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Can i swap out shortening for butter in a white cake recipe?

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Hi all,
My sister has requested a Whiteout cake (white layers, white chocolate buttercream frosting) from one of the Baked cookbooks for her birthday. It sounds great but I've never made it before. The white cake layers call for both half a cup of butter and half a cup of shortening. I don't like the flavor shortening imparts to baked goods. How would the texture of the cake change if I nixed the shortening and used a full cup of butter instead?
Thanks in advance!!

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  1. Shortening yields higher, lighter-textured baked goods. Your recipe is trying to walk a tightrope between texture and taste. Of course, you can use all butter but it won't be quite as light.

    I would use butter flavored Crisco and leave the recipe as is, the best of both worlds.

    You could do an experiment and make both cakes a week or two before having to make the real one and see which you like better.

    1. I would not use butter flavored crisco if you don't like the taste of shortening, because BFC tastes like fake butter to me. I never use shortening in cakes and butter works just fine in my experience.
      I'd rather sacrifice a little lightness for flavor.

      1. Cakes mixes have artificially changed our expectations for cake texture - I mean this in a negative way. Butter all the way. Flavor trumps silly expectations of lightness.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sandylc

          Oh, Sandy, when you are right, you are SO right. Post of the month.

        2. Using all butter will result in a slightly denser cake. But it will be more flavorful.
          I don't like shortening in cakes either.

          1. Again, make both cakes and see which one you like best. It will be very educational for you and you will find out which one you like most. You will have the definitive answer for you.

            1. Thanks for the opinions. I'm gonna go all butter and see what happens. I agree that it would be educational to try both, but with limited time, eggs, and stomach capacity till the birthday it's not possible. I will report back with my findings, which hopefully will be tasty. :)

              3 Replies
              1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                I think it'll be fine. As iluvcookies said the texture will be different, probably a little denser but I think worth the trade off for the taste.

                1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                  I'm sure it will be fine.

                  1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                    I think a cake with all butter will taste better, but it will not be as white! That is part of the function of the shortening too; to keep the color light.

                    I would rather have the yummy all-butter cake tho, myself!

                  2. I thought I'd just report back on the cake. It was an enormous success with almost everyone... except me. I found the cake and frosting to be just too sweet. The cake had good flavor and wasn't too dense, but it could have been a tad moister/lighter (as some of you mentioned, perhaps a function of the use of all butter over half butter/half shortening). The frosting was sooooo buttery and sweet. The birthday girl loved it, though, so that's all that matters. As for me... give me a chocolate cake any day over a white one!

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                      I love a good white cake, I hate overly sweet desserts, it has taken years for me to find cake recipes that suit my idea of texture and sweetness!!! I do have two yellows and one white now that I like.

                      1. re: sandylc

                        You know, this recipe was billed in the Baked cookbook (which I love) as a Whiteout cake, but it is definitely more yellow than white... again, maybe due to my flip flopping of ingredients. My mom's go-to bday cake when I was little was the Betty Crocker Starlight cake, a dense yellow cake that is not on my list of favorites anymore. I'm definitely more of a chocolate cake or carrot cake person and I find most buttercreams just too buttery and sweet-- much prefer a chocolate fudge frosting or cream cheese frosting. Ina Garten has a chocolate cake recipe that is out of this world, a much lighter crumb and not as dense as this cake I made, made with sour cream and a bit of brewed coffee, that is probably my all time favorite cake.

                        1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                          My favorite chocolate cake has a wonderful sour cream ganache. I use just bittersweet chocolate, sour cream, and vanilla in it, if I recall correctly. Atop a very dark chocolate cake, this is decidedly NOT a sweety-sweet dessert.

                          For vanilla buttercream, I use Rose Levy Berenbaum's Neoclassic Buttercream. It is less sweet than the icky, chalky powdered sugar stuff.

                          1. re: sandylc

                            I agree about the icky chalky powdered sugar stuff, but I also find Rose's neoclassic buttercream is too buttery and not sweet enough. I'm Goldilocks when it comes to frosting. I like Rose's buttercream w/ the pastry creme (never can remember the name) + a bit extra sugar. Otherwise ganache.

                            Honestly, I can't see how an all white cake could NOT be disappointing since there's really no flavor other than sugar. White chocolate being chocolate with all the flavor removed. I think a thin layer of tart fruit filling between all the layers might have improved it. Also, did the recipe call for whipping the whites separately? I think always helps make a cake lighter in texture.

                            1. re: danna

                              The not-so-sweet part is what I like about the neoclassic..... if you like sweeter frostings, you would probably like the boiled milk & flour one...it is very good, but sweeter.

                              I put quite a lot of vanilla in a white cake - vanilla to me is the flavor of white/yellow cakes.

                      2. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                        i find most frosting recipes achingly sweet and generally just add sugar to taste.

