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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?
No oil in the house? Have no fear! You can still bake that cake without it. Photo Credit: KateSmirnova/iStock/GettyImages

Whether you run out of oil while baking a cake or just want to make a healthier version, you can use a variety of ingredients to replace oil. Some have less fat and fewer calories, and some don’t. All options will enable you to finish your cake without running to the store, assuming you have them on hand.

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If you’ve never substituted another ingredient for oil in a cake, give it a try — you may decide to do it every time.

Read more: Baking Substitutions for Flour


Applesauce is perhaps the most common substitute for oil when baking cakes or other pastries. 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. Consider using unsweetened applesauce to reduce the additional sugar content.

When substituting applesauce for oil, it's a one-to-one substitution.

Read more: Health Benefits of Applesauce

Melted Butter

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.

When substituting butter for oil, use one cup of butter for every 7/8 cup of oil.

Fruit Puree

While most people know about the applesauce substitute, fewer may know that you can 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 muffins. You may discover that the texture of your baked good changes with your substitutions.

When substituting a fruit puree for oil, it's a one-to-one substitution.

Read more: How to Add Fruit Puree to Cake Mixes

Dairy Products

You can use buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream or mayonnaise instead of oil as well.

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 additionally substitute for each other in recipes at a one-to-one ratio.

With buttermilk, which also substitutes for sour cream, use 3/4 cup of buttermilk mixed with 1/3 cup of butter.

Read more: Baking Substitute for Yogurt

Substitution Measurements

As previously mentioned, you can substitute these ingredients, with the exception of butter and buttermilk, one-for-one with the oil called for in your recipe.

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 fewer calories and fat, go half and half — half oil and half substitute.

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