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What Can You Substitute for Oil While Baking a Cake?

author image Kira Jaines
Based in Arizona, Kira Jaines writes health/fitness and travel articles, volunteers with Learning Ally and travels throughout the Southwest. She has more than 16 years of experience in transcribing and editing medical reports. Jaines holds a Bachelor of Arts in telecommunications and journalism from Northern Arizona University.
What Can You Substitute for Oil While Baking a Cake?
Decrease fat and calories in cakes by using applesauce instead of oil.

Whether you run out of oil while baking a cake or just want to make a healthier cake, you can use a variety of ingredients to replace oil. Some have less fat and fewer calories, and some don’t. But all will enable you to finish your cake without running to the store, assuming you have any of them on hand. If you’ve never substituted another ingredient for oil in a cake, give it a try -- you may decide to do it every time.

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Apple sauce.
Apple sauce.

Applesauce is perhaps the most common substitute for oil when baking cakes. Deliciously moist, applesauce has far fewer calories than oil. You will hardly notice the difference in your cake, either in texture or taste. Applesauce adds no fat calories and, if you use unsweetened applesauce, this will reduce the sugar content.

Melted Butter

Melted butter may be used in a cake.
Melted butter may be used in a cake.

Not healthier, but just as yummy, melted butter also substitutes for oil in a cake. In fact, many boxed cake mixes use butter or margarine instead of oil. The difference in using butter versus oil is that butter is saturated animal fat, and most vegetable oils contain healthier monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat.

Fruit Puree

Try a berry puree.
Try a berry puree.

Use any fruit puree as a substitute for oil in your cake recipe. One common puree used in cakes is prune puree. Keep in mind that, while applesauce has a mild flavor and likely will not affect the flavor of your cake, stronger-tasting fruit purees might. Experiment and try a raspberry puree in a chocolate cake, blueberry in a lemon cake, or banana in a spice cake.

Dairy Products

Use yogurt in place of oil.
Use yogurt in place of oil.

You can use buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream or mayonnaise instead of oil. Mayonnaise may sound like a stretch, but it comes closest to oil and, surprisingly, does not alter the taste of the cake. Sour cream often substitutes for mayonnaise, so you can also use it in a cake. Yogurt and sour cream substitute for each other. With buttermilk, which also substitutes for sour cream, use ¾ cup of buttermilk mixed with 1/3 cup of butter.

Substitution Measurements

Try going half and half.
Try going half and half.

Substitute these ingredients, with the exception of buttermilk, one-for-one with oil. If your cake calls for 1/3 cup of oil, substitute 1/3 cup of applesauce. If you are almost out of oil and don’t have enough, you can add the substitute to the oil you have to reach the desired amount. If you don’t mind using some oil and just want a fewer calories and fat, go half and half – half oil and half substitute.

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