DIY Buttermilk + 8 Delicious Buttermilk Cake Recipes

Rebecca Blackwell

You'll find buttermilk as an ingredient in so many recipes because when it comes to baking, buttermilk is magical. Here are 7 ways to make it yourself.

If you're a frequent baker, I'd suggest keeping buttermilk stocked in your refrigerator. Unopened, buttermilk will last for about 3 months if it's refrigerated. Opened, it will keep for about 14 days.

If you're an infrequent baker, or like to use non-dairy plant-based buttermilk alternatives, keeping buttermilk on hand might not make sense. Also, there are those times when you're mid-recipe and realize you don't have any buttermilk, or don't have enough, or the buttermilk you have is spoiled.

No worries. There are many ways to make a delicious homemade buttermilk substitute using dairy or plant-based milk.

7 Buttermilk Substitutes

Six of the following methods for DIY buttermilk start with milk. You can use whole milk, 2 percent, 1 percent, non-fat, or even non-dairy milk with equally great results. The seventh method uses silken tofu to make an excellent buttermilk substitute that's plant-based and does not require milk of any kind.

1. Milk + Vinegar: Add one tablespoon of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar into a measuring cup and then add your milk of choice until it reaches the one-cup line.

2. Milk + Lemon Juice: Add one tablespoon of lemon juice into a measuring cup and then add your milk of choice until it reaches the one-cup line.

3. Milk + Yogurt: Add ¼ cup of the milk of your choice and ¾ cup of yogurt to a small bowl or measuring cup and whisk to combine.

4. Milk + Sour Cream: Add ¼ cup of the milk of your choice and ¾ cup of sour cream to a small bowl or measuring cup and whisk to combine.

5. Milk + Cream of Tartar: To use cream of tartar to make buttermilk, add 1 ¾ teaspoons per cup of milk. When using cream of tarter as a buttermilk substitute, I like to add it to the dry ingredients rather than mixing it into the milk.

6. Use dairy-free milk to make dairy-free buttermilk: You can use dairy-free milk in any of the methods described above. But, if you want to make dairy-free buttermilk, stick to either lemon juice, vinegar, or cream of tarter. I feel that soy milk, almond milk, and cashew milk work best. Coconut milk also works well, but only use it if the recipe you're making might benefit from a slight coconut flavor.

#7. The no-milk method: Turn silken tofu into a buttermilk substitute: It's important to puree the silken tofu first before using it. I like to use my mini food processor for this job but a blender works just as well. Combine ¼ cup pureed silken tofu + ½ cup plus three tablespoons of water + one tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar or apple cider vinegar, + a pinch of salt. Blend in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy.

A few more buttermilk substututes:

  • Probiotic drinks. Drinkable yogurt or plant based non-dairy probiotic drinks can make a good substitute for buttermilk but please keep in mind that many of them include sweeteners and flavorings.
  • Plain, unsweetened kefir. Kefir is fermented milk that's very similar to yogurt. It's similar in consistency and water content to buttermilk so can be used as an easy cup-for-cup replacement.
  • Store-bought dairy-free buttermilk. These days, there are several plant-based buttermilk options on the market. If you are looking for a non-dairy buttermilk substitute, this is the easiest option.

8 Incredible Buttermilk Cake Recipes

Buttermilk adds flavor to cakes but its inclusion in recipes is often more about texture than flavor. Because buttermilk is so acidic it has a tenderizing effect and gives cakes a soft, tender, fluffy texture. Here are 8 of the most delicious cakes to bake with buttermilk.

You'll find the recipes for all 8 of these buttermilk cakes plus recipes for buttermilk pancakes, biscuits, and more in this article about What to Make with Buttermilk.

#1. Buttermilk Coffee Cake
Buttermilk coffee cake with a buttery streusel crust.Photo byRebecca Blackwell/

Streusel is my jam. In coffee shops, New York Crumb Cake is always my first choice. And while I love the cake and fruit in Blueberry Crumb Cake and French Apple Cake the thick layer of streusel is easily my favorite part.

