Table of Contents
Vegan Baking was a new concept when I was starting out with my vegan bakery named Elysian Delights in 2019, I needed to hire a few chefs for the kitchen. Finding new people who could understand this new concept of vegan baking was a huge task. It was a tough to explaining why we didn’t want to use Dairy or Eggs. They had heard of eggless baking but never a dairy free baking.
If you are making food at home, it’s easy to mess up or get your proportions incorrect. But when you run a business, every measurement has to be exact because end product is to make someone’s day special or for an event where many guests are all ready to taste the dishes and judge them ;). We took a good 2.5 months to perfect our cakes, brownies, ice creams, sandwiches, cookies, pizzas, burger buns and so many more items on our menu. Now that it’s running successfully, you may check part of our menu on Shop Page.
I turned Vegan in 2016, and finding vegan desserts was not easy. Regular Breakfast, Lunch Dinner was all vegetarian, all we had to do is use Oil instead of Butter or Ghee. We switched Paneer with Tofu & Soy or Cashew Milk for Hot and cold beverages, when needed. This was all doable, but what about pastries, biscuits, birthday cakes, pizzas? Eating outside with friends was also difficult because we had to ask restaurants not to add butter or ghee but in most cases the gravy was already cooked with dairy products.
After reading up on Science of Vegan Baking, doing plenty of trials with new products & inventing my own recipes over the course of 3 years, I finally launched my vegan bakery along with Hazelate (Chocolate Nut Spreads) – Chocolate Spread with 40%+ Nuts & No Preservatives/Colors.
We are going to discuss some SIMPLE SECRETS that a lot of people will not share, so read and understand before you begin your trials.
Is Baking an Art or Science?
Any baker will tell you that there is both an art and a science to baking. The art is in the creativity and experimentation that goes into each recipe. The science is in the understanding of how the ingredients work together to create the final product.
Whether you are a novice baker or a seasoned pro, understanding the science of baking can help you create delicious, consistent results every time. In this blog post, we will explore some of the key scientific principles that underpin the art of baking.
The first thing to do is to choose the right ingredients for your recipe. You need to understand what your recipe needs. Then, you need to know what your ingredients can do. You need to know what your ingredients can do so that you can put them together in the best way possible.
You will need to know the proper amounts of ingredients and the correct temperature to achieve the desired results. You will also need to know the best way to mix the ingredients.
Baking involves a lot of trial and error. You have to test the recipe until you get it right.
In order to bake a good cake, you must know the basics of chemistry. This includes knowing about temperature, baking powder, the role of heat in baking, and even sugar. For example, when you put ingredients in your batter, you are creating a chemical reaction between the different ingredients.
Baking powder, which is commonly found in recipes, reacts with water and produces carbon dioxide gas. Carbon dioxide gas causes your baked goods to rise. When you are making a cake, you must use the right amount of baking powder. Too little and your cake will not rise, but too much and it will be very heavy.
In order to bake a cake, you first have to mix the dry ingredients and wet ingredients together. The wet ingredients include the butter, eggs, water, oil.
The ingredients in a cake serve specific functions in order to create a delicious and well-rounded final product. Flour gives the cake its structure, while baking powder and baking soda make it light and airy. Eggs act as a binding agent, and butter and oil add tenderness. Sugar, of course, makes the cake sweet, and milk or water provide moisture. By following a recipe and using the correct ingredients, you can ensure your cake will turn out perfect every time.
Another important thing to remember is that every oven is different. If you want to bake a perfect cake, you have to know how to read the instructions on your oven. It can be very frustrating when your cake comes out flat or if it burns.
Science of Vegan Baking
Before we dive into vegan baking specifically, we need to understand the function of each ingredient used in a traditional cake. Once we do that, we can easily understand the substitutes for those items.
Function of Main Ingredients In Cakes
In baking, butter is often used to create a tender texture in cakes, cookies, and other desserts. It can also be used to add flavor and richness. When butter is combined with sugar, it can help to create a light and fluffy texture in baked goods. Fats help the structure forming proteins from Gluten & Egg to not combine too much as to form a hard cake. It helps retain moisture. Some similar form of fat is definitely needed to make the cakes soft. Too much of it, and the cake center falls down after baking, due to weight and insufficient strength in the protein structure.
