Substitute for Sour Cream in Cake

Sour cream… in a cake? Yup, that’s right. Sour cream is a very fatty dairy that creates a rich, moist cake that melts in your mouth. But if you don’t have sour cream, several substitutes like yogurt, mayonnaise, and buttermilk will render fabulous results.

Hi! My name is Michelle, and I love nothing more than a super moist cake. Yum! Sour cream might be the key to the velvety richness, but it’s not the only one. I’ll be honest and say I usually don’t have sour cream in my fridge, so I have used many of these alternatives.

If you’re on a mission for cake greatness, you should use sour cream in your batter. But, I know life can get in the way.  If you are all out of sour cream, you can still get a delicious cake you’ll want to devour in seconds. 

Let’s get baking!

Why Do Cakes Need Sour Cream?

Think about the most decadent, creamy piece of cake you’ve ever tasted. I could make an educated guess and say that there was likely sour cream in the batter. How do I know this? Because sour cream is the key to unleashing moist, rich cakes unlike ever before.

I’ll be honest with you, though – sour cream isn’t necessarily a “must’” In fact, most recipes won’t utilize sour cream (although they should).

That said, cakes don’t “need” sour cream, but they “should” have sour cream. Sour cream ensures a moist and creamy texture and reduces the risk of browning or thinning of the cake batter. But if you don’t have sour cream at home, you can use one of the following sour cream substitutes.

4 Substitutes for Sour Cream in Cake

I have another confession – I don’t really care for sour cream (please don’t judge me). I don’t typically have sour cream hanging around in my kitchen unless I plan to make a superior cake. So when a spur-of-the-moment cake baking occurs, I use one of these subs.

1. Yogurt

Yogurt is always my go-to when replacing sour cream. Not only does it work fantastically, but I am also just a straight-up yogurt lover. (Did I mention I could eat it daily? No? Ok.)

Yogurt and sour cream have similar properties, so how to substitute sour cream in a cake mix? They can be used in a 1:1 ratio when replacing sour cream. But which yogurt is best?

  • Plain full fat – Remember, fat = an ultra-rich and moist cake. For the most richness and creamy texture possible, go for plain full-fat yogurt.
  • Plain Greek yogurt – Any health nuts in the building? If you want to give your cake a bit of a healthy boost, then consider Greek yogurt. It’s got lots of protein and other healthy ingredients your body will thank you for, plus it enhances cakey goodness.
  • Flavored full fat – Now, don’t always opt for flavored full fat yogurt. It can change the flavor. But if you want to enhance flavor, then choose a similarly flavored yogurt. For example, a pineapple cake would benefit from pineapple or coconut-flavored yogurt.

Be careful when using flavored yogurt, though. Since flavored yogurts have sugars and other ingredients, they may alter your final product a bit.

You can use low-fat or nonfat yogurt, too, but I don’t necessarily recommend it. It’s not that it will impact the cake-baking process one bit. Your cake will still fluff up and taste great. It just won’t taste as good as if you had used a full-fat option.

2. Mayonnaise

Please, don’t pretend that you don’t have mayonnaise in your refrigerator right now. If you enjoy sandwiches, then this is likely a staple you always have. And it makes a great sub for sour cream, too! 

Mayo and sour cream are also fairly similar, although mayo is not as tangy as sour cream. It can be used as a 1:1 ratio in cake batters. If you want to increase the tang factor, use equal parts mayo and plain full-fat yogurt. 

3. Buttermilk

Using liquid as a replacement for sour cream? Sure, why not. Of course, using buttermilk will not be the same simple 1:1 ratio as yogurt or mayonnaise. Instead, you will need to use ¾ cup for every 1 cup of sour cream

Yes, your batter is going to be thinner than you’re used to. All you can do is trust the process. (And by the way, if you’re an emerging baker, you’re going to have to get used to that phrase – we use it a lot).

4. Kefir

I wanted to mention a little bit of an out-of-the-box yet trendy and healthy option for replacing sour cream – kefir. If you have never heard of it before or tasted it before, I suggest you do some research and taste testing!

Kefir is simply fermented milk that has a tangy flavor. Since sour cream has a tanginess to it, kefir is a great substitute. Much like buttermilk, though, it is a liquid that should be used in a ¾ cup to 1 cup ratio with sour cream.

Again, the thin batter is to be expected. Don’t panic. Let the ingredients meddle and do their thing. When you pop the cake out of the oven, you will likely be surprised at how well it worked. 

The best part is? Your cake will gain a hefty dose of protein, phosphorus, and B12 when using kefir. Who said succulent cakes had to be all bad? (Wink)


Okay, now we know that yogurt, mayo, buttermilk, and kefir are top-notch sour cream subs. But there is still so much more to know! Check out these frequently asked questions to get all of your queries answered.

What does sour cream do in baking?

We touched on this earlier – it creates a moist and creamy cake that won’t succumb to browning or thinning. However, sour cream isn’t just for cakes; it can be used in all areas of baking. It will create the same effect – delicious baked goods that please the palette every time.

How do you make sour cream without sour cream?

If you have a lot of time to spare and the right ingredients, you can make your own sour cream! Mix 1 cup of cream with one teaspoon of lemon juice (or distilled white vinegar). Let the mix sit for 10 minutes. Add ¼ cup whole milk and stir again. Cover and let sit for up to 48 hours.

Is sour cream and yogurt the same?

Sour cream and yogurt are not the same, although they are similar. Sour cream is a cream/milk mix with lactic acid and bacteria. Yogurt is fermented milk with lactic acid and bacteria. This is why they can be used interchangeably in your cake recipe.

How do I make a moist cake?

There are many ways to add moistness to a cake, from adding sour cream, butter, and oil to not over-mixing or over-baking. With a little bit of trial and error, you can easily create moist cakes you will love.

Final Thoughts

Everyone wants a moist cake. It’s well-known in the baking biz that sour cream is the key. However, other handy replacements like yogurt, mayo, buttermilk, and kefir can be used. They will provide similar results that will send your taste buds skyrocketing.

Have you ever used sour cream or any of these substitutes in your cake? Did you enjoy the result? Share your baking stories with us below!

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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