The Great Cupcake Experiment – an Egg Replacer Comparison

I’ve been baking without egg for more than five years now, but it’s still often an experiment. A while ago, I decided to try to figure out the best egg substitute to use.

Of course, the best egg substitute always depends on the type of baked good. So for this experiment my medium was cupcakes.

My inner scientist was not completely satisfied with this experiment, because I used two different types of cake (where I should have been using two identical mixes so the only variable would be the egg substitute.) But I used what I had on hand.

Experiment

Each of these boxes of cake mix required three eggs, so I divided each mix in exact thirds, by weight, in order to have correct proportions.

The first box of cake was Fudge Marble. I pre-mixed the chocolate packet in, because I wasn’t going to get fancy with this experiment, so it wound up being a very light chocolate cake (did I mention that I used the only two boxes of cake available in my pantry?)

Labeling the mixes was, of course, essential to making sure that nothing got mixed up. For the Fudge Marble, I decided to use two different varieties of store-bought egg replacer. As a control, the third bowl of cake mix would contain an actual egg.

Figuring out the amount of other add-ins to put in each bowl required figuring down to the teaspoon.

Pictured in the corner of this photo is another reason my my experiment was not perfectly scientific. I have found previously that substituting applesauce for the oil helps cakes made with store-bought egg replacers by making the cakes a little more moist (and less prone to crumbling) so I used it here. However, I used regular oil in cake box #2, so all things were even less equal. Bad scientist. Bad.

Here are the cakes ready for their egg substitutes. As another point of reference, I also made a from-scratch chocolate cake I found years ago and have used many times. I’ll post that recipe eventually, but if you’re curious, a google search for “depression era chocolate cake” ought to find it for you.

Egg replacer for bowl A: Ener-G

Mixed with a beater. We get better results when it gets more thoroughly mixed this way.

Egg replacer for bowl B: Bob’s Red Mill

(Aso mixed with a beater.)

Ready to go in the oven, and labelled with the color of cupcake liner, so they can’t get mixed up.

After baking.

And now for box #2, Spice Cake. Again, I had to carefully calculate and measure the other additives (and sort of approximate the water.  7.1 Tbsp? Who can do that?)

For this cake, I tried making a flax egg. I had heard of two different ground-flax-to-water ratios, and I wanted to find out which worked better, and which (if either) most successfully replicated an egg.

My mom found this first flax seed substitute:1 Tbsp of ground flax mixed with 3 Tbsp of water equals one egg.

For both flax ratios, make sure you measure the flax seed AFTER you grind it, and allow it to sit for ~5 minutes or more, until it gets thick and goopy (and clings to itself when a spoonful is lifted out.)

I got this second flax egg recipe from a local gluten free bakery. (They’ve gotten better results in some of their baked goods when they also eliminate egg.)

1 Tbsp of ground flax mixed with 1/3 cup of water equals one egg.

See above notes on measuring and allowing to sit.

Before adding their “eggs.” The third bowl, once again, got a real egg for a control.

Ready for baking.

Post baking.

Conclusions

So here are all the cupcakes lined up next to each other.

And again from a lower angle, so you can see how much they rose.

From left to right:

Spice cake with Egg

Fudge Marble with Egg

Fudge Marble with Ener-G egg replacer

Fudge Marble with Bob’s Red Mill egg replacer

From-scratch depression-era chocolate cake

Spice cake with flax egg at a ratio of 1 Tbsp ground flax to 1/3 cup water

Spice cake with flax egg at a ratio of 1 Tbsp ground flax to 3 Tbsp water

Out of their liners. We could already see the cupcakes made with store-bought egg replacers weren’t holding together well, as they were already shedding crumbs.

And now cut in half and compared. Here are the egg cupcakes, behaving the way boxed cupcakes are supposed to behave (at least a high altitude.) They did shed some crumbs.

The store-bought egg replacer cupcakes. Ener-G seems to work better than Bob’s Red Mill in terms of rising, but both were pretty flat and both fell apart when cut into.

Here, please draw your attention to the brown cupcake, which was the from-scratch cake. I love this cake recipe. It rose as well as the egg cupcakes, although you can see the air pockets are smaller. This is a very dense and heavy cake, so if you want it to be light this isn’t the way to go, but otherwise it’s a great option. (It’s also dairy free and soy free (provided you don’t use soybean oil) so it’s a great recipe for many food allergies. I’ve even made it with gluten free flour with decent results.)

Lastly, the flax egg cupcakes. Both held together pretty well. The one with more water was pretty dense, however, and probably needed more oven time because it was still a bit damp. It didn’t rise as well, either. The one with less water (1T to 3T) performed very close to the way real eggs performed. It rose, and was light and airy.

The Winner

Our taste testers. Kal, with only a peanut allergy, tried all seven varieties.

Zax, with both peanut and egg allergies, tried safe pieces from the egg-free cupcakes.

They both liked the chocolate cake best. While the from-scratch cake is very good, it served mainly as a control/means of comparison. The boys didn’t seem to understand that we were asking for what they thought had the best texture and not just the best taste, so hubby and I were the judges. And by our estimation, the best egg substitute when it comes to cupcakes is:

The Flax Egg
1 Tbsp ground flax mixed with 3 Tbsp water for each egg. Mix well and allow to sit until goopy.

Hooray for side-by-side comparisons!

I wish I could say the experiment ended here, but it didn’t. A short time after performing this experiment, I made some sheet cakes for my family. I made the Chocolate From-Scratch cake, and a boxed cake with flax eggs. I was expecting both to rise well, but they didn’t. Flax may have the right properties to replace eggs in cupcakes, but the cake failed to rise. Apparently, leavening power changes depending on the surface area of the baked goods in question. I don’t know whether it simply failed to rise (probably), or if it rose too much and then fell (something that happens often at higher altitudes.) Clearly, more study is needed. But as far as cupcakes go, flax eggs are clear winners for getting properly-cake-like results.

What experiments have you done to determine the best substitutions?

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8 thoughts on “The Great Cupcake Experiment – an Egg Replacer Comparison

  1. Love it!! Have done similar experiments with 'from-scratch' recipes. Never before tried a box mix. Made 6 batches of brownies in one week trying to develop a milk-egg-nut free brownie with no "weird" ingredients (like avocado, prunes or applesauce) as per my FA son's request.

  2. I think you may be onto something when you state that the Flax Seed (1/3) won't rise due to area. I have been using this as an egg replacement for 5 years now and all of my cakes are flat as cardboard….but my cupcakes come out beautifully. I have yet to duplicate a normal height cake. I also use the flax in my pancakes…wonderfully fluffy,

  3. I have had the same issues. I found the most success with 1/4 applesauce + 1 tsp baking powder. Works great for cupcakes but have not tried with sheet cake.

  4. I also have found that when using boxed egg substitutes in cakes they crumble. If you replace your regular flour with bread flour (higher in gluten so it binds better) they hold together so much better. I also have a chocolate and a yellow cake recipe that were originally written to be egg free and work beautifully every time.

  5. Lack of rise in gf and vegan baked goods is a common issue. with no eggs…the lift can be an issue when there is a lot of weight to lifted….like in loaf breads or sheet cakes. Sometimes there needs to be more support in the form of extra leavening, extra flour, or psyllium, etc. I have no exact formula yet, just a gut instinct in feel of batter! I have been having the best of luck with my new favorite: gelatin eggs! Congrats on being the reader fav this week on Allergy Free Wednesday!

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