                        i am anti-crisco also. don't like the flavor or the mouthfeel at all.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          Yes, it's taken me 29 years, but I finally have realized that of all the desserts in the world, cake is not one of my favorites. Per my username, ice cream is probably my favorite, along with cookies/brownies, pies, puddings, and pastries (croissants, danishes, etc), but frosted cake and cupcakes rank down among the bottom, for the reason you eloquently state-- most are too toothachey sweet for me!

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            Have you tried the cooked flour frosting, hotoynoodle? I started making it last year, and it is a vast improvement over any other buttercream type of frosting that I have ever tasted. My husband, who is not a cake guy and who despises buttercream, actually likes this one.

                            1. re: roxlet

                              That one is a gem, indeed!

                              1. re: roxlet

                                i haven't. i honestly don't make many frosted cakes, and when i do it's generally a wing-it version of buttercream with cream cheese added and very little sugar.

                                will keep this idea in my pocket file, though, so thanks!

                          2. Add the solid coconut oil shortening. Besides a better flavor coconut oil is better for you according to Dr. Oz. It actually helps "up" your metabolism & with all that fat anything good is nice. ;-). There's no trans fat, no cholesterol. It's like $6. a quart at Krogers.They sell one called Lou Ana but there are other brands of coconut oil. Here's their link www.louana.com

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: syllylou

                              the louanna is hydrogenated, and not a good choice for health. look for nutiva extra-virgin. i get mine from amazon.

                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                Yeah, the word "shortening" there bothered me....what is needed here is the virgin coconut oil - Trader Joe's has a pretty good deal on it right now.

                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                  I just started using the coconut oil because Dr. Oz said recent studies have found coconut oil is good for weight loss as it ups your metabolism.It's only partially hydrogenated.I have to watch my oils because I have hypothyroidism. Olive, safflower & sunflower are pretty much my staples.Thus soy (vegetable) & canola (rapeseed) are bad.According to a study at Harvard any kind of coconut oil increases your good cholesterol. Usually when a recipe calls for shortening it means the solid stuff.I've found if you use the liquid oil when shortening is called for it doesn't turn out too good. But that's just personal experience. Maybe I'm doing something wrong.

                                  1. re: syllylou

                                    my nutiva coconut oil is solid at room temp.

                                    i'd suggest doing your own research and not giving a fig what dr. oz has to say about anything since he changes his mind as often as his socks.

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                      how true re:Oz. doesn't anyone see the irony?
                                      I love using solid at room temp virgin coconut oil for how it performs and its appeal to my vegan friends.

                                    2. re: syllylou

                                      Partially hydrogenated is probably the unhealthiest fat, even more so than hydrogenated oils.

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        Yes, partially hydrogenated is EVIL by ALL measures. Coconut oil, which, yes is solid at room temp., should NEVER have any words in the ingredient (singular!) that sounds like "hydrogenated"!

                                        1. re: chowser

                                          I went looking on the back of Louana and it's not a shortening per se like Crisco.It's only solid when below 76 degrees and becomes liquid when above that. It says All Natural Pure Coconut Oil. Except for saying it's cold pressed on Amazon Nutiva said the same thing as Louana. Claiming to be organic isn't always organic as the way the most of us think of organic either but it doesn't necessarily mean it's bad for you. Think in terms of water. All kinds of toxins are added but not all organic foods are required to use purified water. Though some info I received on there literally saved my life I don't consider Dr. Oz the end all, be all authority.But I had 3 different endocrinologists tell me not to worry about fluoride or soy.When Dr. Oz suggested getting rid of it as much as possible I figured what could it hurt to try.I got my life and energy back.My endos all said to stay away from iodine. Now the CDC claims there is a MDR. But my endos don't nor their PAs. In my 56 yrs. I've watched a ton of things go from bad to good & back again.Few things are exact sciences.What was true 20 yrs. ago is false today (oil debates being among the many). I'm sure you don't believe all the same things you did 20 yrs. ago. I'd rather listen to a Dr. with an open mind than those who think they have all the answers.As I stated before all I know is what works for me & my family.I admire those who can eat all healthy, all the time.I personally believe in moderation instead of perfection.

                                  2. I just watched an episode of Alton Brown's "Good Eats." Remember, if you substitute butter for shortening, butter contains about 20% water. Shortening is 100% fat. Therefore, you have to increase the amount of butter by 20% to get the same effect as shortening and decrease the amount of liquid you use by 20%.

                                    To further complicate matters, the increases and decreases are based on the weight of the butter and the shortening, which means that you have to weigh the half cup of butter, not just make the calculations, based on volume measurements. Sheesh!

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: gfr1111

                                      I've never tasted a white cake worth that much effort. lol!

                                      1. re: gfr1111

                                        I have always just subbed them in equal volume measures. It works. Alton has done a vast amount of research and I have learned a lot from his shows, but he is not a cook/baker- he lacks the instincts and passion, IMO, not to mention the experience. And occasionally, he's just plain wrong or even silly!

                                        1. re: sandylc

                                          I've found the same with substituting--it works fine 1:1.