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A lot of cake recipes rely on eggs, or parts of an egg to succeed. Without them, the cake might not set or rise. Or the batter, or the final cake itself, turns out dry.
But, if you design a recipe to be made without eggs from the get-go, you can overcome most of these challenges and bake delicious cakes without any eggs. Elsewhere we tested and compared a range of egg alternatives for cakes. Here though, we’ll just discuss one specific type of cake: an orange cake, without any eggs.
Analyzing the orange cake
The orange cake brings together a lot of science that we discussed elsewhere on this website, showcasing nicely just how much science a ‘simple’ thing like a cake can contain. Find the recipe at the bottom of this post.
Corn starch as an egg replacer
Eggs can play a lot of roles in cakes: aeration, stabilization (by ‘cooking’ of the proteins), added moisture, and even color. In some cakes it’s almost impossible not to use eggs, especially those relying heavily on the aerating power of eggs such as Angel food cakes. However, in this particular cake, the eggs aren’t necessary. Corn starch takes over some of the stabilization power of the eggs. Corn starch is great at binding moisture and ensuring the cake has enough strength at the end of the cook (and is also a great egg replacer in many ice creams).
Orange zest adds flavor
Orange juice tastes delicious and fresh, but, it does contain relatively little flavor compared to the peel. In the peel the essential oils pack a punch of flavor. Adding some zest of that peel adds a ton of flavor to this cake. Since it’s not water soluble, it doesn’t evaporate as much in the oven.
Orange juice adds acidity
Orange juice is slightly acidic, just like most other citrus fruits. This is crucial for the overall balance of this cake. Without the orange juice there wouldn’t be any acidic ingredients, and thus nothing to activate the baking soda which can’t do without something acidic to puff up a cake.
Whole wheat flour adds firmness
This recipe uses atta, a whole wheat style of flour also used for chapatis. This style of flour has been ground finely, so despite being whole wheat it doesn’t contain large pieces of the kernel. This does give it the benefit of absorbing extra moisture, without being hard to cook through properly.