In this buttermilk coffee cake, the streusel takes a topsy-turvy twist and gets baked on the bottom into a delightfully chewy yet tender crust. Cake with a crust? Yes please and thank you, I will have another slice.

#2. Orange Olive Oil Cake
A slice of orange olive oil cake filled with orange marmalade and iced with mascarpone frosting.Photo byRebecca Blackwell/

This light, tender, impossibly moist orange olive oil cake has a gorgeous, subtle natural orange flavor thanks to orange-infused olive oil. When layered with orange marmalade and creamy mascarpone frosting it's a light and creamy cake that's bursting with bright citrus flavor.

Olive oil cakes are impossibly moist and the flavor is the perfect complement to citrus. Infusing olive oil with orange peel gives this cake a subtle, natural orange flavor that is really incredible.

In this recipe, I've stacked three layers of orange olive oil cake with orange marmalade and creamy Mascarpone Frosting and decorated it with easy-to-make Candied Orange Slices. But think of it as a blank canvas for any kind of citrus-flavored cake you'd like to make.

#3. The BEST Vanilla Cake
The BEST vanilla cake!Photo byRebecca Blackwell/

If I had to use only one word to describe this vanilla cake it would be flavorful. It's also moist and rich, with a tender, fluffy crumb that's somewhere between a chiffon and butter cake. But, what really sets this cake apart is its flavor.

If you're looking for a go-to vanilla cake recipe for wedding cakes, birthday cakes, shower cakes, anniversary cakes, or just because cakes, that will have everyone who tastes it coming back for more, this is it.

#4. Funfetti Cake
A slice of funfetti cake covered in American buttercream and plenty of sprinkles.Photo byRebecca Blackwell/

Don't let the sprinkles fool you. This moist and tender all-butter Funfetti Cake is more than just a pretty face with a party attitude. For all it's lighthearted whimsy, this is one of the most seriously delicious cakes I've ever eaten.

#5. Chocolate Chip Cake with Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Icing
Chocolate chip cake with chocolate peanut butter fudge icing.Photo byRebecca Blackwell/

This easy Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake is extra soft and fluffy, with the most delicious balance of chocolate chips and buttery cake. Topped with Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Icing, it's the kind of crowd pleasing cake recipe that's perfect for nearly any occasion.

#6. Butterscotch Bundt Cake
Butterscotch bundt cake.Photo byRebecca Blackwell/

This. Cake. My absolute favorite all-butter bundt cake covered in butterscotch sauce is... what is the right word? Really freaking fantastic. ("freaking", by the way, is not the right word.)

Even better, both the Butterscotch Cake and Homemade Butterscotch Sauce are super easy to make. The cake will be out of the oven, dripping in butterscotch sauce and ready to eat in under 90 minutes.

#7. Banana Cream Cake
Banana cream cake.Photo byRebecca Blackwell/

The softest banana bundt cake with ultra creamy banana cream filling covered in cream cheese buttercream.

This banana cream cake is ridiculously rich and decadent. Kind of like the very best banana cream pie you can imagine transformed into the very best banana cake you can imagine. Except, you don't actually have to imagine anything. You just have to bake a cake. 😊

#8. Raspberry Cupcakes
Raspberry cupcakes topped with raspberry cream cheese buttercream.Photo byRebecca Blackwell/

These delicate little blushing pink raspberry cupcakes are light, fluffy, and bursting with the flavors of raspberry and vanilla. They are delicate and buttery, and the perfect vehicle for a generous creamy swirl of raspberry cream cheese buttercream.

You'll find the recipes for all 8 of these buttermilk cakes plus recipes for buttermilk pancakes, biscuits, and more in this article about What to Make with Buttermilk.

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Rebecca Blackwell is a recipe developer, photographer, travel and food writer, and full time RV nomad.

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