There are several different fats you can use to bake with, but which give the best results and when should you use each one?
Butter is a solid fat and has a fat percentage of about 75%, it is known to give great results in baking. When beaten with sugar (creaming method) it can hold and retain air bubbles – which make it perfect for baking light and fluffy cakes and bakes. Another reason to why butter is used in most baking recipes is that it has a stronger flavour than say margarine. Butter is best stored in the fridge at approximately 4 – 8 degrees but before you begin to bake with it you will need to bring it to room temperature.
Margarine is also a solid fat however; most have a lower fat content than butter which means the creaming stage will not have quite the same result and hold as much air compared to when butter is used (which can give a slightly denser bake). Margarine also doesn’t give the same taste to a bake as butter which is particularly important in vanilla or plain bakes. There are versions of margarine available which are substantially lower in fat so if you are after a healthier bake this could be a good substitute for butter (but it’s always best to follow the exact recipe so find one specifically with margarine in).
Oil is a liquid fat but unlike solid fats it doesn’t hold air, therefore you would not use the creaming method with oil. Oil can give great results in bakes which use the all in one method as the raising agents such as self raising flour or baking powder will help the bake to rise. Denser bakes, for example carrot cake do not require as much rise, therefore the creaming method is not required and oil can be used to give great moisture.
Dairy Free Butter
Dairy free butter is also available for baking. It contains a lot let saturated fat than butter, is made from mainly sunflower oil and is ideal if you are baking for someone who is Vegan or for whatever reason can’t eat dairy. It can give great results if you follow a special dairy free recipe. It does lack in taste so when making buttercream it is always good to put more icing sugar in than you usually would and loosen it up with some soya milk / hot water. If baking plain cakes using dairy free butter you may want to increase the amount of vanilla extract you put in – but again find a specific recipe to get the perfect bake.