Simple Substitutions in Holiday Baking

It always happens during the holiday season. In the frenzied activity surrounding that need to return to our roots, we begin the yearly ritual of baking from scratch. In the process we usually end up “baking as we go,” resulting in the realization that we are missing one ingredient or another. Panic sets in and we are off in a flash to the local grocery store in the hopes one is open, and they will have that one ingredient you so desperately need for baking success.

Photo by Atul Choudhary on

In anticipation of the approaching holiday baking season, I have prepared a list of most common ingredients used in baking and substitutions that can be used in a pinch.


Allspice: 1 tsp.= ground cloves cinnamon, and nutmeg to taste.

Anise: fennel can be used instead.

Apples: 1 cup, chopped, = 1 cup of firm pears. Add a tablespoon of lemon juice for acidity.

Baking powder: for 1 tsp., mix together 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar, and 1/4 tsp. baking soda.  You can also substitute 4 tsp. quick-cooking tapioca.

Baking chocolate: 1 ounce, (1 square unsweetened), use 3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa and 1 tbsp. shortening.

Baking chocolate; semisweet: 3 ounces (3 squares) equals 3 ounces (1/2 cup) semisweet chocolate.

Black pepper: use white pepper instead.

Bourbon: whiskey

Brandy: cognac

Bread crumbs: use 1/4 cup cracker crumbs to equal 1/4 cup of bread crumbs, or, 1/2 slice of bread, cut into cubes and toasted.

Brown sugar: for 1/2 cup of firmly-packed brown sugar, mix together 1/2 cup of sugar with 2 tbsp. molasses.

Butter: in baking, use margarine, shortening. You can also use up to 1/2 cup of vegetable oil. Applesauce and prune puree can also be used as a replacement for butter, up to 1/2 cup.

Buttermilk: for 1 cup, add 1 tbsp. vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of whole milk, let stand for five minutes.

Cake flour: for every 1 cup; use 1cup flour minus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour.

Cardamom: cinnamon can be used a substitute.

Heavy cream; 1 cup: 3/4 cup of whole milk plus 1/4 cup of melted butter.

Honey; 1 cup: 1/4 cups sugar with 1/4 cup of water.

Light corn syrup; 1/2 cup: 1/2 cup sugar plus 2 tbsp. of liquid.

Lemon peel; 1tsp.: 1/2 tsp. dried peel.

Orange peel; 1 tsp.: 1/2 tsp. dried peel.

Pumpkin Pie spice; 1 tsp.: mix together 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/8 tsp. allspice, and 1/8 tsp. cardamom.

aroma aromatic assortment containers
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I hope these emergency substitutions will get you through your holiday baking without tears. Just remember, these are not exact substitutions, rather they are the closest in similarity. Your results may vary when using alternative ingredients. Make sure your spices are fresh. Outdated spices will not give you desired results whatever you decide to bake this holiday.

Of, course the practice is to check your spice shelf and throw out the old, and bring in the new. Check local markets and sales circulars for best prices. Many stores prominently display their baking items this time of year, so watch for specials.

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Sign up for emails from your favorite brands as they sometimes send coupons and you are the first to be made aware of new products and recipes.

Thanks for reading and good luck with all your baking.



Author: Sissy1Pip

Born in Georgia and raised in North Carolina, I inherited the baking bug like so many of us; through childhood memories and standing by my mother's side as she prepared our family meal. I began this blog as a way of sharing my love of Southern baking and its treasured heritage.

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