We take a close look at popular egg alternatives and see how they actually affect home-baked goods like a small batch of vanilla cupcakes.
Whether you’ve simply run out of eggs or you’re looking to explore more egg-free baking alternatives, adapting your favourite baking recipe to be free from eggs can only end in one of two ways, an egg-free flop or eggless success!
Without getting too heavy into the baking science of it all, eggs and their functionality play quite an important role when it comes to baking. In addition to their added nutritional value, eggs can provide structure, leavening, richness, colour, and even flavour to baked products.
After reading up on egg alternatives, we set out to determine what effect some of the popular egg alternatives would have on a simple small batch of vanilla cupcakes.
The recipe used was an oil-based small-batch vanilla cupcake recipe. The only substitutions made in the test batches were for the egg in the recipe. Each batch was cooked for the same amount of time, as with the control batch. Each recipe was equally divided between four cupcake-lined moulds in order to see which egg substitutes produced the most pleasing results and of course, which did not.
From the cupcakes’ structure to the rise, taste and appearance, see the in-depth analysis below:
Small-batch cupcake recipe
1/4 cup oil
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
3/4 tsp vanilla essence
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt
Preheat the oven to 180°C, and line a muffin pan with 4 cupcake liners. In a bowl, combine the oil and granulated sugar. Whisk until very well combined.
Next, add the egg and vanilla essence. Whisk again. Then, sprinkle the flour, baking powder and pinch of salt over the bowl. Whisk until just combined.
Divide between the 4 liners and bake for 22 minutes or until the cupcakes are done – a toothpick inserted comes out with only moist crumbs, and the tops spring back when you lightly press on them.
The control batch was the only batch that rose the desired amount when baking and formed that characteristic domed cupcake look.
The structure was firm, as you would expect with a moister dense-style oil-based cupcake, but the cupcake itself had a delicate crumb and pleasing texture. The cupcake did not have an oily feel to it because the batter formed an emulsion easily, something that proved to be problematic with some of the substitution batches.
The cupcake tasted like a well-balanced vanilla cupcake, with delicate sweet vanilla notes coming through. Appearance-wise, the cupcake picked up some colour, giving it a most inviting appearance.
Substituting the egg with ¼ cup mashed banana proved to be highly successful in this test batch of cupcakes. The only problem was that they tasted like banana cupcakes instead of vanilla cupcakes.
The batter emulsified nicely and had a very good consistency. The batter was very similar to the control batch.
The cupcake did not rise as much as the control batch as the mashed banana does result in a somewhat denser cupcake, but the cupcake itself wasn’t too heavy despite failing to rise as much as the control batch. It also had a satisfactory crumb texture to it.
The cupcake did also pick up some colour when baking, much like the control batch, which was quite pleasing to the eye.
Since using a mashed banana will add a bit of flavour, always make sure that it’s compatible with the other ingredients in the recipe.
Substituting one egg with ¼ cup of applesauce also proved to be quite successful. The batter had a smooth pleasing consistency and was easy to work with. It emulsified properly and was very similar in texture to the batter in the control batch.
The cupcake itself was very sweet though, and quite dense. There were a few visible dense pockets within the finished product which affected the texture somewhat, but overall it was pretty close texture-wise to the control batch and despite being dense it still had a good crumb to it.
Other than being quite a bit sweeter than the control batch, it did taste predominately like a vanilla cupcake with some subtle apple aftertaste notes to it.
When substituting an egg for applesauce or any fruit purée, it might be advisable to add an extra ¼ to ½ tsp of baking powder, as fruit purées tend to make the final product denser than the original recipe.
Substituting one egg with ¼ cup of soda water proved to be quite an interesting experiment. The batter was far runnier compared to the control batch, but it too emulsified nicely to form a smooth runny batter.
The cupcake did not rise as much as the control batch. This was due to the batter having a very runny consistency and it was certainly denser when compared to the control batch. It was also very bland in appearance and probably could have done with an increased cooking time.
Although moist and on the denser side, the cupcake still had a nice crumb to it, but it was very sweet.
It seemed like it lacked a bit in terms of a flavour balance, but other than being sweeter than the control batch, it was certainly an impressive substitute for eggs.
Substituting one egg with a “flax egg” (add 1 tbsp of ground flax seeds to 2-2.5 tbsp of water and allow for the water to absorb) provided pleasing results. Although the flax texture, colour and flavour was evident, it was surprisingly subtle, adding savoury earthiness to the flavour of the vanilla cupcakes.
The batter had a good consistency to it, it was easy to work with and emulsified nicely. As with the other test batches, the cupcake did not rise as much as the control batch and the top was visibly flatter, if not slightly sunken, but overall the cupcake had a nice crumbly texture to it and a pleasing flavour.
Using a flax seed egg when baking something with a strong flavour like a carrot cake would prove to be a very successful substitution as the flax seed flavour was evident in both the appearance and taste of the vanilla cupcake.
Substituting one egg with ¼ cup silken tofu proved to be less successful than the above-mentioned substitutions.
The batter was very thick and did not emulsify properly. The batter had a very oily feel to it, which resulted in a cupcake with both an oily taste and texture. The cupcake was also very tough and dense, and had almost no rise when compared to the uncooked batter and the control batch.
The overall appearance of the cupcake wasn’t great either. It was pretty bland-looking and the tofu left a very obvious taste in the cupcake which completely overpowered the flavour of vanilla.
Using tofu as a substitute might produce pleasing results when baking something that is highly spiced and something that is supposed to be a dense bake, like a spiced fruitcake.
Substituting one egg with 2 tbsp of corn starch plus 3 tbsp of liquid produced rather disappointing results.
Starting off with the batter, no smooth emulsion formed. The batter was quite thick, almost gloopy, and there was a clear separation of the oil, producing a cupcake with a very dense texture and an oily feel.
The biggest problem however was that you could taste the corn starch. It completely overpowered the subtle vanilla flavour. Not only could you taste the corn starch, it also left a funny powdery texture on the palate.
Substituting one egg with a “chia egg” (add 1 tbsp of ground chia seeds to 2-2.5 tbsp of water and allow for the water to absorb) also proved to be slightly disastrous. The batter was very thick, claggy and hard to work with; the oil also split from the batter. The batter’s broken emulsion produced a very oily and tough cupcake with an almost sticky undercooked crumb.
The cupcake also failed to rise successfully and was very dark in appearance compared to the control batch.
The flavour was somewhat nutty and more savoury, which did somewhat overpower the vanilla notes, but the oily tough texture just could not be overlooked with this substitution test.
Bicarbonate of soda and vinegar
Substituting one egg by mixing 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda with 1 tbsp of vinegar proved to be the most disastrous substitution of them all. The batter was thick, crumbly and extremely oily.
And besides the obviously problematic look, the cupcake was reminiscent of a badly baked cookie. Tasting only of bicarb and despite being super crisp, it had a very oily feel to it.
This type of substitution might work well with cookies, but not with cupcakes!
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