Baking Basics

Baking Basics: The Art of Substitution

September 12, 2020
Baking ingredients

In this day in age one of the things I had previously taken for granted is being able to pop out to the grocery store and grab a couple of things I needed for baking. I have been holding off on posting recipes because I feel a little guilty. What if people don’t have everything for the recipes in their homes? I don’t want people to venture out needlessly. As a result, it got me thinking about the Art of Substitution, certain ingredients can be used for those items you don’t have in your fridge or cupboard.

Common Ingredients:

Baking Powder: Even the stuff you buy at the store is typically baking soda and cream of tartar, so it’s rather easy to make some yourself. I’ve had to use this technique a couple of times since social distancing started. It works well.

1 teaspoon baking powder = 1/4tsp baking soda + 1/2 tsp cream of tartar + 1/4 tsp cornstarch

Butter: I wouldn’t want to use substitutions for certain recipes like a cake where the fat content is essential. I would also stick with butter for shortbread cookies because it plays a critical role in the overall flavour of the cookies. You can also use mixtures of butter and margarine or shortening if you find you are short on butter.

1 cup butter = 1 cup margarine

1 cup butter = 1 cup Shortening + 1/4 tsp salt

Buttermilk: This substitution I use quite often because I typically don’t buy buttermilk just to keep in my fridge. You are, in essence, just making sour milk, but it has the same effect in the batters. It activates the leaveners in your batter, like baking soda, and it adds some flavour.

1 cup buttermilk = 1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice + enough milk to make 1 cup. Let stand for 5 minutes. (use room temperature milk)

Eggs: You may not get the volume that you would typically get when you use actual eggs. I haven’t used these substitutions so I couldn’t tell you their exact results. I have reduced the number of eggs in a recipe by substituting it with apple sauce and had a decent outcome.

1 egg = 1/4 cup apple sauce

1 egg = 1/2 cup mashed banana + 1/2 tsp baking powder


1 cup brown sugar = 1 cup granulated sugar + 1 tbsp molasses

Caster or Berry Sugar= place the amount of sugar you need into a food processor and pulse for a couple of seconds.

types of sugar

From Left to Right: Brown Sugar, Turbinado Sugar, Caster Sugar, Granulated Sugar


These are just some of the substitutions that you can use. If you are interested in taking a more in-depth look into the Art of Substitution, you can check out The Brown-eyed Baker blog post. I also recommend reading this article by the lovely people at Bon Appetit called ‘”Can I Substitute This for That?”: An Almost Comprehensive Answer’, because they will help you understand some of the reasons why some substitutions won’t work and some other very useful information.

I hope this has been helpful to some of you out there. I know I don’t want to have to run to the grocery store for just one item. Good Luck and Happy Baking.

Other posts you may enjoy:

Baking Basics: Baking with Milk

Facts About Sugar

The 411 on Types of Flour






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