There is this running joke on TV shows where someone is served a piece of vegan cake, perhaps at a birthday party, and it’s horrible. The person spits it out or chews endlessly and makes the obligatory comments about how it tastes like dirt, cud, sandpaper, or something else you would never want to eat. After all, how can anyone bake anything moist and fluffy without dairy and eggs? Well, guess what? Not only is it possible to bake amazingly moist and fluffy muffins and cakes without dairy or eggs, it’s also incredibly easy. With these helpful tips, you can offer someone a vegan muffin or piece of cake and they won’t make any derogatory comments about it. They’ll be too busy devouring it and rolling their eyes at how good it is. The only words you might hear will be them asking for seconds or the recipe.
1. Prep Work
Important steps happen even before you make the batter. Always start with the oven. Make sure the rack is in the middle and then preheat the oven at least 15 minutes before you begin baking. Don’t put batters into the oven the second it beeps to say it’s come to temperature. Let it be at that temperature for 15 minutes or more to ensure the oven is heated properly.
Line any muffin tins or cake pans before you start mixing the batter. Why? Some leavening agents like baking soda begin to work as soon as they get mixed into the batter. If you leave the batter sitting around while you line pans, you can miss the window and your baked goods won’t rise as well.
Depending on the recipe you’re using, there may be other things to do before mixing the batter: bring vegan butter or milk to room temperature so they don’t seize up, mix vinegar into non-dairy milk to make vegan buttermilk and prepare any egg replacements such as flax gels.
2. Leavening Agents
Leavening occurs when dough ferments which causes baked goods to rise. This is necessary when making cakes, cookies, muffins and breads. Fluffy baked goods require leavening agents such as baking powder and/or baking soda. Make sure they are fresh as they do expire and old leavening agents will not work as well.
Eggs sometimes act as leavening agents in baked goods, especially if a recipe calls for more than one egg. It is possible to replace the eggs in any recipe. For leavening purposes, mixing two tablespoons of water with one tablespoon of oil and two tablespoons of baking powder will add lightness to your recipes. If you only need to replace the egg whites, try adding a combination of one tablespoon of agar powder with an equal amount of water that has been whipped, chilled, and then whipped again. You can also replace eggs with flax seeds, chia seeds, silken tofu, non-dairy yogurt, fruit puree or baking soda mixed with vinegar. See How to Cook and Bake Without Eggs and The Healthiest Egg Substitutions for Holiday Baking for more on egg replacement.
3. Don’t Beat It
There is more to baking then just dumping everything into a bowl and mixing it together. Sift your flour so your baked goods will be lighter and fluffier. Measure the sifted flour properly by leveling the baking cups with a butter knife. Extra flour can make baked goods heavy, dense and dry. Combine all your dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix it so all the ingredients are distributed well. Whisk the wet ingredients in a separate mixing bowl.
Some recipes require creaming which is mixing butter with sugar, trapping air bubbles which along with the leavening agents will expand as they heat up, making baked goods rise and be fluffy. Creaming can be done by hand but it is best done with an electric mixer.
Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredient bowl in stages. I do it in thirds. After adding 1/3 of the wet ingredients, gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry mix with a rubber spatula. Repeat until all the wet ingredients are combined with the dry ingredients. You don’t need to beat or whip the ingredients. Fold them together until just combined. It’s ok to have lumps and it’s ok to still see specks of flour. Overbeating will develop the gluten more and lead to less fluffy cakes and muffins.
Immediately after folding the batter, distribute it evenly into the muffin cups or cake pans. Only fill the tins ¾ of the way because the cakes and muffins will rise. Open the oven and quickly put the tins in the oven and shut the door.
4. Don’t Open the Oven
Did you know that every time you open the oven door to check on your baking, the oven can lose up to 30 degrees? Don’t open the oven door until the last few minutes of baking when you have to check for doneness. If you need to peek at your goodies, turn on the oven light and look through the window in the oven door. If your oven doesn’t have a window, deal with it. Just don’t open the door. Learn about other baking errors we all make in How to Avoid 6 Common Baking Mistakes.
5. Don’t Undercook
Cakes and muffins that are doughy and flat rather than light and fluffy are usually undercooked. They may look done on the top but if the middle isn’t fully cooked, they will sink when they come out of the oven. The only exception to this rule is in gluten-free baking where it is better to undercook baked goods a little bit. Five minutes before the full baking time, stick a toothpick in your cakes or muffins. It should come out mostly clean but not fully dry. If it’s wet, bake another 5 minutes and then check again. When the baked goods are done, take them out of the oven but leave them in their pans for 5 or 10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. Letting them cool for a bit in the pans makes them easier to remove without sticking.
6. Fluffy Recipes
Now that you know all the dos and don’ts of baking fluffy vegan cakes and muffins, it’s time to preheat your oven and get baking. For the fluffiest cakes, try this Turkish Delight Cake, Peppermint Mocha Crumb Cake, Chocolate Marble Cake, Mini Red Velvet Cake with Fluffy Coconut Cream Frosting, Chocolate Potato Cake, Spicy Gingerbread Cake, Vegan Jaffa Cake, Vanellie Birthday Cake, Banana Walnut Bundt Cake, Hazelnut Coffee Cake, Tea and Chocolate Cake with Cocoa Crumble, and Pancake Cake with Sweet Potato Chocolate Frosting.
If muffins are more your style, we have so many amazing recipes to choose from. Try these Strawberry Chocolate Chip Buckwheat Muffins, Cinnamon Streusel Muffins, Carrot Gingerbread Muffins, Orange Poppy Seed Muffins, Chocolate Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins, Butternut Squash Muffins, Chocolate Marshmallow Muffins, Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, Zucchini Blueberry Muffins, and Carrot Apple Muffins.
It isn’t a lot of work to make fluffy cakes and muffins. Once you understand how baked goods rise and get fluffy, it’s easy to make sure yours turn out this way every time. Happy baking!
Lead Image Source: Carrot Gingerbread Muffins