Oil or Butter? A Cake Dilemma

I was taught to make sponge cakes with the creaming method, this means that butter was creamed together with the sugar as a base for the cake. Unless your butter is soft this is almost always a challenge and the same when using the all in one method, the lumps can be mildly distressing and don’t even get me started about butter cream icing, the coffee icing was a personal challenge for me. There are a few recipes which use oil, usually brownie recipes and carrot cake to keep the texture moist, butter will give you a much fluffier cake, but the downside of this is that it simply doesn’t last as long. After some research I established that oil is a 1 for 1 replacement for butter but if you want less calories you reduce it slightly so there is no reason why you couldn’t make any sponge cake it would just be an all in one method. Much easier for whipping up a quick cake and also means you don’t need to worry about having butter in the house. Something I often forget to buy even when I run out, as I only really use it in sandwiches other than cakes there is no real requirement for it.

Oils Suitable for Baking

There are a wide range of oils available to us now, everything from olive to avocado to sunflower but which ones are best for baking? Well really its personal preference as most cooking oils are suitable even extra virgin olive oil is great in a chocolate cake. Personally I opt for a more neutral oil when I’m making anything other than a chocolate sponge, the cocoa works well with a strong olive oil where as something like a coffee sponge does not. A light olive oil or rapeseed oil (vegetable oil in the UK and canola oil) are perfect due to their high smoking points and being pretty much flavourless. Although vegetable oil is higher in trans fats so if you are watching your health then I would suggest opting for the olive oil.

oil dispenser bottle

If you would like a basic oil sponge recipe this is very easy to use and adapt, swap the coffee for chocolate using 2 tbsp cocoa mixed to a soft paste for the cake. I suggest keeping the coffee icing to make a delicious mocha cake.

Coffee Sponge with Coffee Icing

Serving Size:
One 2 layer cake
Prep 20 mins
Cooking 30 mins


  • 220g Self-raising flour (220g of plain flour plus 2.5 tsp of baking powder)
  • 2 tsp Baking powder
  • 160ml light oil of your choice
  • 220g Caster sugar
  • 4 large free range eggs
  • 2 tbsp Instant coffee dissolved in about 3 tsp of boiling water and cooled.
  • Icing:
  • 150g/5.5oz unsalted butter, softened – 2 seconds in the microwave usually works or a moment or 2 on the top of the toaster.
  • 450g/16oz icing sugar, sifted
  • 4 tsp milk
  • 2 tbsp Instant coffee dissolved in about 3 tsp of boiling water and cooled.


  1. Preheat oven to 170ºC / gas mark 3
  2. Sieve the flour and baking powder
  3. Put all the ingredients into a large bowl or food processor and mix until smooth creamy mixture. You can use and electric hand whisk if you have one.
  4. Divide the mixture equally between two 20cm round tins and cook for 30 mins or until golden brown. The tops of the cakes should spring back when pressed lightly with a finger and a knife comes out cleanly when put into the centre of the cake.
  5. Turn the sponges out onto a cooling rack and carefully peel back the lining. Leave to cool.
  6. For the Icing, beat the butter and gradually add the icing sugar. Add the milk and coffee coffee and beat until smooth.
  7. Choose your best sponge for the top and place the other on a plate.
  8. Start with about 1/3 of the icing and smooth it over the bottom half until well covered.
  9. Place the second cake on top and repeat with the rest of the icing, a palate knife or a lightweight wide blade is particularly useful for smoothing it all over the cake.

If you would like to grab a copy of my book and support my writing it is available in both print and kindle version check out the links below. Donate to your favourite charity when you buy my book using Amazon Smile!


You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *