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Aug 4, 2007 12:37 PM

Oil vs. Butter in Muffins, Cakes, etc.

Some muffin and cake recipes call for the creaming method (start by creaming softened butter and sugar, continue from there). Others just use vegetable oil to provide the fat for the recipe. I've had variations of both that are tasty, and so would like to know more about what each method accomplishes. How does the resulting cake/muffin/baked good differ depending on the method you use, i.e. oil vs. butter/creaming method?


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  1. Oil can never taste as good as butter. I have seen a recipe for an olive oil cake but haven't tried it.

    My other nickname is The Butter Queen!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Candy

      I love butter too. But there is this olive oil that tastes exactly like butter. And it cooks flawlessly. It's called Olivio.

    2. I was just wondering this myself because I'm inundated with zucchini from our garden and so many zucchini bread recipes call for oil, not butter and I just have a mental block on this ingredient although I do use it. Happily, I came across a recipe from Cooks Ilustrated that calls for butter. Gave it a try and it's fabulous and will replace all my other recipes which call for oil. It still leaves us wondering......why oil and not butter?? What 's the benefit??

      I do have a conversion chart for subing olive oil for butter although I've yet to use it. My very favorite stone fruit recipe is Amanda Hesser's peach tart which calls for olive oil in the crust and it's wonderful but it's really the only time I bake with evoo.

      4 Replies
      1. re: tweetie

        Here's an answer:

        I recently took butter and milk out of my husband's diet to see if he was lactose intolerant and/or allergic to milk and had pretty good success with soy milk and oil for muffins. I have a recipe for gingersnaps that uses only oil and they are heavenly. I think the oil vs butter is more a matter or personal taste than anything else.

        1. re: Texchef

          Could you share that gingersnap recipe?

        2. re: tweetie

          I would say that you should be extremely careful when baking with evoo, because it has such a strong and unique flavor. I once made Trader Joe's cornbread mix with evoo instead of veg oil b/c I only had the former on hand, and I really regretted it. The evoo flavor permeated the bread completely and totally overshadowed the lovely cornmeal flavor that I was so craving. I can't imagine that using evoo in sweet preparations would be a good idea, although I can see how it might work in a tart crust as the crust itself doesn't necessarily need to be sweet. I'd be interested in hearing more about your experiences baking w/ evoo though! :-)

          1. re: Aloo0628

            Just a side note, since I couldn't help adding a personal experience to your post. One time my brother (who was old enough to know better) made a boxed brownie mix with olive oil instead of veg oil. OMG, were they ever terrible!!

        3. I have a recipe for carrot cake that uses vegetable oil, and I'm wondering if I switched the oil for butter would it be the same? Could I taste it?

          2 Replies
          1. re: chef chicklet

            I'd love to find out the result; please let me know what happens if you give it a try! :-)

            1. re: chef chicklet

              Oil adds moistness, butter adds flavor. Therein lies the choice. Do you prefer the buttery flavor or the moistness?

            2. Melted butter can be used just like oil in the 'muffin method'. So if you want the butter flavor, go ahead and substitute.


              1. Hi guys, OP here; thanks for your input! I think I should clarify my question though. I understand that oil and butter have very different flavors (and of course, will always choose a buttery flavor over oil.) However, the method involved in using butter when baking is very different from that using oil, and so I assume that the two methods yield different results in the finished product. When you bake with butter, you cream the sugar and the softened butter before adding the rest of the ingredients. However, when you use oil, you basically just pour and mix. I know that I could just melt butter and use it in place of oil, but that's not what I'm asking about. I'm asking about the difference between using the creaming method with butter vs. just mixing oil into a batter. Sorry for the confusion! :-)

                5 Replies
                1. re: Aloo0628

                  I bake Martha Stewart's banana bread a lot and it uses butter. However I do notice a dark layer on the bottom every time. It doesn't taste different or bad, just visually odd. Part of me has always thought it's because of the butter, maybe separating during cooking and solids sinking to bottom? I always want to try oil for a more consistent product but it's so good already I just live with it.

                  1. re: Aloo0628

                    Looking at couple of my general purpose cookbooks, I find that the 'creaming method' is generally associated with the finer, tender crumb of cakes, while the 'muffin method' produces a coarser crumb, and is more suitable for hearty and moist breads like banana, pumpkin, and whole grain.

                    Here's a web site that compares the two:

                    I suspect Alton Brown has an episode or two that deals with the topic. One of his favorite food scientists has written about the subject.


                    1. re: paulj

                      I agree with Paul. Oversimplified, butter, creamed results in cake. Oil in a one bowl method gives you something more like a muffin.

                    2. re: Aloo0628

                      Creaming the butter will yield a cake-like muffin. Adding melted fat (oil or butter) will result in a more traditional muffin crumb. I prefer that latter, but it's a matter of taste.

                      1. re: Aloo0628

                        I think you may find this helpful: I baked a carrot cake yesterday following the recipe using vegetable oil only. It was so bland that I am in the process of making it again with butter (the creaming method) I also plan to substitute brown sugar for white sugar. I checked this message board to find out if my substitution today will make a difference. I plan to go forward with the butter and let you know how it compares to yesterday's bland Carrot/Oil cake.