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Aug 30, 2011 07:27 AM

Substituting buttermilk for milk in baking

I am hoping to take advantage of the plums debuting at my farmers market to make this plum upside-down cake.

I am wondering if I can substitute buttermilk for the milk in the recipe. It calls for 2t of baking powder, but no soda. Will this be a flop if I use the buttermilk? I almost always have buttermilk and heavy cream on hand, but almost never have milk.

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  1. Using buttermilk is a great way to increase the flavor profile while lowering the fat profile.

    Here is King Arthur's take on substituting buttermilk. Note, in particular, the last note.

    If you've got a baking question King Arthur is always a great place to go. If you can't find what you're looking for on the site, you can call and speak to one of their master bakers. That's just one of the reasons I always try to support the folks who support other bakers by using their stuff.

    2 Replies
    1. re: rainey

      Hey, were you going to attach a link to King Arthur's take? I didn't see the info anywhere else in your post.

    2. I think it would work fine--you don't need baking soda for buttermilk. You usually need buttermilk or some acid for the soda to work. If I were doing it, I'd use buttermilk but substitute a tablespoon or so of cream for the buttermilk since buttermilk tends to be lowfat.

      1. If you simply substitute buttermilk for milk, you just get some extra tartness. You could replace some of the baking powder with baking soda, but you don't have to.

        I believe the ratio in the King Arthur article (see the Baking SOS thread for the link) is:
        1 tsp baking powder per cup of flour
        1 cup buttermilk plus 1/2 tsp baking soda == 1 tsp baking powder

        In this case, I'd just substitute the 1/2 c of milk, and not change the baking powder.

        1 Reply
        1. re: paulj

          Basically, but it can make a significant positive difference. That's why I always use buttermilk instead of milk unless there's a compelling reason not to. Acid acts as spark the spark that ignites many other flavors. And when you're talking buttermilk and chocolate, you're talking magic!

        2. Thanks for all of your replies! I made the cake last night with the buttermilk, using about a T of cream in place of the buttermilk, no other substitutions and it was excellent.

          4 Replies
          1. re: jules127

            Glad it worked out but I"m not clear about what you mean about using buttermilk but substituting cream for buttermilk. Did you mean that you substituted buttermilk for the conventional milk specified but added cream for a portion of the buttermilk to compensate for the reduced fat?

            1. re: rainey

              Sorry, I used a small amount of cream to compensate for the fat (1-2 T) and the rest buttermilk combined to make the 1/2 cup called for by the recipe.

            2. re: jules127

              Glad it worked out! That sounds ilke an excellent cake. I'll have to give it a try!