What can I substitute for eggs in cakes?

In this brief guide, we shall answer the question “What can I substitute for eggs in cakes?” and outline all the possible substitutes and how they can be used. We shall also see a brief explanation as to why we use eggs for a better understanding of its substitutes. 

What can I substitute for eggs in cakes?

If you are in a pinch where you have decided to bake a cake on a particular day or have started the baking process, only to realise that you are out of eggs, there are fortunately a decently long list of alternatives that can be considered. These can be used in the case that you are allergic to eggs or are looking for vegan options. These alternatives are:

  • Mashed bananas
  • Applesauce
  • Silken tofu
  • Ground flaxseeds mixed with water
  • Yogurt or buttermilk
  • Vinegar + Baking soda
  • Sweetened condensed milk

Egg allergy is one of the most common food allergies in infants and young children.1 Global data indicate that egg allergy effects 0.5–2.5% of young children. A recent population-based study has shown that Australia has the highest reported prevalence of infant egg allergy to date at 8.9% (1).

Why do we use eggs in cakes?

Eggs, in essence, are a very important component of cake batters. They act as a leavening agent and add much-needed structure to the cake that would otherwise leave it flat and much too soft. They also add moisture to the cakes that ensure that they aren’t left crumbly and dry in your mouth. 

The protein in both the yolk and white is what plays an important role in the cake’s structure. The protein coagulates (changes to a solid or semi-solid state) when baking and combines with the starch in the flour to form the cake’s crumb. 

The yolks in the eggs not only contain protein, but also fats, flavours, and more importantly, emulsifiers, that allow holding fats and water together that makes the cake batter to better hold liquid, and thus can contain more water content as well as sugar. This is what makes the cake have more moisture and hence making it more enjoyable. Eggs also contribute to the fluffy and airy texture of cakes.

Most egg yolk lipids naturally occur within low-density lipoproteins. These micelle-like structures have a core of nonpolar lipids (i.e., triacylglycerols and cholesterol esters) surrounded by phospholipids, cholesterol and apoproteins. They are surface-active and can stabilize oil–liquid and air–liquid interfaces by spreading out and distributing their components along such interfaces. The low-density lipoproteins assist aeration during mixing and that their functionality relies on their integrity (2). In cakes containing fats (margarine or butter), egg proteins, mainly yolk lipoproteins emulsify the fat during the ingredient mixing stage. In fat-free cakes, such as angel food or sponge cakes, egg proteins perform both aerating, i.e. assist in entrapping large air quantities, and coagulation/gelation functions during the preparation of the product (3). 

What is the list of alternatives for eggs in cakes?

1. Mashed bananas

Mashed, ripened bananas are an excellent, nutritious substitute for eggs. It adds density and moisture to your baked good, however, it does add a slight banana flavour so make sure that the recipe can afford that. Use a banana of moderate ripeness as the riper it is the sweeter it will be and can change the flavour of your dish. One egg can be replaced by ¼ cup of mashed banana.

The banana flavor is a great enhancement for vanilla and chocolate cakes so in such cases is a great alternative to consider.

Studies show that bananas have the ability to form foam and act as egg substitutes. Overripe bananas are an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and natural sweeteners. However, egg substitutes such as bananas are characterized with high moisture content, which helps lower the viscosity of the batter (4).

2. Applesauce

Cooked apples are pureed to make applesauce. You can use the sweetened type, but the amount of sugar in the recipe will need to be reduced to compensate. This is a nutritious moistening alternative that can be used in muffins, cupcakes, cookies, and bars. Keep in mind, though, that too much applesauce can cause a rubbery texture.

In most recipes, one-fourth cup of applesauce can be substituted for an egg.

In a study, apple products were found to have very useful emulsifying properties. Apple powder used as an emulsifier agent in oil-water mixtures displayed a high stabilizing potential, and the network created during emulsification remained unchanged over time. A mixed network of particle-stabilized oil droplets and powder particles may have been created (5).

3. Silken tofu

Tofu is made by pressing into blocks processed, condensed soy milk. Silken tofu is softer due to its higher water content. To substitute with an egg, purée 1/4 cup silken tofu. It has a bland flavour when compared to the other options, but it can make a dish denser, so it’s best for brownies, cakes, and bread, as well as other recipes that only require a few eggs.

Soy protein ingredients are used to aid formation and stabilization of emulsion for many food products including cake batters. Generally, the emulsifying capacity of soy protein products increases with increasing solubility and interfacial tension is progressively reduced as concentration is increased (6).

