Being quite a traditional home baker eggs feature regularly in my bakes. Whether its a simple Victoria sponge, fun cupcakes, a pastry bake or even a meringue, it's rare for eggs not to feature in my ingredient list.
Although Mr E & I have been vegetarian for more years than we care to remember, we seldom try out vegan recipes. It's relatively straightforward to replace butter, milk and cream in a recipe - but eggs are a different matter. Imagine baking a Victoria Sponge or attempting a genoise cake without eggs! As a traditional baker the thought leaves me in a bit of a spin to be honest!
Back in November, regular readers of Only Crumbs Remain may recall our Pear Chocolate and Spice Cake which had started out with the plan of being a vegan cake, well that was the intention on the drawing board! However my chosen egg replacer, chia seeds, had proved to be difficult, near impossible, to grind with a pestle & mortar (not
being in possession of a spice or coffee grinder) and so after an hour
of pounding those pesky little seeds I cracked and added eggs to the
mixture instead! Literally!
My second foray in the world of vegan cakes was an utter disaster and went straight in the bin, after I'd nibbled a little of it! I'd attempted a light and moist Swiss Carrot Cake, replacing the separated eggs with apple sauce and whipped up aquafaba. It looked great going into the oven but during the bake the whole thing collapsed. The egg replacement clearly wasn't robust or strong enough for the recipe.
Why eggs are used in baking
So in trying to understand why my previous vegan bakes had failed, it may be useful to look at the purpose of eggs in baking. As we know, eggs, once whipped, help to create volume and lightness in a bake (think of meringues and souffles in particular). However they also permanently bind together once heated (think of an omlette), helping to firm up the structure of the bake.
With the help of James Morton's 'How Baking Works', here's the science bit.....
- Eggs are able to froth up and increase in volume due to the high protein content of the egg white. These proteins are called albumins, and when looked at under a microscope they are curled. The whisking encourages the albumins to uncurl and stretch out, it also introduces air into the egg. This allows the albumins to turn into small bubbles which in turn gives cakes and meringues their lightness.
- Heat also allows the proteins to unfurl, allowing the batter mixture of a cake to rise and 'leaven'.
- The proteins are more intact in fresher egg whites rather than those which are a little older, and so explains why recipes call for very fresh eggs to be used when making meringues and macarons, for instance.
- Egg yolks contain a protein called Lecithin. James Morton explains that this is a two-sided chemical structure. It allows one side to bind to fats whilst the other side binds to water. This has the effect of allowing mixtures to bind together, allowing them to be moist. He explains that cakes made without egg yolks and solely with egg whites have a tendency to be dry.
Vegan Egg Replacers
Having carried out some reading around vegan egg replacers, in the hope that my third attempt at an egg free cake or cupcake would be successful, I learnt that there is a whole host of substitute ingredients available. I was already aware that aquafaba (the usually thrown away liquid surrounding tinned legumes, particularly chickpeas) is a great for vegan meringues and macarons, but my reading opened my eyes to the idea of using ingredients like banana, apple sauce, oils, white wine vinegar, baking powder and ground chia and flaxseeds in place of the humble egg.
The trick, however, is to know which egg replacer to use for your chosen bake. Below are links to other sites which explain this simply and clearly and may be useful if you too are new to vegan baking.
- Food 52, in their post entitled How to make your own egg replacers, explains which vegan egg substitute to use for which type of bake. For instance, if you're planning on making brownies or a custardy bake, Food 52 suggests using silken tofu.
- The Huggington Post shared, The best vegan egg replacement for baking. It's basically a comparative bake post, similar to my Side-by-Side posts, in which the author whipped up 4 different batches of blueberry & lemon muffins. Each batch was made with a different egg replacer (chickpea, banana, flaxseed, acid base).
- A useful infograph of various egg alternatives can be found in this post entitled 12 egg replacements for baking and cooking.
Ground Flaxseed as an Egg Replacer
Wanting to make a some sort of vegan chocolate muffin or cupcake, the vegan egg replacer I selected was Flaxseeds.
