You know those days when you start a baking project only to discover halfway through that you’re missing a key ingredient? We’ve all been there. Rather than waste time and energy — not to mention gas — by running to the grocery store, first check to see if there’s a way you can make that missing ingredient at home.
The idea of making your own basic baking staple may seem a bit strange, but imagine the convenience if you can do so by using ingredients you already have in your house. As an added bonus, you might use up something that’s been sitting unused in the back of your pantry. Keep reading to learn how you can take charge of your baking dilemmas with our list of easy substitution recipes.
Baking Ingredients Recipes
Check out the recipes below for these nine baking ingredients. A few of them even include vegan options!
- Brown Sugar
- Powdered Sugar
- Cake Flour
- Baking Powder
- Pumpkin Pie Spice
- Vegan Sweetened Condensed Milk
- Evaporated Milk
- Vanilla Extract
And up first, brown sugar …
1. Brown Sugar
Many baking recipes call for brown sugar, but if you find yourself without it, making your own is pretty simple.
Gemma Stafford, cookbook author and chef of Gemma’s Bigger Bolder Baking explains that you only need two ingredients to make your own brown sugar: white sugar and molasses. Stafford’s instructions for DIY brown sugar include guidance on making both light and dark versions, so head on over to Gemma’s Bigger Bolder Baking for the scoop.
2. Powdered Sugar
We weren’t lying when we said many of these recipes are easy. Need powdered sugar? You’re in luck because the only ingredients you’ll need are granulated sugar and a bit of corn starch.
Cookbook author Jeanine Donofrio offers easy-to-follow instructions for how to make powdered sugar at her website Love and Lemons. She explains that you’ll need one piece of equipment: a powerful blender or food processor. Be sure to check out the list of Jeanine’s favorite powdered sugar recipes, too.
3. Cake Flour
Cake flour is one of those baking ingredients that’s just unusual enough that we don’t all stock it in our kitchens. So, what do you do when you don’t have it on hand?
Luckily, making your own cake flour is quick and straightforward. Have regular flour? Corn starch? Add them to a sifter and you should be good to go. Joy Wilson of the popular cookbooks walks you through the steps, so visit her cake flour tutorial at Joy the Baker to get started.
4. Baking Powder
On its most basic level, baking is about chemistry, and baking powder plays a key role in turning batter into a fluffy cake or muffin. Without it, your baked goods may not be worth eating. But you can easily make your own using just a few other baking staples.
Blogger Kim Kelly offers a handy baking powder recipe at her website Liv Life. Kelly breaks down the chemistry of baking powder, so not only will you have a handy substitution, but you’ll also learn a little about the baking process. To get started, just gather up some baking soda, corn starch, and cream of tartar.
5. Pumpkin Pie Spice
Running out of a needed spice can be one of the most annoying baking problems since it’s likely you have a spice drawer filled with spices your recipe doesn’t call for. As it turns out, you might just have the spices you need if you know how to combine them.
My Baking Addiction, a blog filled with loads of helpful baking information and recipes, can solve your pumpkin pie spice predicament. The blog’s author, Jamie, comes to the rescue with a simple pumpkin pie spice recipe that uses cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and a few other standard spices.
6. Vegan Sweetened Condensed Milk
Sweetened condensed milk is one of those ingredients that most of us don’t use all that often. But when a recipe calls for it, it can be frustrating to not have it in the house.
Karissa of Karissa’s Vegan Kitchen has come up with a recipe for making vegan sweetened condensed milk at home. You only need two ingredients: coconut milk and cane sugar (or your sweetener of choice). Head over Karissa’s Vegan Kitchen to learn how to make vegan sweetened condensed milk.
7. Evaporated Milk
Evaporated milk is another baking ingredient you probably don’t use frequently, so the odds of having some lying around aren’t great. The ingredients necessary to make a quick substitution (mainly nonfat dry milk) aren’t that common in U.S. kitchens either, but if you do have them, the process of making the evaporated milk is straightforward.
Chef Anca at The Urban Baker offers four methods for making homemade evaporated milk. She explains that her first method for reducing the milk over a hot stove can take from 45 minutes to a few hours, so be sure to check out her other three methods if you don’t have the time.
8. Vanilla Extract
If you’ve run out of vanilla extract, your current baking project might come to a halt because vanilla isn’t something you can whip up at home in a matter of minutes. You could try using another flavored extract, if you have one on hand. But it’s also possible to make your own vanilla extract; and once you do, you may never buy it at the store again! Real vanilla extract can get pretty pricey, so your wallet certainly won’t mind.
Heather Poire of the vegan cooking and baking blog Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes put together a step-by-step homemade vanilla extract tutorial. You’ll need some whole vanilla bean pods, vodka, and containers for storage.
Some baking ingredients have multiple substitution options, and buttermilk is one of these. The substitutions may not produce quite the same flavor in your baked goods, but generally speaking, they get the job done.
Blogger Joy Wilson from Joy the Baker offers several easy substitutes so you can replace buttermilk with ingredients you already have at home. Most of her recipes call for milk, but Wilson also offers a non-dairy option using almond milk. Visit Joy the Baker for instructions for the best buttermilk substitutes. And be sure to check out her scrumptious-sounding recipes that use buttermilk!
Feature image by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash
Editor’s note: Originally published on July 16, 2013, this article was updated in November 2021.