This Clever Baking Video Answers the Butter Versus Oil Question Once and for All

published May 16, 2022
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lemon layer cake on cake stand
Take a Break and Bake This Happy, Bright Lemon Cake

I think we can all agree that vanilla cake is always appropriate. Unless you’re one of those “Team Pie” people — in which case, y’all go take five. But there’s one question on which the baking community has been divided for years: Is it better to use oil or butter in your cake batter? Thanks to a new Reel making the rounds on Instagram, the question has finally been answered. 

Sort of.

The video comes from Bernice at @baranbakery, a dreamy account full of inspiration and tips for home bakers. Since being posted in late March, it’s racked up over 265K views, and here’s why: In the Reel, Bernice compares four different vanilla cakes, made with identical ingredients … except for the fat. 

She begins by showing a cross-section of all four cakes, which are labeled, and explains that they were made with the following variables: vegetable oil, room-temperature coconut oil, room-temperature butter, and melted butter. So which is better?

Honestly — I know you’re going to throw tomatoes at me for this — it depends on what you’re looking for. The cake made with veg oil was spongy and sky-high; a huge win for aesthetics. The melted butter cake, although short and slightly stodgy, was “way more flavorful.” From there, she baked a version with room-temperature butter and achieved a flavor-packed cake that rivaled the vegetable oil one for height. Don’t do dairy? You may be interested in the coconut oil cake, which was similar to the room-temp butter one, albeit with a strong coconutty flavor.

Commenters chimed in with their take on the best fat for baking, and offered some unconventional suggestions (one wondered if avocado oil might work; jury’s still out on that).

If you’ve always wondered why room-temperature butter is prized for baking recipes, Bernice shares the answer in her audio overlay: It allows for more air to be incorporated into the batter. 

That said, there are a zillion reasons to make cake, so it’s helpful to have a few variations up your sleeve for customization.

If you want to try these experiments yourself (or just eat some cake), you can find Bernice’s foolproof recipe here. I’ll admit that after going down the rabbit hole on her website, I’ve got my eye on a totally unexpected twist: Her rhubarb vanilla layer cake.

Do you use oil or butter in your cakes?