Whole Flaxseeds Vs Ground Flaxseeds
Now, just about every site I've visited regarding egg free baking advise to purchase the whole seed (this applies to chia seeds as well as flaxseeds) rather than the pre-ground seeds as the naturally occurring omega 3s in the product can soon become rancid and spoil. Food 52 (linked to above) also suggests that better results will be achieved when grinding the seeds as required. However, having already failed dismally at grinding chia seeds with a pestle and mortar it seemed fairly obvious that I'd have the same lack of success with the flaxseeds, and so purchased a packet of pre-ground flaxseeds for our vegan cupcake recipe. As it turns out my blogging pal Nico, who is a vegan and writes at YumSome, recently shared her thoughts on ground flaxseeds in her recipe for a vegan self-saucing chocolate pudding (check it out, it looks seriously delicious!) She explains that her packet of ground flaxseeds are 11 months old and have lost non of their 'gloop' making properties having been stored in the fridge!
The point I'm trying to make here is this: if you have a suitable kitchen gadget to enable you to grind the seeds then, of course, buy the whole seeds and prepare them as required. However, if you want to try an egg free bake but don't have a suitable gadget to grind the seeds don't be put off from using the pre-ground products. Of course, the remainder of the ground seeds could be sprinkled over your porridge or cereal in a morning or even used in another egg free bake.
How to Grind Flaxseeds
If you choose to grind the seeds as required you're going to need a suitable kitchen gadget to help you with the job. Spice and coffee grinders seem to be the go-to gadget for this task, although I have been reliably told that a stick blender also work well. Some sites list a pestle & mortar as being suitable, but having already tried this technique when grinding chia seeds I wouldn't advocate it unless you have a significant amount of spare time!
Making an Egg Replacer with Flaxseeds
As with chia seeds, simply use 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds mixed with 3 tablespoons of warm water for every egg to be replaced. Once mixed with the warm water the mixture gradually turn gloopy and after about 10 minutes is ready to be used in your recipe.
Vegan Chocolate and Cherry Cupcakes.
And so, finally onto our egg free and vegan bake. Wondering if the flaxseeds would perhaps colour the sponge, we decided to make a batch of Chocolate and Cherry Cupcakes. Chocolate and Cherry is such a classic combination which is simply delicious. After all, the Black Forrest Gateau has recently undergone a resurgence of popularity for very good reasons.
These vegan cupcakes (adapted from this chocolate cake recipe) are amazingly easy to make. There is no creaming or folding as you would with a traditional bake, like a Victoria sponge or genoise cake. In fact they're made in much the same way as a muffin recipe. The dry ingredients are sifted into a bowl and the wet ingredients are added before everything is beaten together. It's really that simple.
The chocolate cupcakes rose beautifully during the bake and, although they sank slightly after coming out of the oven, the sponge was beautifully light and moist. I had planned on filling these egg free Chocolate and Cherry Cupcakes with a hidden pocket of cherry jam, but the cake sponge itself was beautiful as it was and really didn't warrant any further moisture being added to the bake.
So if you're taking part in Veganuary, want to make a batch of
delicious vegan cupcakes for a vegan friend or relative, or are simply
intrigued by egg free and vegan cake recipes, then these easy to make
vegan cupcakes, flavoured with the classic combination of chocolate and
cherry, are a must try. They are super light and moist, and are topped
with a vegan chocolate ganache and a fresh cherry!
So, let's get to it and make Vegan Chocolate & Cherry Cupcakes
cherry, these vegan cupcakes are super light and moist. They are topped
with a vegan chocolate ganache and a fresh cherry!
Hands on time: about 20 mins Cook time: 18-20 mins Yield: 10 Cupcakes
Muffin Sized Paper Cases
12 hole Muffin Baking Tray
For the Sponge Batter
- 120g White Caster Sugar
- 60g Light Muscovado Sugar
- 120g Plain Flour
- 35g Cocoa Powder
- 1 tsp (rounded) Baking Powder
- ½ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
- Pinch Salt
- 2 tbsp ground Flaxseeds
- 75ml Vegetable Oil
- ¾ tsp Tamarind Paste (optional, see note 'a' below for alternatives)
- 170ml Water
For the Chocolate Ganache
- 90ml Single Soya Cream (or your preferred vegan cream substitute)
- 100g Vegan Milk or Dark Chocolate
- 10 Fresh Cherries (washed)
a) The tamarind paste could be replaced with 1 tsp of vanilla extract or 1 tsp of expresso powder. b) Consider using a cocktail stick to hold the cherry insitu, however do remember to tell your guests of the cocktail stick and of course the cherry stone!