Is evaporated milk a suitable substitute for regular whole milk in baked goods and desserts?
Evaporated milk is made by slowly heating milk to remove about half of its water—a process that develops a light golden color and mildly sweet flavor. Nestlé states that Carnation evaporated milk can be substituted in a 1:1 ratio for regular whole milk. To test this claim, we opened a few cans to make sponge cake, vanilla pudding, and Parker House rolls, and compared the results with the same recipes made with regular whole milk. The results were imperfect across the board: The evaporated-milk cake exhibited a firmer structure than the cake made with regular milk. And although the consistency of the evaporated-milk pudding was acceptable, its delicate vanilla flavor was marred by caramel undertones. The Parker House rolls made with evaporated milk emerged from the oven more stunted and much darker than rolls made with regular milk.
The bottom line: Evaporated milk is a poor substitute for regular milk. The reason? It contains about 6.6 percent fat and 10 percent caramelized lactose (milk sugar), versus the 3.3 percent fat and 4.5 percent lactose in regular milk—differences significant enough to interfere with proper structure in baked goods.