You’re all set to make your favourite cake recipe and you suddenly realize you’re out of a key ingredient. Don’t fret; there are many quick-fix replacements or substitutions that will save you from running out to the grocery store for just one thing.

Please note that this list is not for those ingredients when adapting to allergy sensitivities to wheat, dairy and egg. Check out this video on flourless cakes and this video with tips for making flourless pies and tarts.

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1. Cake and Pastry Flour
Not everyone has this in their pantry, but don’t let that stop you. For every 1 cup of cake or pastry flour, measure out 1 cup of all-purpose flour, spoon out 2 Tbsp of that flour, replace it with 2 Tbsp of cornstarch and then sift. Your cakes and cookies will be just as tender and delicate as if you used the real thing.

Try Anna Olson’s recipe for Red Velvet Cake where she uses all-purpose flour instead of cake or pastry flour.

2. Unsweetened Chocolate
Most bakers have a stash of good semisweet chocolate in the cupboard, but not always unsweetened. To replace 1 oz (1 square) of unsweetened chocolate, stir 3 Tbsp of cocoa powder with 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil.

Try Anna Olson’s recipe for Classic Devil’s Food Cake where she uses cocoa powder and brewed coffee to replace the rich flavour of unsweetened chocolate.

3. Buttermilk
This has to be the most common substitution considering most people probably wouldn’t buy a litre of buttermilk for a recipe that calls for only ½ cup. Though real buttermilk is preferred, you can replace every 1 cup called for in a recipe with 1 cup of 1% or 2% milk mixed with 2 tsp of lemon juice or vinegar.*

4. Egg Whites
Now, I have not officially tested this (though I plan to), I have been told that using the liquid from a tin of chick peas can replace egg whites when whipped for a muffin, waffle or another quick bread recipe. It does make sense, since the liquid would contain proteins and starch from the beans, but when I do test this out I’ll definitely be trying it with low-sodium chick peas.

5. Brown Sugar
It’s time to make oatmeal cookies and you open your brown sugar container only to find the sugar is a solid rock. No fear, you can replace 1 cup of brown sugar with 1 cup of granulated sugar plus 1 Tbsp of molasses.

*Since I do prefer using real buttermilk in baking, I use any leftovers to make low-fat ranch dressing, in pancake or crêpe batter, or use it to marinate pork chops or chicken, before coating in the meat in breadcrumbs and baking.