A moist cake is the goal of every baker, but it's sometimes easier said than done. Using vegetable oil can help prevent a dry cake, and you might find it as an ingredient in many recipes and boxed cake mixes.
Canola oil is one of the most common cooking oils because it's easy to use and widely available. Most vegetable oils will work just fine in cake, but some alter the flavor of baked goods.
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A variety of oils can be used for baking, but they vary in taste. Canola oil may be the best oil for baking because it has a high smoke point and a mild taste.
The Best Oil for Baking: Canola Oil
In general, vegetable oils are the best to use in baking. Of the different types of vegetable oil, canola oil has very little flavor, particularly when used in baked goods.
Canola oil is considered a neutral-tasting oil and will allow the flavor of your cake to shine through. Any flavor of cake, whether it's chocolate, vanilla, carrot or spice, works well with canola oil.
Canola oil is very low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fats — a combo that's linked to better heart health, per the University of Michigan Health System.
If you don't have vegetable oil on hand or you want to cut calories and fat in your recipe, try using applesauce as a substitute for vegetable oil in cake, as recommended by the University of Maine. Cut the oil measurement in half and replace this half with applesauce.
Smoke from cooking oil contains harmful toxins, so knowing the smoke point of cooking oil is important for health as well as flavor, according to the Cleveland Clinic. An oil reaches its smoke point when it is heated to the point where it produces smoke. The flavor also begins to break down at that point.
The smoke point of canola oil is medium-high at 425 degrees Fahrenheit, which means that it will not break down and alter the flavor at temperatures needed for baking. Most cakes are baked at less than 400 F.
Many people favor olive oil for everyday cooking but avoid it in baking because of the flavor. Refined olive oil, also called "light olive oil," is preferable for baking, rather than a high-quality extra-virgin oil, according to the University of Florida. Light olive oil makes a cake very moist and does not impact the flavor.
Light olive oil has a high smoke point of more than 460 F, making it a good alternative to canola oil, according to the University of Arkansas.
Grapeseed oil for baking is another good option, as it's low in saturated fat and has a mild flavor that won't conflict with the other flavors in your cake. The smoke point of grapeseed oil is 420 degrees, making it ideal for baking temperatures.
Oil can be substituted in a 1:1 ratio, so if you don't have canola or vegetable oil on hand, use the same amount of olive or grapeseed oil for baking.