Substitutions & Equivalents

Who among us wouldn’t love a fully stocked pantry and fridge every day; who wouldn’t want every ingredient under the sun at your fingertips to try any and every recipe at a moment’s notice? Let’s face it. We don’t always have the ingredients we need on hand, so, in lieu of running out to the nearest market in a frenzy to pick up what you need, below you will find common substitutions that can be used in place of ingredients that you don’t always have on hand or ones that may be difficult to find.

In the coming weeks there will also be conversion and calculation tables for various ingredients. This page is a work in progress, so please be patient and I’ll get to it!



What is buttermilk? There is a common misconception that buttermilk is basically a buttery, high-fat milk. Historically, old-fashioned buttermilk was slightly sour and was the residual liquid which remained after butter was churned, or the milk that resulted from churning the butter. The flavour of buttermilk is similar to yogurt and is thicker in texture than regular milk but not as heavy as cream. Today, most commercial buttermilk is made by adding a lactic acid bacteria culture to pasteurized milk. After the addition of the culture, the milk is left to ferment for 12 to 14 hours at a low temperature. Buttermilk is entirely different from butter made with buttermilk (the difference being that buttermilk is a liquid whereas buttermilk butter is solidified) and the two cannot be used interchangeably. 

Why use buttermilk? Buttermilk is an acidified milk which helps to activate the leaveners that are called for in a recipe. The result is a more tender, lighter crumb which is perfect for coffee cakes, cupcakes, biscuits, and more. Buttermilk also helps to tenderize meat which is why it is commonly used as a brine for fried chicken.

How can I make buttermilk at home? You can create your own buttermilk at home by placing 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice in a measuring cup and adding enough whole milk to make 1 cup of liquid in total. Stir to combine and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. The mixture will begin to curdle and thicken and is ready to use in your recipe. 

Cake Flour

What is cake flour and how is it different from all-purpose flour? The difference between the two flours is the amount of protein present in them that influences the gluten or elastic quality of the flour. Cake flour has low protein content, around 7-8% while all purpose flour has around 11-12%. Cake flour is made from soft wheat which is finely ground, whereas all purpose flour is a combination of both hard and soft wheat. The resulting cake made from cake flour is usually lighter and finer in texture and has a more delicate crumb reducing any elasticity in the final product, thanks to its low protein content. People often us all-purpose flour as a direct substitute for cake flour in recipes. All-purpose flour in cakes is fine as it won’t change the taste but the texture will be different compared to a cake made with cake flour.

How can I make cake flour at home? Cake flour can be made with all-purpose flour.  For every one cup of all-purpose flour, you’ll need two tablespoons of cornstarch (or ‘cornflour’ as it is often called in other parts of the world). Measure two level tablespoons of cornstarch and place in a one-cup measure. Fill the rest of the cup with all-purpose flour and level off. Sift the flour mixture into a bowl and continue to sift 2-3 times to ensure the flour and cornstarch are completely incorporated.

**Check back here often for more substitutes and for measurement and heat conversion charts!

One thought on “Substitutions & Equivalents

  1. Thanks for these great tips. I plan to make buttermilk at home from scratch as I can’t seem to find it anywhere around where I live.

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