Fats tenderize, provide flavor, help bind ingredients together and produce browning in baked goods. The main types of fats used in baking are:

  • Butter: Sweet flavored and made from cream, butter is available salted or unsalted in 1-pound blocks, quarter-pound (1/2-cup) sticks and whipped in tubs. Butter is interchangeable with margarine in most recipes, but butter is recommended for candy, puff pastry, pound cake, shortbread, streusel toppings and croissants. If whipped butter is used, it should be measured by weight, not volume; 8 ounces of whipped butter equals 1 cup.
  • Butter-margarine blends: These blends of 60% margarine and 40% butter are available in sticks and tubs.
  • Margarine: This is made from a variety of vegetable oils, including corn and soybean. Margarine is available in sticks, in tubs and whipped. Because whipped and tub margarine are softer and contain a higher percentage of air, only stick margarine should be used in baking. Margarine is interchangeable with butter in most recipes. If you do elect to use a true margarine, your rolled cookie dough, for instance, will be softer than if you use butter. You may need to chill it in the freezer to make it workable.
  • Lard: Lard is pork fat that has been processed and refined. It is softer and oilier than butter or margarine and creates a flaky texture in biscuits and pie crusts.
  • Reduced-calorie or low-fat butter or margarine: These products contain at least 20% less fat than regular butter or margarine and have water and air added. THEY SHOULD NOT BE USED FOR BAKING. Any margarine-like product that has less than 80% vegetable oil or fat can make your baked goods soggy or rock-hard.
  • Vegetable oils: These oils are low in saturated fat, contain no cholesterol and are pressed from a variety of seeds or kernels such as canola, corn, safflower, sunflower and soybean. They are referred to as oil in our recipes and are interchangeable. Olive oil should not be used in baking unless specified in the recipe.
  • Vegetable shortening: This solid fat is made from vegetable oils that have been processed with air. Shortening is practically flavorless. It also is available in butter flavor. Our recipes call for “shortening.”