It’s science fair time! I’ll be honest, last year, we totally phoned it in. We did the typical wait-until-the-last-minute thing, and the project kinda sucked. It was something about seeing how long it took sorbet to melt under different conditions. Who cares?
This year, I wanted Jillian to do a project that would be a little more interesting, and I really wanted it to have something to do with food allergies.
I just couldn’t think of quite what to do. I thought about testing different non-dairy milks… but testing them for what? Boiling point? Freezing time? Again… who cares??
I told her my idea about a food allergy science project, and she loved it. But she had a MUCH better experiment in mind:
Which egg substitute works best in baking cakes?
Now, that, we can do! I think it’s brilliant! It’s a legitimate question and a concern for people with food allergies, as well as vegans and people trying to eliminate eggs for health reasons.
In all the egg-free baking we’ve done over the past decade, I’ve never done a direct comparison like this. I was excited to try!
We picked four variables for egg substitutes:
applesauce, banana, an oil-water-baking powder mixture and Ener-G Egg Replacer
I know there are quite a few more options, like ground flaxseed and agar agar powder, but I thought those four basics were enough. Plus, for practical reasons, most people at least have the first three in their home at any given time and can easily use those without having to run to the health food store.
This was totally a true experiment for me. I have been using vegan cupcake recipes from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s cookbook for several years now, and she doesn’t really use a straight “egg substitute.” The ingredients are there, like oil and baking powder or flaxseed, but there’s no “use this concoction in place of an egg,” so I’ve never really known exactly what holds her cupcakes together so well.
Time to see if I could duplicate that success by replacing the eggs in a regular ol’ cupcake recipe.
I’ll spare you the details of how we split the recipe in half two times, making four half-recipes so we could test the four egg substitutes. This seemed like a great idea, especially since the original recipe called for 2 eggs — perfect! One egg substitute in each half!
Until you fog your brain up so much trying to split all the other ingredients in half, making sure to remember which half you just poured the applesauce into, trying not to confuse it with the Ener-G Egg Replacer batter…
And then you completely forget to add the sugar until after you’ve poured the batter into the cupcake liners (and licked the spoon… which is how you realized you forgot the sugar in the first place). So you divide out 12 equal amounts of sugar and sprinkle them into each cupcake liner, carefully stirring with a toothpick until it dissolves.
Those cupcakes are in the garbage. If you ever forget the sugar, just trash the batter. It does not work to add it at the end!
Anywho, two more batches of cupcakes made, each split in half, with four egg substitutes total, and we have our results!
use 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce in place of one egg
The applesauce batter was definitely slightly runny and lumpy, and it has a distinct apple flavor. I was hoping it would disappear after baking, but it just kind of changed. The cupcakes didn’t taste like applesauce, specifically, they just had kind of a fruity flavor to them. Not too noticeable after you added icing, but the plain cupcakes definitely tasted a bit off.
However, the texture of the cupcakes was quite nice! They held together well, and they didn’t break when you unwrapped them.
use 1/4 cup mashed banana (about 1/2 banana) in place of one egg
Again, like the applesauce, the banana does impart a bit of banana flavor to the cupcakes. More so in the batter, and it does bake out a bit, but you can see tiny bits of banana in the finished cupcake, and you can taste it a bit, too. In our opinion, though, the banana taste in a cupcake is preferable to the apple taste.
As for the texture, the banana wins! These were the firmest cupcakes by far. They rose beautifully and looked the best, too. Perfect quality as far as texture goes.
Oil, water, baking powder mixture
mix 1½ Tbsp oil, 1½ Tbsp water and 1 tsp baking powder until frothy and use in place of one egg
This mixture is my go-to egg substitute in baking, if I don’t have a vegan recipe. I’ll admit, I was disappointed by the results in these cupcakes. The taste was great, but the texture was pretty bad. As soon as you started to unwrap the cupcake, it started to break all apart.
Ener-G Egg Replacer
mix 1½ tsp powder with 2 Tbsp warm water until frothy and use in place of one egg
We had slightly better results here than the oil mixture. The flavor is fantastic — tastes like a perfect vanilla cupcake. But the texture was only a bit better than the oil, falling apart as you unwrap it.
In conclusion (just like I’m back in 5th grade, myself!), we think which egg subtitute you choose really depends on what you want out of your cake. If you’re going for flavor, Ener-G Egg Replacer or the oil, water, baking powder mixture can’t be beat. But if you’re making a cake that you want to hold up well — say you want to even carve it and decorate it for someone’s birthday, we recommend banana as your egg substitute. It has a subtle taste difference that would probably only be noticeable without icing, and even then, most would consider pleasant.
If you have another egg substitute that you love (or hate), leave me a comment. I’d love to hear about it!