The Difference Between Shortened and Unshortened Cakes

The Difference Between Shortened and Unshortened Cakes

What is the difference between Shortened and Unshortened cakes?
The basic difference shortened and unshortened cakes, is that in the former, there is a use of fat, whereas in the latter there is no use of fat

In the process of baking, we often perceive to be skeptical about the ingredients that we utilize due to the fact that different people have different acquired tastes for certain types of baked goods. A few of them being worried about the ingredients would prefer using shortening over butter whereas, most of them would prefer the intake of butter as one of the main ingredients for baking considering it to provide for better textures and tastes.

Even the smallest change of ingredients while baking a delicious cake can alter the taste, shape, uniformity, flakiness and many more minute details. One should take caution in deciding whether to add butter or shortening for baking as it can provide a drastic difference in not only the taste but also the entire cake. Butter (ingredient used in unshortened cakes) and shortening have altogether different melting points and carry on distinctively when prepared beside their diverse fat substance.  Let us find out below what exactly is the difference between shortening and unshortened cakes.

·   What is shortening and what are shortened cakes?

Shortening is nothing but fat in terms of oil, lard or butter i.e. on the fact that fat meddles with the arrangement of gluten atoms, which are generally long strands of proteins, yet when some kind of fat is blended in, it abbreviates those strands making it shorter, subsequently the name “shortening”.

In the ’90s, a young industrialist named Wallace McCaw in Macon, Georgia trademarked a substitute for lard (semi-solid white fat) which mainly consisted of cottonseed oil. The industrialization process of turning liquid oil into solid fat is known as ‘hydrogenation’ and in 1911 the company Crisco (Crystalised Cotton Seed Oil) started manufacturing shortening and commenced its supply in the United States.

                            Shortening.                                                Crisco.

The usage of shortening in cakes gives it a different appeal all together. They have good shape and are more uniform in nature, tender, lofty and light compared to the unshortened cakes. When shortening is creamed with sugar, it traps air particles, which assists with raising cakes and makes them delicate. However, the usage of shortening in preparing frostings for cakes would bring in changes in stability since shortening helps in the frosting staying in shape of the pipe when brought to room temperature. On the other hand, using butter in frostings, the beautifully piped frosting would start to separate causing it to flow on the sides of the cake, making it look unappealing to one. Many examples like the classic Red Velvet, Tea cakes fall under this category.

Now that we have understood what shortening is and its utilization in cakes, let us move on to unshortened cakes and the usage of butter while preparing the cakes.

·   What are unshortened cakes and what is the main ingredient used as a substitute instead of shortening?

One of the main ingredients used in the making of unshortened cakes is butter, this is commonly used and preferred over shortening by everyone when it comes to baking a classic cake. Reason being shortening cannot replace the classic exquisite taste of butter in all cakes. Butter is a popular ingredient. We know the fact that it comes from dairy animals, and is simply delicious on toast. It’s made by stirring new or aged cream, and afterward isolating solids from the fluid (which is then sold as buttermilk). It’s about 80% butterfat, in addition to 18% water and 1% to 2% milk solids. Unshortened cakes generally do not contain fat, they are often also called ‘foam cakes’.

The texture of these unshortened cakes are light and fluffy, they consist of large volume and the interior is likely to be spongy, tender and moist. Leavening agents such as baking powder, baking soda are also used while baking these cakes. Classic examples of unshortened cakes are American Butter cakes, Pound cakes.

Visual Key Differences between shortened and unshortened cakes.

The image above indicates the difference of the 2 ingredients used when it comes to baking a shortened and an unshortened cake.

Considering the details of the image above, it is observed that the cake baked here is a basic yellow cake. Experiments have been made by using both the ingredients i.e., shortening and butter (unshortened). What would happen to the cake? Would it be moist? Would it be flaky? Would it render great taste? Or will both have great tastes?

Well, the color, the texture, the crumbs, the length are comparable. However, the appearance of the two are completely insipid. The unshortened cake (made with butter) seems to look brighter and lighter compared to the cake baked with shortening. However, the cake which used shortening turned out to be quite pleasant as well. Cakes that use butter as one of their main ingredients tend to taste a lot better and soft compared to cakes which have been baked with shortening. Shortened cakes tend to be soft as well but they lack the classic buttery touch on the taste buds which one would want to savor since shortening has no flavor. Although, in shortened cakes, when shortening is creamed with sugar, it traps air atoms, which assists with raising cakes and makes them delicate in texture.

Health-wise, consuming shortened cakes can be presumably negative since shortening is not a natural ingredient and contains a lot of Trans-fat compared to butter. Many bakeries locally, tend to use shortening as their main ingredient instead of butter since shortening has a better shelf life and is available at a cheaper price, utilizing shortening in cakes will eventually lead to a lot of crumbs since shortening has no water in it hence it will lead to dryness. Since shortening is also not natural, while being used in cakes, it leaves a rather waxy covering on the palate compared to smoothness of butter.

Although, shortening can be a great substitute for butter at times for vegans or lactose-intolerant people. Coming to the usage of butter while baking can be an excellent choice when desired for an incomparable, smooth, buttery, flaky taste and is a natural ingredient. Since butter is an expensive ingredient compared to shortening it makes the purchase harder and acquiring the right balance in unshortened cakes is hard to achieve since butter has a quick melting point.


To conclude, many people around the world, over 80% of them consider butter over shortening in cakes since the flavor is the goal. A few of them prefer to mix a fifty-fifty ratio of both (butter and shortening) to gain the best of both taste and lightness. 

Also read Vegetables That Start With A

The Difference Between Shortened and Unshortened Cakes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top