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Nov 22, 2010 06:55 AM

? can I swap shortening for butter??

My girlfriend hates butter. The look, the smell, the taste. It's been banned from my apartment. I love to bake, but (obviously) a large percentage of recipes call for butter.

Can I use shortening in its place? I am thinking mostly for cakes, cookies, etc., but also for icings, if possible. Anyone done this? If so, what ratio? Equal amounts???

Any warnings or caveats I should be aware of when using?

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  1. The flavor will go right out the window, and some texture will change, but you should be able to use shortening in *most* recipes.

    A notable exception in French Silk Pie -- that MUST be butter.

    How about margarine?

    Or substitute applesauce for the fat in some baked goods?

    (wow. that would be a tough mandate to live with.)

    1 Reply
    1. re: sunshine842

      I've certainly tried substituting both applesauce and pureed prunes in recipes. I didn't like the resulting texture at all (re muffins and cakes).

      I am hoping that if the texture is reasonably close with using shortening, I can get by with losing the butter flavor in a lot of recipes, since a lot of what I make has other strong flavors. For example, ginger in gingerbread. Cinnamon, chocolate, etc. in cakes or muffins.

      Obviously, a butter cream frosting will be weird w/o the butter. But a flavored "butter" cream might taste nice (again, assuming the texture is fine).

    2. It depends on what you're making. In cookies, it'll still work but the cookie will most likely be taller since the shortening doesn't melt like butter. In cake, I do it and like the taller cakes but miss the butter taste. As frosting goes, I hate the mouth feel of the shortening in such large amounts, even the butter flavored ones are pretty bad. I'd probably find a recipe that doesn't use butter--there are quite a few, chocolate ganache or whipped cream is better than a shortening frosting, IMO.

      Dorie Greenspan's Deviled Food White out cake has a non-butter frosting, if you want a white frosting

      1. You "can".

        But the better question is "should" you.

        Tell us what you are baking, so we have a better idea whether swapping butter for shortening will make an apprciable difference, and how to adjust for it.

        3 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit

          What do I tend to make?
          Cookies (usually choc chip)
          Bundt cakes, pan cakes

          I was afraid that you guys would tell me that icing would be more tricky than the cookies, cakes, etc. I have tended to make ganache instead of frosting, and it has worked very well. But it has limited me to chocolate flavoring there; if I could come up with a good cherry frosting with good mouth-feel, that would be a nice addition.

          Does anyone have decent cream cheese frosting recipes that don't call for butter? I found a non-butter recipe for cinnamon rolls, which I love. But they're just not the same without a cream cheese frosting drizzled on top, and if I could find such a recipe . . . [drool]

          1. re: santamonica811

            The role of butter generally in baked goods like breads and cakes is to create the "creaming" process -- that is, to allow the sugar granules to cut into the butter and aerate it, which allows for a rich, fluffy texture indicative of cakes, breads and the like. If you take out butter, then you have to sub generally with shortening, but a better approach might be using oil. If you sub in shortening with your cakes and breads, I would suggest separating your eggs, and fold in whites -- after you've whipped them -- into the batter separately from the egg yolks. This creates that aeration that you normally would achieve by creaming butter and sugar.

            Now, with cookies using shortening 1:1 for butter is generally not a problem because cookies are not typically reliant upon the aeration process as cookies are denser, and flatter.

            Hope that helps.

            1. re: santamonica811

              Unless you love the recipes you have, you can find good cake, bundt cake, muffin recipes that call for oil and I'd go that way--there are some excellent ones out there and I find the results better than trying to reformulate. I wouldn't use 1 to 1 oil to butter for cakes because that would be too much oil, maybe cut back a tablespoon or so per cup, if you do want to convert. If you want to make a particular type of cake or muffin, ask and I'm sure someone has a good recipe.

              For cinnamon rolls, try this dulce de leche cream cheese frosting


              You can't get an all cream cheese frosting as firm as a mix w/ butter but this would be perfect for rolls.

          2. Sure you can. Your stuff will almost always "come out" just fine. But the texture and flavor will change.

            I would suggest, if she likes coconut, trying coconut oil (which is semi-solid) in some of the recipes where that flavor would work. Otherwise it looks like you're stuck with margarine. Shortening really has no flavor. Sometimes oil works well, too. It really depends on the recipe. You can also seek out recipes that call for oil or shortening.

            For icing I agree with using whipped cream or making a chocolate ganache with just cream and chocolate. Or how about cream cheese? Or a boiled icing? A shortening icing will be pretty icky, just like kids' bakery cakes.

            1 Reply
            1. re: visciole

              visciole beat me to it!

              +1 on the coconut oil *if* she likes the flavor & aroma...and on the boiled icing/Italian meringue.

            2. As sunshine suggested, why not use margerine? I use unsalted Fleischman's all the time, because I don't use butter. Even the butter snobs don't know. They say that they always bake with butter, but I never do, and they love my baked goods.