Egg-Free and Dairy-Free Vanilla Cake

March 20, 2018

This egg-free and dairy-free vanilla cake is paired with a light and fluffy vanilla frosting and fresh strawberries.

It’s finally time! My egg free and dairy free cakes are ready for you!

After your positive reviews of my gluten-free vanilla cake, I decided it was time to tackle other common food allergies, like eggs and dairy. I just can’t stand the thought of you not eating good cake because of a few ingredients! So 12 rounds of cake making later, I think I’ve come up with some pretty fabulous egg-free and dairy-free vanilla and chocolate cakes. Yes, that’s right. Not one, but two egg-free and dairy-free cakes!

This was a major labor of love, but I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am with how both cakes turned out. While each failed attempt was discouraging, I actually really enjoyed teaching myself the science behind creating a recipe without the typical dairy and eggs I’m used to. Plus, finally coming up with two recipes I love, was worth every failed attempt.

Research

Before I got in the kitchen, I tried to do as much research as possible on what the best egg and dairy substitutes are. I read loads of articles, blogs, and recipes, trying to figure out what worked and didn’t work for other bakers. But there was really no way of knowing what I like best if I didn’t try it all for myself. So, I narrowed down the substitutes to just a handful – one that were rated highly by others, but also ones that I thought would be easiest for you to find in your home or at any ordinary grocery store.

Here were the key players in the game and a quick personal review of each, followed by more detail of how each substitute worked in my cake.

(I was originally going to make the cakes gluten-free too but decided it was a little too much to tackle all at once. I do love this brand of gluten-free flour, Cup4Cup, and use it in all my GF baking BUT just a heads up – it’s not dairy-free. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour would be a good dairy-free and gluton-free option.)

Egg Substitutes
  • Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacement: rated highly by others but I didn’t think it did a good job binding the ingredients together. My cake with this egg replacement crumbled easily.
  • Flaxseed Egg: (1 tablespoon golden flaxseed with 3 tablespoons water). Another egg replacement liked by many, including me. I think it did a good job binding the ingredients but I found out it’s not necessary in a cake. I think it will be useful to use in cookies and brownies though. Keep this one in mind for other egg-free baked goods for sure!
  • Chickpea Water: Yup, as gross as it sounds, some people like it for an egg replacement, but I could totally taste the flavor in my cake and in a meringue frosting I made with it. I don’t recommend it.
  • Vinegar: My winner! Forget the egg substitutes and just throw in a tablespoon of white distilled vinegar with a couple teaspoons of baking soda and you’ll get a cake that rises beautifully.
Dairy Substitutes
  • Earth Balance Butter: too much of this butter in a frosting was overly sweet, but just a little and it provided a great texture and flavor. This butter replacement works well in cookies too.
  • Hi-Ratio Shortening: for frostings, I prefer hi-ratio shortening because it contains emulsifiers which make the shortening smoother and creamier. This shortening is also more stable than regular shortening. In the frosting, I noticed shortening by itself was a little bland, but when combined with a little Earth Balance Butter, the flavors balanced each other well.
  • Almond Milk: I always have almond milk on-hand, so this is one of the easiest substitutions for me to make.
  • Canned Coconut Milk: I was worried about having a coconut flavor in my frosting or batter, but with the cocoa powder (for my chocolate cake), you don’t even notice it. The canned coconut milk (mixed well) is a great replacement for buttermilk, and also makes for a silky and rich chocolate buttercream (which I decided not to post, because it wasn’t stable enough for a layered cake, but man did it taste good!).

The Base of the Cake

For the base of my vanilla cake, I decided to use my classic yellow cake as a starting point. It’s not only one of my favorite cakes, but I think you’ll also be able to alter it a few ways to get some different flavors (i.e. sub ¼ cup sugar for ¼ cup strawberry Jell-O or add some cinnamon and a layer of brown sugar and cinnamon mixed together to recreate my Churro Cake).

My original recipe calls for butter, eggs and sour cream. When converting a cake to egg and/or dairy free, and losing those ingredients, some of the biggest hurdles to cross are making sure your cake rises and that it gets enough moisture – which will give it right flavor and texture – the most important elements of any cake, in my opinion. If I couldn’t achieve a flavor and texture that met my expectations for cake, it wouldn’t be worth sharing with you.

