Here’s the scenario: you’ve laid out all your ingredients on the counter, ready to make a lip-smacking cake. Eggs, flour (self-raising or its alternatives), sugar, and butter wait patiently for their turn in the mixing bowl.
But wait. Your butter is the salted kind. Not unsalted, as the recipe states. You’re at a crossroads: take the risk of a salty cake – salty cake is surely better than no cake at all? – or you put on your jacket and head to the shops. You don’t want the disappointment of a substandard cake.
(The other options is, of course, to just put your cake baking on hold until you go shopping again. But who could ever willingly practice such self-restraint?!)
Which then leads you to the question: can you use salted butter in baking? Will it affect the flavour of the cake, or will you barely notice it? Here’s all you need to know.
Salted butter vs unsalted butter in baking
Why do baking recipes always ask for unsalted butter?
When faced with a hankering for a Victoria Sponge and only block after block of salted butter to see me through, I couldn’t help but frustratingly wonder why all the recipes ask for unsalted butter? Did they not know how much I needed that sweet crumb, sandwiched between layers of buttercream? What was their problem?!
The simple reason, I found, was that unsalted butter has a more sugary flavour of sweet cream. The salt in salted butter semi cancels out those uniquely robust saccharine flavours in a final bake. The bake doesn’t necessarily become ‘salty’ to taste, but may make it less sweet than you were hoping for.
It is also difficult to control the exact amount of salt you’re baking with when using salted butter. While butter manufacturers vary, the average amount of salt in salted butter is usually around 1.6-1.7%. It might not sound like a lot, but when compared with recommendations to add just 1/4 tsp salt to 200g unsalted butter, salted butter typically ends up adding more salt to a bake than necessarily.
How to use salted butter in your baking
As with any substitution in baking – like knowing which brown sugar alternatives to use – there is always a formula to adhere to. Baking is a science, so you’ve got to respect the measurements.
The general rule for using salted butter instead of unsalted butter is to decrease the recommended salt amount by 1/2 tsp salt per 1/2 cup butter. So if you were to use a cup of butter, you should reduce the added salt by 1tsp.
It’s simple isn’t it?
If you’ve read this and want to learn more about baking alternatives, leave a comment below!