5 Substitutes for Basic Baking Ingredients

It's midnight on a Tuesday. You have promised to bake up your amazing chocolate cupcakes for the office tomorrow. After ripping apart your refrigerator for the fifth time, you realize that dozen eggs you thought you had is only two eggs. Now what?

This happens to me more often than I'd like to admit, either late at night or after I've just returned from the grocery store. Here are some substitutes you can create when you have that "oh shit" moment in your pantry.

See Also: How to Make a South African Milk Tart

Self-Rising Flour

I am not into self-rising flour, and I typically don't keep any on hand. I would rather determine myself how much leavening agent I need in each specific recipe. Every once in a while though, I will run into a recipe I want to try that requires self-rising flour (usually in a British or Australian publication), yet I don't really want to buy a whole bag that I may not use again.

1 cup flour + 1 ½ tsp. baking powder + ½ tsp. salt = 1 cup self-rising flour

Baking Powder

I got a job at a restaurant helping them move from all frozen foods to freshly prepared foods. Due to the fact that they were baking from boxes out of the freezer, they had little need for a full baking arsenal. No baking powder? Easy to fix.

¼ tsp. baking soda + ½ tsp. cream of tartar + ¼ tsp. cornstarch = 1 tsp. baking powder


I love using buttermilk in my baking, as it adds great moisture to my cakes. It almost always goes bad on me too quickly, and I end up throwing out half a quart. To create your own buttermilk on the fly:

1 TBSP. vinegar or lemon juice + fill the rest of the cup with milk = 1 cup buttermilk

I have also substituted, in baking, ½ cup sour cream + ½ cup heavy cream for 1 cup buttermilk, to great success. As well as 2/3 cup yogurt + 1/3 cup heavy cream = 1 cup buttermilk substitute.

Brown Sugar

I always run out of brown sugar at the worst times, and this easy fix may have you making your own brown sugar all the time. Toss these in your mixer and allow them to combine until fluffy. For darker brown sugar, add a bit more molasses.

1 cup granulated sugar + 1 TBSP. unsulfured molasses


I am always an egg or two short when I partake in my middle of the night-can't sleep baking experiments. However, I almost always have ripe bananas or a jar of unsweetened applesauce in the pantry.

¼ cup mashed banana or ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce = 1 egg

You can also try a trick often used in vegan baking that works really well:

1TBSP ground flax seeds + 3 TBSP water = 1 egg

Happy late night baking!

Rachel Miller is a pastry chef and food writer in Phoenix, where she bakes, eats, and single-handedly keeps her local cheese shop in business. You can get more information about her pastry at www.pistolwhippedpastry.com, or on her blog at www.croissantinthecity.com.

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