Replacing butter with olive oil in Baking Recipes

In a previous post, we looked at how to replace butter with coconut oil in baking recipes. Whilst coconut oil is great for baking with, it is not always an appropriate choice because it is not flavourless. This is fine if you are baking a cake with flavours that pair with coconut, such as chocolate or cherry. It is also fine if you are using strong flavourings which will mask the coconut flavour, such as spices. But if you want to do something different, then you will need to use a flavourless replacement.

Light olive oil is a lower-grade version of extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is so called because it comes from the first pressing of the olives. The olives are cold-pressed, meaning that the oil is extracted without the application of heat or chemicals. This results in a golden-green oil that has an intense flavour that is peppery, fruity and bitter. Whilst this makes a delicious table seasoning for drizzling over food, it has too much flavour for baking (and would be prohibitively expensive!). As the name suggests, light olive oil is paler in colour and has been refined. It has a neutral taste and a higher smoking point, which makes it ideal for baking.

However, you cannot replace butter directly with the same amount of olive oil. Butter and olive oil have different physical properties, which need to be taken into account:

Weight: butter is only 80% fat – it is an actually an emulsion of butterfat and water, stabilised by milk proteins. Olive oil is 100% fat. this means that less olive oil is needed
Saltiness: the 20% water content in butter can cause it to spoil, so salt is added as a preservative this means that salt needs to be added
Moistness: olive oil is liquid at room temperature this means that the cake will be moister and keep longer
Melting point: olive oil has a much lower melting point than butter, and is a liquid at room temperature this means that olive oil is not suitable for baking recipes that need sold butter, such as pastry

The magic formula:

  • REDUCE the amount of olive oil by 25%, or 1/4 cup (replace 1 cup (225g) of butter with 3/4 cup (180ml) olive oil)
  • ADD 1/4 teaspoon of salt

Conversion Table:

Olive Oil
1 cup – 240 ml
1 cup – 225 grams
= 6/8 cup – 180 ml
1/8 cup – 30 ml
1/8 cup – 28 grams
< 1/8 cup – 23 ml
2/8 cup – 60 ml
2/8 cup – 56 grams
< 2/8 cup – 45 ml
3/8 cup – 90 ml
3/8 cup – 84 grams
> 2/8 cup – 68 ml
4/8 cup – 120 ml
4/8 cup – 113 grams
= 3/8 cup – 90 ml
5/8 cup – 150 ml
5/8 cup – 141 grams
< 4/8 cup – 113 ml
6/8 cup – 180 ml
6/8 cup – 169 grams
> 4/8 cup – 135 ml
7/8 cup – 210 ml
7/8 cup – 197 grams
> 5/8 cup – 158 ml
8/8 cup – 240 ml
8/8 cup – 225 grams
= 6/8 cup – 180 ml

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