Eggs & Gluten
Eggs have protein, leavening & emulsifying functionalities. The protein from eggs and gluten help form the structure of the cake. Too much of these, and cake becomes stiff and hard, too little of these ingredients makes the cake bend inwards after baking. They both absorb good amount of water. To keep the cake moist, we need to moderate the all purpose flour and egg measurements. If we mix too much, more and more gluten develops, so wheat/all purpose flour is usually folded into the wet mix, instead of mixing rapidly. Once the gluten is strong, it’ll not remain moist.
Egg holds the shape of the cake very well with it’s proteins. If you checkout some gluten free recipes, they might have oats/almond flour with a lot of eggs. Because there, absence of gluten makes it difficult to form structure and need eggs to do that.
Sugar is obviously for sweetness but it also absorbs a lot of water. We need to moderate sugar in the recipes, because if there is too much water retention in the batter, it will rise but fall back just as easily.
Baking Powder & Soda
These are leavening agents, that is they help develop the gas (carbon dioxide) on interatction with water, acid or heat. This gas is then trapped inside the gluten or egg protein strands to form the structure. Too much of either of these also results in bad soapy taste. People getting into vegan baking have often asked me what would be the effect of adding more baking soda or baking powder?
Adding more baking soda/powder would result in more gas being created inturn creating larger gas bubbles which won’t be contained within the protein structure and the structure would break resulting in quick rise and subsequent quick fall of the cake.
Baking Soda is used when you have an acid in your baking, and baking powder is used when there’s no acid in the recipe because baking powder has baking soda and acid in its formulation which is activated by water to start production of gas. Whereas for Baking soda, we need an acid like vinegar (which we use in Vegan Baking), cocoa powder, brown sugar etc to start activating apart from the heat from the oven.
Let’s take an example of how percentage of flour in your recipe can impact the outcome.
Effect of more Flour in Recipe
Brownies are of 2 types – Cakey & Fudgy. People have different preferences, but at our Bakery, Elysian Delights, we make more towards fudgy brownies as of now with a chewy texture and dense chocolate after taste.
Check out this video to understand how traditional brownie recipes are made, then we would learn later, how to make vegan brownies.
Having given you the basic of what works and how, we can now safely move to Vegan baking.
Basics Of Vegan Baking
Traditional Baking is the base for you to start learning vegan baking, that is a fact. This blog post is going to help you understand some of those facts and change them as per our requirements.
Egg Substitution in Vegan Baking
Most important ingredient which makes all cakes fluffy and builds it’s structure is Egg. Since egg is not vegan, we might need to figure out it’s substitute. As discussed, Egg is an emulsifying/Binding agent. Proteins from it, help build the structure of cake which holds the gases inside, making the cake fluffy.
Guess what, if we are using gluten (all purpose flour/wheat), we may not even need eggs. This type of cake may not be as fluffy/spongy but it does have a structure and will come out soft. It may sound counter intuitive but Say NO to Egg Replacers! Egg replacers are basically proteins and some sort of gums to bind the liquid, but they are majorly incapable of trapping enough gas bubbles to make it fluffy. Instead, they will make the cake base more dense.
Egg replacers or substitutes normally suggested by many blog posts are for nutritional values or fibre or protein. These are banana, chia seeds, flax seeds, apple sauce etc. Infographic picked from Google is shared below for more information.
Keep in mind, these can be binders like chia seed water mix becomes jelly like, but it doesn’t have the capacity to trap gas inside. All it ends up doing is making the cake dense or tight in other words.
If your goal is to make a nutritious, fibre filled cake, by all means, use all seeds and nuts in the cake and egg replacers. But if you are making a cake that’s soft and will appeal to traditional idea of a cake, then you can totally skip egg replacers.
Moving onto next important ingredient, that captures moisture and helps keep the cake soft is BUTTER.
Butter Substitution in Vegan Baking
Depending on what the butter was used for, the substitution would vary. But in most cases, Butter can be easily substituted with Margarine or Oil. If you are lucky, you would have a vegan butter available in your neighbourhood stores to be able to use it in 1:1 ratio.
Margarine is a dairy free oil and water emulsification that has been used for ages as it tends to be cheaper in some cases than butter. Since Margarine or simply Oil donot have milk solids like Vegan Butter, they donot brown on heating, instead they burn. If your recipes calls for browning the butter for cookies or other similar products, then you would need a vegan butter.
