Learn the science behind:
A lot of ‘western’ recipes for cakes, cookies and pies contain eggs. But if you don’t eat eggs, no matter the reason, that can be quite a challenge. In most recipes you can’t just leave out the eggs. Eggs tends to have several roles in the recipe and thus will have to be replaced properly.
Good thing there are plenty of cultures where eggs don’t play such a prevalent role in cooking and baking. One of those is the vegetarian Indian cuisine. Most Indian vegetarians don’t eat eggs (whereas in the Netherlands most vegetarians do eat eggs, a lot of meat replacers actually contain eggs here!). So when looking for an eggless cake recipe the other day, the blog vegrecipesofindia proved to have a smart simple solution resulting in this eggless orange cake.
Why eggs are used in cakes
Eggs generally aren’t added to cakes just for flavour, they tend to play an important role in getting the desired structure of a cake, but also in the colour and mouthfeel of a cake.
Structure of cake & eggs
As we’ve seen in several other applications (e.g. French toast or Macaroni pie) eggs contain proteins that will set and firm up when heated. The high heat permanently changes the structure of the egg proteins, causing them to unfold. This structural change can help a cake batter to become firm upon baking. It will help a cake batter to keep it’s structure as well and prevent it from collapsing again after the cake comes out of the oven.
Influence of eggs on colour
Besides the contribution to structure, eggs can impact the colour of your cake, mostly thanks to the egg yolk. The exact colour will depend on the egg you use, but dark orange eggs will definitely give a more yellowish/orange cake than bland egg yolks.
Mouthfeel & taste
Mouthfeel and taste are also different in a cake with eggs. The egg yolk especially, contains a lot of fats. These fats will enrich your cake, just like butter and fats do. A cake without butter (or oil) and eggs will look more like a sweet bread. The structure will be a lot drier.
Why whisk egg whites for cakes?
These basic roles of eggs in cakes are sometimes augmented by using the eggs in a specific way. The most simple way to add the eggs is just by mixing in the whole egg. However, you will often find recipes where the eggs are split, the white and yolk are added separately.
One way is to whip the egg whites and create a foam which is then gently folded in the batter. Recipes will tend to ask you to only whip the egg whites, without any egg yolk. There is a good reason for doing so, don’t neglect this advice. An egg white can be made into a foam quite easily because the proteins in the egg white will align themselves alongside the air bubbles. However, once there are fat bubbles in there, the proteins will also align alongside the fat. As a result, they become a lot worse in stabilizing those air bubbles. Your foam will be significantly smaller in size when an egg yolk is present in the egg white!
As we mentioned above, egg proteins will set during baking. So by folding an egg white foam through the cake batter does two things. First of all it introduces air bubbles in the cake, the cake will be light and airy. Second of all, since these egg whites surrounding the air bubbles will cook and set, the egg whites don’t only serve to add the air, but also to keep it fixed.
Substituting eggs in cakes
Now that we know the roles of eggs, let’s look at how we can substitute those eggs in a cake. Those cakes made with a whipped egg white are hard to make without eggs, but cakes that just contain eggs for structure, colour and flavour can be made without eggs.
You should be looking for something that also helps to thicken and set the cake. Common alternatives are starches. Earlier we substituted eggs in ice cream by custard powder. That is also what we’ll do for this cake and you won’t notice the difference.
Starches can also bind water and thicken up a batter, that way giving structure to a cake. On the other hand, they cannot be whipped up in a light and airy foam as easily.
Eggless orange cake recipe
This recipe proves how easy it is to bake a cake, more specifically, an eggless cake! If you’d like to understand how to make this cake taste like orange, have a look at our posts on orange zest and orange zest extracts (in case you don’t have any fresh oranges).