4. Ground flaxseeds mixed with water

These seeds are abundant in omega-3 fatty acids and fibre, making them extremely nutritious. This is a very healthy alternative. A spoonful of powdered seeds and three tablespoons of water can be combined to make a thick paste that can easily replace one egg.

Keep in mind, however, that this option makes your cake dense and can also leave a nutty flavour. It is hence advised to be used for savoury cakes like banana cake, fruitcakes, etc.

Water-soluble flaxseed polysaccharides, commonly referred to as flaxseed gum, are of special interest due to their functional properties when included in aqueous solutions. Solutions of flaxseed gum have considerable viscosity and readily form stable emulsions, gels and foams (7).

5. Yoghurt or buttermilk

This option provides the cake with a lot of moisture and texture. To avoid adding any additional sweetness or flavour to the cake, make sure to use plain and unsweetened yoghurt. 1⁄4 cup of yoghurt or buttermilk can be used in place of one egg.

Because this is a heavy substitute, it is a good idea to beat it first. Muffins, cupcakes, and cakes benefit the most from this alternative.

Buttermilk can be used to replace eggs due to its good emulsification and good water-holding capacity. Whey proteins and milk fat globule membranes in buttermilk possess inherent emulsifying properties. Buttermilk has been used in bakery, chocolate, cheese, yogurt, and for the delivery of bioactives as wall material for encapsulation. Buttermilk improved crumb texture and enhanced water-holding capabilities of yogurt (8).

Yogurt contains casein. Sodium caseinate is a valuable food ingredient with its high protein content and functional properties of emulsification, water binding, and texture improvement (9).

6. Vinegar + baking soda

This interaction produces carbon dioxide, which creates air bubbles in the baked item, giving it its airiness and light, fluffy texture. In most recipes, a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with 1 tablespoon of water can be used in place of an egg.

Vinegar and baking soda together will be able to substitute the property of eggs in making foam. Foam is a colloidal system in which tiny air bubbles are dispersed in an aqueous continuous phase and foaming is a process of incorporation of air in the form of small air cells or bubbles. Foaming modifies various physical properties viz. consistency and texture (10). The addition of baking soda and vinegar as substitutes for eggs has been proposed for the preparation of Cakes, Muffins and Quick Breads (11).

Other FAQs about Eggs that you may be interested in.

Can you freeze an omelet?

Can you eat fertilized eggs?

Can you eat dove eggs?

Conclusion

As seen in this article, there are many substitutes for eggs in acake, each with their individual properties and unique flavour profiles. We have outlined each of these alternatives and how they cna be replaced in a cake. You can also consider commercial egg replacement powders that work just as well but may not be easily available. 

Citations

  1. Tan, John W., and Preeti Joshi. Egg allergy: an update. J paediatr child health, 2014, 50, 11-15.
  2. Pycarelle, Sarah C., et al. The role of intact and disintegrated egg yolk low-density lipoproteins during sponge cake making and their impact on starch and protein mediated structure setting. Foods, 2021, 10, 107.
  3. Paraskevopoulou, Adamantini, et al. Quality characteristics of egg-reduced pound cakes following WPI and emulsifier incorporation. Food Res Int, 2015, 69, 72-79.
  4. Saleh, Samaa. Zucchini Puree as a Novel Egg Substitute in Cake: Comparing with Other Substitutes. Alexan Sci Exch J, 2022,43, 219-228.
  5. Huc-Mathis, Delphine, et al. Emulsifying properties of food by-products: Valorizing apple pomace and oat bran. Colloids Surf A Physicochem Eng Asp, 2019, 568, 84-91.
  6. Jideani, V. A. Functional properties of soybean food ingredients in food systems. Soybean-Biochemistry, chemistry and physiology, 201, 345-366.
  7. Liu, Jun, et al. Conlinin in flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum L.) gum and its contribution to emulsification properties. Food Hydrocoll, 2016, 52, 963-971.
  8. Zhao, Lili, Ran Feng, and Xueying Mao. Addition of buttermilk powder improved the rheological and storage properties of low‐fat yogurt. Food Sci Nutr, 2020, 8, 3061-3069.
  9. Isleten, M., and Y. O. N. C. A. Karagul-Yuceer. Effects of dried dairy ingredients on physical and sensory properties of nonfat yogurt. J dairy sci, 2006, 89, 2865-2872.
  10. Changade, S. P., et al. Foaming in food systems. Journal of Dairying, Foods Home Sci, 2009, 28, 26-30.
  11. LaLonde, T., and R. Jadeja. Cooking for Individuals with Food Allergies and Intolerances. Madridge J Food Tech, 2018, 3, 115-121.