Rounds 1 – 5

Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacement: Let’s start with the egg substitutes, since figuring this out was my biggest challenge. I had read great things about the Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacement and decided to give that a try first. For round one of the vanilla cake, I used Earth Balance Vegan Butter to replace my regular butter, as well as the Bob’s Red Mill Egg Substitute and some dairy-free yogurt to replace the sour cream. The result of this attempt was a cake that didn’t rise and was too dense. It was also very fragile. I’m not sure the Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacement did a good job at binding the ingredients.

Flaxseed Egg: I then went on to try the flaxseed egg (1 tablespoon flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons water) instead of the Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacement. I also switched the non-dairy yogurt for almond milk. This second round produced a cake with flex of flaxseed, which I didn’t love to see in the cake, but also didn’t mind since the cake stuck together better. However, this cake sunk a little in the middle so it wasn’t a winner either.

Chickpea Water: For my third and fourth rounds, I stuck with the flaxseed egg and almond milk, but changed up my ratio of baking soda and baking powder. Neither round met my expectations. For my fifth round, I tried chickpea water as a substitute for the egg, but could totally taste the flavor of the chickpeas and threw it away without a second thought.

Rounds 6 – 8

Vinegar: Heading into my sixth round, I decided to add some vinegar mixed with baking soda to the recipe – similar to what you do with a red velvet cake. I mixed all the ingredients and then added the vinegar and baking soda mixture at the end. The batter tasted great, but the cake sank again! Ugh! I was so confused. I went back to my research and reread everything about vinegar. Several sources claimed it was a great way to get your cake to rise… and then it hit me… I needed to do it without the egg replacement.

So, for round seven, I still had the vegan butter, almond milk and then a full tablespoon of vinegar with a couple teaspoons of baking soda. I was eager to see how this one would turn out. I was certain it would be perfect. Nope. Sank again. I nearly gave up, especially when my little Avery told me I should. (Haha!) But there was no way I was going to quit at that point. I gave myself a break and tried to think through it all. What was I missing in this equation? And then it finally dawned on me. I had yet to try a version without the butter. What if the butter was weighing the cake down? It had plenty of moisture from the almond milk and oil, so what purpose was the butter serving?

In round eight, I made the recipe without the butter, increased the almond milk and oil a little, removed the baking powder and only used baking soda and threw in the vinegar again. The result? A tender and perfectly risen vanilla cake. Victory!

Frosting

As for the frosting, I ended up with a blend of vegan butter and hi-ratio shortening. The texture glides onto the cake beautifully and the taste is sweet, but light and fluffy, so it doesn’t overpower the cake.

I’ll be posting my egg-free and dairy-free chocolate cake with chocolate frosting later this week. Both cakes and frostings work great together, so feel free to mix it up when you start baking.

Enjoy!

Egg Free and Dairy Free Vanilla Cake

4.97 from 26 votes
A tender egg-free and dairy-free vanilla cake with a light and fluffy vanilla frosting and fresh strawberries.

Ingredients
 
 

FOR THE CAKE

  • 3 1/2 cups (402.5 g) cake flour
  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (8 g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5.6 g) salt
  • 2 cups (480 g) almond milk or other non-dairy milk at room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons (20.8 g) pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup (145.3 g) canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons (28.75 g) white distilled vinegar

FOR THE FROSTING

  • 1 cup (226 g) Earth Balance Vegan Butter slightly chilled
  • 1 cup (190 g) Hi-Ratio Shortening or Vegetable Shortening*
  • 5 1/2 cups (687.5 g) powdered sugar measured and then sifted
  • 1 teaspoon (4.2 g) vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Garnish
  • Sliced fresh strawberries
  • *This buttercream recipe makes enough to fill and cover your cake. If you want to add additional piping, you’ll want to make an extra ½ batch.

Instructions
 

FOR THE CAKE

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch or four 6-inch pans with non-stick spray, line the bottoms of each pan with parchment rounds, and spray again. Set aside.
  • In a large liquid measuring bowl, combine the almond milk, vanilla, oil and vinegar. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine.
  • With the mixer on low speed, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix again on low for another 10 to 20 seconds. 
  • Divide the batter evenly between the three pans (about 16 ounces of batter in each pan). Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs on it. 
  • Let cool 10 minutes in the pans before inverting onto wire racks to cool completely. 
  • If needed, level each cake layer with a cake leveler. To store the cake layers, wrap each cake layer in plastic wrap after it's completely cooled. The cake layers can be stored in the freezer for up to a week with two layers of plastic wrap. To store longer, wrap the layers in an additional layer of foil and place in a zip-lock bag. 

