The Ultimate Guide to the Top 7 Oils for Perfectly Baked Cakes

The best oils for baking cakes

A good cake is fluffy, spongy and moist. Achieving these qualities requires the right ingredients and proper baking techniques. While butter is commonly used in baked goods such as cookies and croissants, when it comes to cakes, oil plays an important role in creating the desired texture. In this article, we’ll explore the best oils for baking cakes, focusing on those with a neutral flavor that won’t overpower the cake’s flavor.
When baking cakes, achieving moisture is an important goal for all bakers. Dry and flaky cakes are undesirable. Oil is used in cake recipes to introduce fat, which contributes to the moistness of the cake. Unlike butter, which solidifies at room temperature, oil remains liquid. This liquid consistency enhances the moistness of the cake, allowing it to stay fresh longer.
In addition to moisture, oil also plays a role in the tenderness of the cake. Gluten formation is a potential problem when mixing the dough, as it can result in a tough cake. Butter, with its composition of approximately 80% fat and 20% liquid, can contribute to gluten formation. In contrast, oil, which is pure fat, inhibits gluten formation and reduces the likelihood of a tough cake.
While oil is an essential ingredient in cakes, it is important to pay attention to the mixing process. Overworking the batter can result in a tough cake. Therefore, it is important to mix the wet and dry ingredients with care and avoid over-mixing.

The 7 Best Oils for Baking Cakes

Here are seven of the best oils for baking cakes, known for their ability to produce moist, tender, and delicious results:

  1. Canola Oil:
    Canola oil is a popular choice for a variety of cooking applications, including baking, frying, and sautéing. Extracted from crushed canola seeds, this vegetable oil has a neutral flavor that allows the flavor of the cake to shine through. Canola oil works well with a variety of flavors, including chocolate, vanilla, coffee, carrot, and more. Look for organic and non-GMO options for the best quality.
  2. Vegetable Oil:
    Vegetable oil is a broad term that includes oils derived from plant sources rather than animal fat. Common examples include soybean oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil. Vegetable oil, especially pure soybean oil or a blend of soybean and corn oil, is often used in baking. It has a mild, nearly tasteless profile that makes it suitable for baking and cooking. Look for minimally processed options without harmful chemicals.
  3. Corn Oil:
    Also known as corn oil, corn oil is derived from the seed of the corn plant. It has a neutral taste and a high smoke point, making it suitable for a variety of cooking uses, including baking. Similar to canola oil, corn oil can be used interchangeably and produces moist and tender cakes. Look for pure, natural corn oil without cholesterol and harmful additives.
  4. Olive oil:
    Olive oil is a healthy option that can be used for baking cakes, but its distinctive taste can change the flavor of the cake. When using olive oil for baking, choose “light” or “refined” olive oil, which has a milder flavor. If a recipe specifically calls for olive oil to bring out its flavor, extra virgin olive oil can be used. Look for light flavored olive oil that is naturally gluten-free and non-allergenic.
  5. Grapeseed Oil:
    Grapeseed oil is extracted from grape seeds and is known for its neutral flavor. It is an excellent choice for baking cakes because it allows other flavors to shine through. Grapeseed oil is a good substitute for canola oil and other vegetable oils. It contains vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids, although it can be slightly more expensive due to the small amount of oil extracted from grapeseeds.
  6. Sunflower Oil:
    Sunflower oil has a high smoke point and neutral flavor, making it suitable for baking cakes. Made by pressing sunflower seeds, this oil is rich in unsaturated fats, making it a healthier option. Sunflower oil produces moist and tender cakes and can easily be substituted for other oils in recipes. Look for organic varieties for the best quality.
  7. Safflower Oil:
    Safflower oil is an inexpensive and nearly tasteless oil that is commonly used in various cooking applications, including baking. It comes in two varieties: monounsaturated (high oleic) and polyunsaturated (high linoleic). The monounsaturated variety is better for baking cakes. Look for safflower oil that is fortified with vitamin E and is kosher and non-GMO certified.

Bottom line

When it comes to baking cakes, choosing the right oil can have a big impact on the texture and moisture of the final product. The best oils for baking cakes are those with a neutral flavor that won’t overpower the flavor of the cake. Canola oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, olive oil (light or refined), grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil are all excellent options to consider.
Each of these oils brings its own unique qualities to the baking process. Canola and vegetable oils are versatile and widely used, while corn oil and olive oil (light or refined) offer specific flavors and health benefits. Grapeseed, sunflower, and safflower oils offer neutral flavors that allow the other ingredients in the cake to shine.
When choosing an oil for baking, it is important to consider factors such as organic and non-GMO options, minimal processing, and the absence of harmful chemicals. By choosing the right oil and following proper baking techniques, you can achieve moist, tender, and delicious cakes that are sure to impress.
Remember to pay attention to the mixing process and avoid overworking the batter as this can result in a tough cake. With the right oil and careful attention to detail, you can improve your baking skills and create delicious treats for any occasion.
Experiment with different oils and flavors to find the combinations that suit your preferences and dietary needs. Whether you’re baking a classic vanilla cake, a rich chocolate cake, or a spicy carrot cake, the right oil can make all the difference in creating a memorable and enjoyable cake-eating experience.


Can I replace butter with oil in cake recipes?

Yes, you can substitute oil for butter in cake recipes. While butter adds a rich flavor, oil adds a moist and tender texture. For best results, use a neutral-tasting oil, such as canola or vegetable oil, in the same proportion as the amount of butter called for in the recipe.

What is the difference between light and extra virgin olive oil for baking cakes?

Light olive oil has a milder flavor and a higher smoke point than extra virgin olive oil. It is more suitable for baking cakes because it doesn’t overpower the taste of the cake. Extra virgin olive oil, on the other hand, has a more pronounced flavor and is best used when its distinct flavor is desired in the final cake.

Can I use any type of vegetable oil to bake cakes?

Yes, you can use any type of vegetable oil for baking cakes. Common examples include canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil. Choose oils that are labeled as pure and have a mild or neutral flavor to ensure they won’t affect the taste of the cake.

Are there any health considerations when using oils in cake baking?

When using oils for baking cakes, it is important to choose healthier options. Look for oils that are organic, non-GMO, and minimally processed. Oils such as canola oil, olive oil (light or refined), and sunflower oil are considered healthier choices due to their unsaturated fat content. However, moderation is key, as all oils are high in calories.

Can I mix different types of oils when baking cakes?

Yes, you can mix different types of oils when baking cakes. Mixing oils can create a more balanced flavor profile. For example, you can mix canola oil with a small amount of olive oil for a subtle olive flavor. However, it is important to make sure that the combined oils still maintain the desired ratio called for in the recipe.