Some of the best cake recipes require sour cream. But what if you run out of it? I’ve been there, done that, and had to scramble for a substitute at the last minute. After a few failed experiments, I’ve discovered some sour cream replacements that work great in cakes and cake mixes. Whether you need a dairy-free option or just want to avoid an extra trip to the store, I’ve got you covered. So, what’s the best sour cream substitute in cake and cake mixes?
Two of the best sour cream substitutes in cakes and cake mixes are plain yogurt and buttermilk. Milk, heavy cream, mascarpone cheese, kefir, soy yogurt, and crème fraiche are also excellent replacements.
My personal favorites are the yogurt and buttermilk — they provide the perfect tang and moisture without changing the flavor too much. But you really can’t go wrong with any of these substitutes. Give one a try in your next batch of cupcakes or layer cakes and see how it turns out.
Plain yogurt is one of my favorite substitutes for sour cream in cakes and cake mixes.
I’ve found that plain yogurt works excellent as a 1:1 replacement for sour cream. Just use the same amount of yogurt as the recipe calls for in sour cream. The yogurt adds moisture, tenderness, and a slight tangy kick, just like sour cream.
Greek yogurt is an even better option since it’s thicker and creamier. I recommend using plain, unsweetened yogurt with active cultures for the best results. Flavored yogurts can affect the flavor of the cake, and non-dairy or low-fat yogurts sometimes don’t provide the same texture. Your cake will be lighter, fluffier, and healthier, but no one can tell the difference.
For me, yogurt is the perfect substitute that allows me to have my cake and eat it too!
Buttermilk adds moisture, tenderness, and a slight tangy kick that mimics sour cream. To use it in place of sour cream, simply substitute the same amount of buttermilk for the sour cream called for in the recipe.
The cake may end up denser than if you used sour cream, but I find buttermilk works great in lighter cakes like white or yellow cake. It’s also perfect for spice cakes, as its subtle tanginess complements warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
For the best results, look for low-fat or fat-free buttermilk. The fat content can vary between brands, so compare nutrition labels to choose a lighter option. Buttermilk will add moisture to cakes without adding a ton of fat and calories.
If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can make a quick substitute by combining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar with 1 cup of milk. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, then use it in place of the buttermilk.
Milk or Heavy Cream
You can use the same amount of whole milk or heavy cream in your cake mix or recipe as an alternative to sour cream. I often use milk since I usually have it on hand, and it works great as a substitute. The milk will add moisture to the cake and won’t affect the flavor too much.
For the best results, I recommend using whole milk or heavy cream. Skim or low-fat milk won’t provide the same richness.
If using milk, the cake may be slightly lighter in texture. The heavy cream will result in a richer, denser cake. So, when substituting milk or cream for sour cream, you may need to add a bit more baking powder or soda to the recipe to compensate for the sour cream’s lost acidity.
Start with about 1/2 teaspoon more, mix it in with the dry ingredients, and see how the batter looks. You can always add a bit more to reach the desired consistency.
Mascarpone cheese has a rich, buttery texture that works perfectly in cakes and frostings. So, every time a recipe calls for sour cream, mascarpone is my go-to substitute.
Mascarpone is a soft, creamy cheese made from cream, not milk. It has a mild flavor and a texture similar to sour cream but richer and thicker. Use the same amount of mascarpone to replace sour cream in a cake mix or recipe.
The mascarpone will add a subtle nutty, tangy flavor to the cake. It also helps make the cake extra moist with its high-fat content. When used in frosting, mascarpone provides a decadent, creamy base, and it pairs incredibly well with citrus flavors like lemon or orange.
Before adding it to your recipe, let the mascarpone come to room temperature for the best results. This will ensure it blends in smoothly. Mascarpone can typically be found near the specialty cheeses in most grocery stores.
I like to use kefir instead of sour cream when baking because it adds a nice tangy kick and creamy texture without the heaviness.
Kefir is a cultured milk product, similar to yogurt, that contains probiotics to aid digestion. It has a consistency like buttermilk but a stronger sour taste from the fermentation process. You can find kefir in most grocery stores, usually near the yogurt. I prefer plain kefir for baking, but you can also use flavored varieties like blueberry or strawberry in some recipes.
To substitute kefir for sour cream in cake mixes or recipes, use the same amount of kefir as you would use sour cream. The tanginess of the kefir comes through in the final product, adding a bright pop of flavor. I’ve used kefir instead of sour cream in coffee cakes, pound cakes, and carrot cakes with great success.
Try kefir instead of sour cream in your next cake or quick bread. Your taste buds will thank you for the extra flavor boost from this zesty substitute. And as you can see in the following video, you can even make it at home by yourself!
Soy yogurt is another excellent substitute for sour cream, and if you are someone who avoids dairy, you will find that soy yogurt works really well.
Soy yogurt has a creamy texture similar to sour cream, adding richness without changing the consistency. I like to use plain, unsweetened soy yogurt. In addition to texture, soy yogurt provides a subtle tangy flavor from the live active cultures used to make the yogurt, just like in dairy yogurt. The taste is relatively neutral, enhancing the other ingredients rather than overpowering them.
Soy yogurt is also nutritious, as it’s high in protein, calcium, and probiotics like dairy yogurt. The amount of soy yogurt needed in a recipe has modest nutritional benefits but still provides an upgrade over sour cream. Soy yogurt is cholesterol-free, lactose-free, and low in saturated fat.
Consider vanilla soy yogurt or a flavored variety like blueberry for extra flavor. Look for soy yogurts with live active cultures for the most authentic sour cream-like taste and texture.
Crème fraiche works amazingly well in cakes. As an avid baker, I’ve often used it with delicious results. Crème fraiche is a thickened cream that has a tangy, nutty flavor from the fermentation process. It has about 30% milk fat, providing richness without being too heavy.
When I use crème fraiche instead of sour cream, I find that it enhances the flavor since the subtle tang pairs perfectly with the sweetness of the fruits from the cakes. I usually use the same amount of crème fraiche as the recipe calls for in sour cream.
Crème fraiche can be found in most well-stocked grocery stores, especially those with an extensive cheese section or gourmet foods. Look for it near the cream, sour cream, and yogurt. If cost is a concern, you can easily make your own crème fraiche at home with just two ingredients — cream and buttermilk. Simply combine the cream and buttermilk, let it sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours, then refrigerate. Homemade crème fraiche will last up to 2 weeks.