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Working with alternative shortenings and margarines


Icing/Butter Cream


Our shortening gets hard in cold weather, making creaming difficult. In summer, we have the opposite problem — the shortening is too soft.

This is happening because the shortening is made with palm oil. Palm is temperature-sensitive, so you may need to store shortening differently in summer and winter.

In winter, look for a place in your kitchen or storeroom that’s a little warmer. A five-degree difference may be enough to solve your problem. In hot weather, use your cooler to get shortening to the desired degree of firmness.


Since switching to palm oil baking margarine, we are noticing a slight “off” flavour in our sweet rolls and pound cake.

This can happen (very rarely) with some palm oil-based replacements. Just try a different brand of margarine or shortening. You might also try adding a little butter flavour to the recipe.


My baking shortenings and margarines do not last as long as my original product.

Your new baking shortenings and margarines may not last as long in your store room as those made with industrially produced trans fat. While some industrially produced trans fat-containing products may have lasted up to a year in your store room, the new products may last six to nine months. Follow the manufacturer's storage instructions, and buy smaller amounts more frequently if necessary.


We pre-make the cookie dough a day ahead, resting it in the cooler overnight. With the new margarine, the dough gets too hard to roll out when it’s chilled.

This is happening because the margarine is made with temperature-sensitive palm oil. Take dough out of the cooler in advance, and let it sit at room temperature until it is soft enough to work with. Dough should not sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

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Our sugar cookies are too crispy now.

Try reducing the bake time slightly, or bake 25 degrees lower than usual. If that doesn't work, replace up to one-quarter of the granulated sugar with a liquid sweetener such as invert syrup, corn syrup, honey, or molasses. The added liquid may cause more browning. If that happens, experiment with the following three options: liquid sweetener, bake time, and the temperature, until you reach a satisfactory result.


Our chocolate chip cookies are spreading too much now.

Try baking 25 degrees higher than usual to “set” the cookies earlier in the bake cycle. If you do this, reduce the cooking time. If this does not work, substitute some of the flour in the recipe with high-gluten bread flour (up to 20% of the total) to “tighten up” the dough.


Since switching to an alternative shortening, we’re getting a lower yield from our marzipan cookie recipe. The cookies are shedding oil in the oven, and they’re a little too dense.

To get the yield and lightness back, trap more air in the batter. Also try switching to an emulsified shortening or a shortening made without palm oil, which will get you a lighter result. Be careful not to over-mix, as that will cause air loss. For quicker, more effective creaming, beat the almond paste and sugar together before adding them to the batter.



The icing we made with the shortening alternative is brownish in colour, and it has an “off” flavour.

This is a problem that can occur with some palm-based icing shortenings. Others are cleaner in flavour and whiter in colour. Try a different product. (View Product List)

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Our new butter cream is fine the day we make it, but it loses volume and sheds oil overnight.

This is happening because your shortening is not emulsified adequately for your recipe. If you're using an all-purpose shortening, it is probably not emulsified at all. Here are three suggestions:


  1. Experiment with different brands of icing shortenings. All icing shortenings are emulsified, but they don’t all work the same. Review our product list for an alternative product suggestion and try a different product.
  2. Add extra emulsifier, as directed by the manufacturer.
  3. Make smaller batches, and use icing the same day you make it.


What can we do about icing that comes out too soft or too stiff?

If icing is too soft, refrigerate shortening before use or add up to 10 percent extra powdered sugar.

If icing is too stiff it may be due to the shortening being too cool. Try tempering it at room temperature, for no more than 2 hours, before use. Or you might just need to add a little water — up to 5 percent of the sugar weight.


We’re getting a greasy, bitter-tasting result from our new doughnut fry shortening.

Make sure you’re frying in fresh oil at the right temperature. You may also need to switch to a different brand. If you’re not successful frying in 100 percent palm, try a shortening that is lower in palm or palm-free. (View Product List) 


Source: The content on this page was adapted with permission from the New York City Trans Fat Help Center.

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