Forget Everything You Know About Dairy-Free Dessert

joshua john russell making a cake

When it comes to baking, it’s all about the butter, right? That’s why you might be surprised to learn that Craftsy’s own Man About Cake, Joshua John Russell, has been living dairy-free for more than 10 years, ever since he learned that both the lactose (sugar) and casein (protein) in milk don’t agree with him. According to JJR, you can make just about anything without dairy, and he promises you can’t tell the difference. All it takes is willingness to embrace a little trial and error. Here’s how!

Swap 1-for-1

Experiment with butter substitutes like vegan butter and coconut oil, and milk alternatives like almond milk, coconut milk and soy milk. (Make sure to pick the unsweetened variety for a taste that’s closest to the real deal, and keep in mind that the flavors of nut milk will come through in your finished dessert.) Coconut cream and non-dairy creamer are good substitutes if your recipe calls for heavy cream, and if you need buttermilk, make your own — just add a tablespoon of vinegar to one cup nut milk.

Think Like for Like

Just follow common sense and a few simple rules.

  • Mild-flavored oil works great instead of melted butter in muffins, quick breads, pancakes and waffles.
  • Butter-laden classics like biscuits or croissants demand a fat that’s solid at room temp — not an oil.
  • Nut milk and soy milk act just like dairy milk in cakes and muffins.
  • Kneaded yeast doughs are pretty flexible — feel free to play around with dairy-free replacements for both milk and fat in your recipes.
  • For cookies, it’s all about the fat. Choose a margarine or vegan butter sub that has a butter-like consistency at room temperature.
  • Watch out for hydrogenated vegetable shortening. Because of its high melting temperature, it can leave a waxy coating in your mouth. No thanks!
  • Butter It Up (Sort of)

    Make up for any missing butter flavor with a little extra vanilla. Also, go easy on the salt (or skip it entirely), since butter alternatives often contain some salt already, and it’s easy to go overboard. If a mixture like a frosting ends up on the salty side, add a little powdered sugar to compensate.

    Be Allergy-Aware

    Many dairy substitutes include nut products, so your previously nut-free blondies may actually be no-nos for for your allergic friends. Make sure to caution eaters about potentially “hidden” nuts in your baked goodies.

    Get Creative and Be Bold!

    According to Joshua, going dairy-free is all about experimenting and keeping an open mind. And if you’re still not convinced… we’re pretty sure one bite of JJR’s famous vanilla cake recipe will change your mind.

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    One Response to “Forget Everything You Know About Dairy-Free Dessert”

    1. Maria Aviles

      What happens to cake texture when no eggs are added?