FOR THE FROSTING

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the vegan butter and shortening. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  • With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the sifted powdered sugar and then vanilla. Once the sugar and vanilla are incorporated, turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for an additional 3 to 5 minutes.
  • To get rid of any air pockets, use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir the frosting by hand for a couple minutes. 

ASSEMBLY

  • Place the first cake layer bottom-side down, in the center of the cake board. Using an offset palette knife, spread about ¾ cup frosting evenly across the cake layer. Layer with strawberries, if using.
  • Place the second cake layer on top of the frosting. Frost the top of the second cake and add strawberries, if using.
  • Place the third cake layer, top side down, on top of the frosting. 
  • Crumb coat the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting and freeze for about 10 to 15 minutes to set.
  • Once the crumb coat is set, continue to frost the cake with the remaining frosting.

Notes

*Hi-ratio shortening contains more emulsifiers than regular shortening, giving it a smoother and creamier texture than regular shortening. Hi-ratio shortening is also more stable than regular shortening.

 

Join the Conversation

  1. Hi,

    Can you send me your sugar free, gluten free, and dairy free vanilla cake recipe, please?

    Your cake sounds delicious. Thank you,

    Heather

    1. Just use your favorite sugar sub in this recipe.

  2. I can’t wait to make this cake for my grandson’s 2nd birthday. He’s allergic to eggs and all nuts. Should I substitute the almond milk with buttermilk or whole milk? Thank you, thank you!

  3. My son is begging for an almond cake for his birthday. He is grown now, but he has always been allergic to dairy, peanuts, tree nuts (EXCEPT ALMONDS), and bananas. Do you have a recipe for a white almond layer cake with smooth, white icing (without any fruit)? I haven’t baked many cakes before, so I need either an easy recipe or, preferably, an already-baked cake that we can pick up or can be shipped to my son ASAP.

    1. Unfortunately, I don’t have a recipe for that. I’m so sorry. I think you could take this recipe and use almond extract in the cake and buttercream and come up a great flavor.

  4. HI, I’m excited to try this recipe! I have some friends that need to be dairy free. I noticed that in the instructions that you are baking this cake at 350* rather than the lower 325* you usually recommend. Is there a specific reason? Thank-you for always inspiring!

  5. Rachel Strausbaugh says:

    5 stars
    I needed a dairy free cake for a wedding cake I was making and this was the first and only cake I tested. This cake is so moist and delicious! The cake and icing worked beautifully for the cake.

  6. 5 stars
    Hi Courtney!

    Just wanted to thank you for all the recipe testing you did and putting this recipe out here. I am testing it out today with a few other recipes (from egg-free blogs) and for some reason I am more confident in your recipes than other people as you are a cake baker. You bake a dozen cakes a month and probably understand texture and flavor the best. A lot of egg free cakes can be crumbly and I am glad you spoke about it during your failures.

    I am only making an egg-free cake so will be using buttermilk instead of almond milk. What are your thoughts on using half oil and half melted butter? I love butter in my vanilla cake (i will be testing the recipe as is and half oil half butter).

    1. I think that will work great. Hope it turned out well.

  7. Any changes if using gluten free flour?

  8. Irina Duran Montoya says:

    Although I know that recipes are generally different… can I convert this to cupcakes?

  9. 5 stars
    Made this cake for my daughter for her birthday. She is allergic to eggs and dairy. It was fantastic! It rose beautiful and the frosting was perfect! Perfect enough that I sent it home with her and my son-n-law managed to eat the majority of it. I also used the same recipe for cup cakes. I made this recipe for the dairy allergy people and a regular cake mix for the non allergy folks. Ironically, the cupcakes from this recipe rose higher than the regular white cake recipe. Once again, the cupcakes from this recipe were a hit.

  10. Rachel Cohen says:

    Would this amount of cake work well as a sheet pan cake? Or would I need to double the recipe ?

    1. It would be enough for a 9″ x 13″ cake without doubling the recipe.

  11. What altitude are you baking at? I live at 5,000 feet and am wondering if you have high altitude adjustments?

    1. all of my recipes are already written for high altitude since I live in Utah!

  12. Sonali Sarkar says:

    I cannot find the recipe😔 can you help?

    1. Just had some site updates and it should be back up now.

  13. Sonali Sarkar says:

    Hi,
    I am somehow not able to see the recipe on the page. Can you help me with the recipe?

    1. Just had some site updates and it should be back up now.

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