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Oil Change for Baking

By Cook's Illustrated Published July 2009

Can you substitute another type of oil for recipes that call for a small amount of vegetable oil?

Many cakes call for a small amount of vegetable oil. Would it harm the recipe to substitute a different type of oil? To find out, we baked yellow, chiffon, and carrot cakes with vegetable oil (derived from soybeans and corn), corn oil, canola oil, and light olive oil (we avoided extra-virgin olive oil due to its strong taste). Tasters discerned no difference in taste or texture among cakes made with vegetable, corn, or canola oil. But the light olive oil imparted an unwanted savory taste to the yellow and chiffon cakes and made for a slightly denser texture. It worked fine in the coarser carrot cake, where spices obscured its flavor. Lesson learned: Unless the recipe calls for olive oil, stick with neutral-flavored oils like vegetable, canola, or corn in delicate baked goods.