If you are in Gurgaon, India, at our vegan bakery named Elysian Delights, are working on one of our vegan butters which would be helpful in your vegan baking experiments and hopefully will launch it soon as after our vegan cheese spread and vegan pizza mozerrella (Liquid Moz). We would be happy to assist you with your recipes as well.
As discussed above, fat helps the structure of proteins from becoming too tight, thereby making the cake soft and moist. Ratio between fats and flour is also very important.
Milk Substitution in Vegan Baking
Moisture in the cake comes from Milk/Water. Milk provides the moisture to flour, sugar & starches to start the chemical reaction resulting in structure formation. It also reacts with Baking Powder to offset the production of carbon dioxide for leavening. It also provides fat for building this structure.
Having understood the use of Milk, normally we can substitute with water. But water doesn’t have fats and proteins to assist the above chemical reactions. Although it would make for a decent cake, we would have to adjust the recipe (flour/oil) to counter the absence of fat and proteins in water. Another way to do it would be to add plant based milks which have fat and protein in them. For example, Almond/Cashew Milk have some fats and protein, or Soy Milk is what we use.
To each their own preferred method. One could adjust oil, flour ratios along with plant based milk addition to achieve different results. This is all trial and error at your end but this article gives you secret behind the adjustments here.
Summary FAQ – Vegan Baking Substitutions
Answers to all your questions regarding how to substitute or which product to use to veganize the recipes! Preferably read the reasons in the post above.
How do vegans replace butter in baking?
Based on your recipe, oil can be substituted in 1:1 or 3/4 Oil to : 1 butter Ratio. Since Oil is less viscous than butter, 2nd option is more likely to work.
Margarine has been around for as long as baking goes. It is dairy free & quite a few times cheaper than Butter as well. You can substitute that in 1:1 ratio itself.
If you are lucky, you migh have a supply of Vegan Butter near you. If you are in Gurgaon, do follow us on instagram as we are working on various version of vegan butter ourselves and will launch soon.
What do vegans use instead of eggs in cakes?
As discussed above, functionally, we donot require an egg replacer to bake a vegan cake. Egg replacers are basically for fiber, or nutrition content. They donot behave the same way as egg.
For Nutrition, Fibre and related aspects, you are free to add egg replacers as discussed in image above. But as far as texture and taste go, these would not be as expected or close to similar that of traditional egg based cakes.
What to Substitute for Milk in Cake recipe? What’s the best vegan milk for baking?
As discussed in the paras above, we could use water and adjust oil and flour for fat and protein content.
To get similar fat and protein content in the cake, we could use nut or seed or soy milk for the same, in the same ratio.
General FAQs about Vegan Baking
It’s not “vegan” related issue, it’s more of how much Oil, Sugar or Baking Powder/Soda has been put in it. Too much Oil, doesn’t let the protein bind to form a structure. Too much baking soda/Powder results in larger air pockets which destroy the structure. Too much Sugar will absorb more water, not leaving much for flour, starches to build on and activate.
If you are making cake with all purpose flour/wheat/gluten based cake, then all purpose flour takes care of binding. For a gluten free cake, you would need xanthan gum, much more starches to hold the body. It wont be as soft as gluten based cakes though.
Debatable. Normal Cakes/Cookies/Baked products do come under junk food. Once you sswitch sugar with dates/jaggery and oil with some nut butter and all purpose flour with some fibrous grain – then it tends to be considered healthier. Vegan Food doesn’t necessarily mean healthier food. This is a personal opinion.
It’s a leavening agent. It combines with soda and powder to generate more gas there by giving a lifting to the cake.
This blog is a very good start to it. Learn the basics of traditional baking first. That would be using dairy eggless cakes. Once you perfect that in a few trials, you can then start applying that knowledge and the one you have gained from the above article to make your next recipes.
Traditional Baklava sheets might contain butter to make. But these days you do have options to make your sheets on your own or purchase vegan pastry sheets from stores near you. You could try our Vegan Baklava from our store.
Vegan Baking Books
As and ending note to this article, I’ll leave links to amazon affiliated products below which you can purchase and start your vegan baking journey as well. You may jump to AMAZON for this search. Buying from these links would give me a small commission 🙂 Thanks in Advance!
Two other really popular pages to follow are : BOSH & Sauce Stache. They do a lot of trials, have ebook/videos for you to learn from. All the very best! See you in the next article.