Cake Central › Cake Forums › Cake Talk › Cake Decorating › Oil or Butter? Please help me understand their effects.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Oil or Butter? Please help me understand their effects.

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Hello all...I'm a newbie! This is actually my first post in the forum and I hope I find success in getting my question answered or discussed. icon_biggrin.gif

OTHER THAN TASTE:
Why do some recipes call for oil and some call for butter? If you want a moist cake, is oil better? If you need density, is butter better? I'd love to explore what the advantages are to using each. Again, not looking for the obvious (taste or health reasons), moreso trying to learn how it affects the outcome of the cake as far as it's texture, moistness and density. ANY input would be appreciated. Thank you kindly. thumbs_up.gif

Shay
post #2 of 20
Welcome to CC. We do have some chemically minded members here - so hopefully they will see your post and help answer. I wish I could help.
post #3 of 20
This is what I've experienced! The cakes with oil are lighter and moist but at times too oily. The cakes with butter are denser and not as moist.
post #4 of 20
It seems to me that Indydebi would be the one with a good answer!

Either that or Alton Brown would know for sure!
"Focus on what you share in common, learn from what makes you different, support each other through struggles, and celebrate each others' success."

Check out my buttercream rose tutorial!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGa5j46Z05c
Reply
"Focus on what you share in common, learn from what makes you different, support each other through struggles, and celebrate each others' success."

Check out my buttercream rose tutorial!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGa5j46Z05c
Reply
post #5 of 20
My understanding is that the purpose of the fat is to coat the protein molecules in the flour, thus inhibiting the gluten formation (too much gluten makes a tough baked good).

Oil coats the protein very well and gives you a very moist feel to the cake. It is a bit of an illusion because it's actually an oily residue, if you will, but our mouth translates that to moist. However, oil doesn't function like butter in cakes because it doesn't get "whipped" with air trapped in for the rising... and as you mentioned, it doesn't come with as robust a taste.

Butter also coats the flour, but not quite as fully, especially not in the creaming method. If you use the method where you beat the butter into the flour and sugar, etc, and then add eggs and liquid, you will get a better coating and a nicer crumb, a more moist feeling. However, you will not have as big of a rise.

This is because in the creaming method, the fat is being punctured by the sugar (which is why you have to cream for at LEAST 5 minutes) to allow the steam to expand those holes later, giving you rise. However, this method leaves you with a denser feeling... and can feel tough if you overmix the flour in at the end.

Butter is also part water, which creates the steam. It also does add some liquid to your recipe, which is why you can't just swap out butter for oil or shortening in most recipes.

I prefer butter for the taste, and I do both the creaming method and the other (can't recall the name) depending on what result I'm after.

On the rare occasion that i do use oil, the cake is more like a box mix cake in terms of mouth feel. It's softer, usually, less sturdy in my opinion, more "moist" but it lacks flavor.


**** Please note, I am far from an expert, but do my best to self-teach the science of baking. icon_smile.gif If I am off on something, someone please correct me!!
post #6 of 20
Both are fats so they work in somewhat the same way. They are tenderizers. Oil will add tenderness because it never gets solid. Butter on the other hand bonds with sugar crystals to hold air. Look at it this way. Muffins are dense the fat is liquid, most of the time it is butter. Melted butter will not hold any air.
As for texture if a cake with butter isn't cold where the butter resolidifies they are pretty much the same.

Oil will leave a film in your mouth. Butter has a melting point lower than your body temp. Butter will have a better mouth feel.

Mike
post #7 of 20
Ok, I dork out bad on science stuff. And I'd probably leave my husband for Alton Brown (though, to be fair, my husband would probably trade out his sexual orientation for Alton Brown. lol). So I just had to say that I am LOVING this thread. Even if I am worthless in adding anything to it. : )
post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 
Wow! Thank you all for replying! I've enjoyed reading all of this and it's quite helpful (and impressive).

So far, what you guys have said about how oil seems to produce what we like to think of as a moist cake is exactly what my experiences have been. Now based on what has been said so far, I'm wondering something else:

If both seem to bring different yet beneficial attributes to the table, why can't both ever be used together to get the best of both worlds? Taste and moisture?

I would assume that if you are baking cakes to be in tiers, you should opt for density, therefore go with butter, right? Can any of you share in which baking situations (other than muffins) you opt for one over the other (stacking cakes or not)?

Thanks again! I REALLLY appreciate the input! thumbs_up.gif
post #9 of 20
Moistness comes from your liquids. I would keep oil in the fat catagory. Oil effects texture more than moistness. I don't use it. Even in the rare instance of using a box mix I subtitute bvutter for oil. You could toss oil away, and it would never effect my baked goods at all.

In baking, sugar is a liquid.

Mike
post #10 of 20
I don't use oil or butter. Instead I substitute applesauce; makes my cakes very moist and dense. Yummy every time!
"Life is a river always flowing. Do not hold onto things. Work hard." Siddhārtha Gautama
Reply
"Life is a river always flowing. Do not hold onto things. Work hard." Siddhārtha Gautama
Reply
post #11 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thank you Mike.

So if a recipe calls for oil and I wanted to substitute butter, would it be an equal swap or a different ratio?
post #12 of 20
I melt the butter, and swap 1-1

Mike
post #13 of 20
One odd thing that I've learned is that if you leave out most (or even all) of the oil called for in a boxed cake mix, the cake is just fine. It is less "crumby" on its surface, so it can often be frosted without a crumb coating. The mix already has some oil in it. Usually what I do now is put in a Tbl or so.
post #14 of 20
I bake from scratch and what I primarily bake are butter cakes. The only cake I make that uses oil instead of butter is my carrot cake, which, as Alton Brown says, is really more of a muffin than a cake. icon_biggrin.gif
post #15 of 20
I do know that butter has water in it--hence 100 calories per T of butter vs 120 calories per T of vegetable oil.
Here is a link that explains it better than I can. I personally don't believe you get the same results and can just sub in oil for butter or vice versa without a change in texture. I love the book "The Science of Baking" it's my "go to" and is well worth the investment.

Check this out: http://www.baking911.com/pantry/fats.htm
When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me". Erma Bombeck
~~~
If God is for us, who can be against us?
Reply
When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me". Erma Bombeck
~~~
If God is for us, who can be against us?
Reply
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Cake Decorating
Cake Central › Cake Forums › Cake Talk › Cake Decorating › Oil or Butter? Please help me understand their effects.