraiche, is also made this way. But the biggest difference is that crème fraiche contains more fat while sour cream is slightly more tart and less thick.
Where Does the Texture and Flavor of Sour Cream Come from?
Sour cream gets its characteristics from the bacteria that grow in it. The lactic acid-producing bacteria create a range of flavors while also making the cream less runny.
The result is a thicker cream with a tangy taste that can add a lot of depth to different dishes, both savory and sweet, including cakes.
Why Use Sour Cream in Cake?
Sour cream can really elevate the flavor and texture of cake. Let’s take a look at the top reasons you should include sour cream in your list of must-add ingredients:
1 – It Makes the Cake Thicker
I use sour cream to get a good level of thickness for my batter. The cake won’t expand and rise properly during baking if the batter is too runny.
Since the consistency of sour cream is very similar to that of cake batter, it won’t change the batter too much. This way, you can also add moisture to your batter without thinning it too much.
2 – It Helps Delay Browning
The inside of your cake must fully cook without the outer layer burning.
Many folks think that the baking temperature is the only factor controlling this, but the makeup of your cake batter actually plays an equally important role.
When you add sour cream, its low acidity will slow down the browning on the outside to allow the inside to bake.
3 – It Activates the Baking Soda
Cake recipes often call for baking soda or baking powder because they help the cake expand when it cooks.
Baking soda relies on acid to work properly, and sour cream can replace the baking powder to activate the baking soda and allow the cake to rise.
Additionally, the baking soda will take out some of the sourness of the sour cream, leaving just the right amount of flavor for a fluffy, tangy taste.
4 – It Boosts the Richness of the Cake
Sour cream has fat in it, which can make any recipe richer.
When you add sour cream (and fat) to a batter, the cake will turn out richer and creamier. This enhances the flavor and the texture, making the cake extra delicious!
How Do You Use Sour Cream in Cake Baking?
Whether you’re making your cake batter from scratch or opting for a boxed cake mix, the general rule for using sour cream is the same: use it instead of other liquids.
So, if the recipe calls for one cup of milk, replace that with one cup of sour cream. The same goes for water.
Also, make sure you always use full-fat sour cream, not low-fat or fat-free versions. After all, the fat in sour cream is where the magic comes from!
How to Bake a Cake with Sour Cream
Although you can add sour cream to any cake recipe, you can also make an actual sour cream cake, such as this Sour Cream Pound Cake from Taste of Home.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need:
- One cup of softened butter
- Three cups of sugar
- Six large eggs (room temperature)
- Three cups of all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon of baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- One cup of sour cream
- Two teaspoons of vanilla extract
Once you have these ingredients on hand, you can get to work! Just follow these simple steps:
- Preheat the oven to 325℉ (160℃).
- Grease and flour a 10-inch fluted tube pan, and set it aside.
- Cream the butter and sugar for 5-7 minutes until it’s fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time. Beat the mixture after each egg is added.
- In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the mixture.
- Mix in the sour cream and vanilla.
- Beat on low until it’s blended.
- Pour in the pan and bake for two hours, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then move it to a wire rack.
This recipe is simple, and you’ll end up with a rich, moist, and mouthwatering cake!
Does Sour Cream Replace Milk in Cake?
Yes, you can use sour cream instead of milk in cake recipes. Simply add an equal amount, or thin the sour cream with a bit of water if you want a more runny batter.
What Does Sour Cream Replace in Cake Mix?
Sour cream can generally replace liquids and similar dairy products that offer fat content and tangy flavor.
As such, sour cream can substitute for milk, water, buttermilk, greek yogurt, plain yogurt, or crème fraiche.
What Kinds of Cake Can Be Made with Sour Cream?
You can make just about any cake with sour cream. There are so many different recipes online, so you can pick your favorite! Here are some of my top options:
- Sour Cream Pound Cake
- Red Velvet Sour Cream Cake
- Apple and Sour Cream Cake
- Sour Cream Chocolate Cake
- Rhubarb Crumb Cake
- Sour Cream Coconut Cake
- Sour Cream Yellow Cake
- Sour Cream Swirl Cake
- Sour Cream Cheesecake
In addition to using sour cream for your cake, you can also use sour cream for your frosting. It comes out creamy with a bit of a tang that enhances the flavor of any cake.
You can also add fruits such as cherries and other berries to elevate the frosting. Not to mention, it’s easy to spread, light, and fluffy!
What Can You Use as a Substitute for Sour Cream?
The best substitute for sour cream is yogurt, and the best type of yogurt to use is Greek yogurt.
That’s because Greek yogurt is thicker than regular yogurts. Simply add as much yogurt as the recipe calls for sour cream.
The only difference is that you should add one teaspoon of baking soda for each cup of yogurt to make sure that it thickens the same way.
Other than yogurt, possible sour cream substitutes include:
- Soy milk
- Cottage cheese
- Cream cheese
- Crème Fraiche
Any of these ingredients will change the texture and the flavor of the recipe a little bit, so be prepared for the variation.
How to Store Sour Cream
You should always keep sour cream in the refrigerator, and make sure you use it within three weeks of the “sell-by” date.
You can check it before use to make sure it’s still good. Look for a moldy smell, visible mold growth on the surface, discoloration, or yellowing. If you see any of these signs, throw it away.
You can also store sour cream in the freezer. It’ll last for approximately six months.
Although freezing will change the texture of the sour cream, it’ll still be fine for baking. Before use, thaw it in the refrigerator for a few days and it’ll be ready!
There are many reasons to start using sour cream in your cake mix today! It adds fat for extra creaminess and moisture, activates baking soda so that the cake rises, and helps control the browning of the cake.
You can use sour cream in so many different recipes to introduce flavor and improve texture. The acidity of sour cream also reduces some of the sweetness to give the cake a sweet and tangy taste.
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.