Editor’s Observe: Susan Puckett is a James Beard Award-nominated meals journalist and editor who has authored or collaborated on greater than a dozen books. She was the meals editor for The Atlanta Journal-Structure for practically 19 years. Her writing will be discovered at susanpuckett.com. The views (and recipe) on this article are her personal. Learn extra opinion at CNN.


A 12 months in the past, we couldn’t have imagined folks being so scared of working out of eggs that they’d flip to smuggling instances throughout the Mexican border or renting chickens with moveable coops to maintain them in regular provide. However right here we’re.

A jaw-dropping surge in egg costs — triggered partly by shortages ensuing from final 12 months’s huge avian flu outbreak— has completed wonders for elevating the stature of this humble grocery staple, which has been comparatively cheap and available by way of most of our lifetimes.

Many people have taken to scrolling the web for egg-free options. Recommendation abounds on-line, for instance, on the tastiest tofu scramble. And on the subject of baking, varied pureed vegatables and fruits can function a binding agent in the way in which that eggs do.

Susan Puckett

Currently, savvy vegan bakers have mainstreamed the thought of whipping aquafaba, the liquid drained off a can of chickpeas or white beans, as they might egg whites, and folding them into batters to lighten them.

Additionally in baking, bananas, dates, pumpkins, candy potatoes, and avocado can generally be substituted for eggs. Silken tofu, yogurt, and chia or flax seeds, which flip to gel when soaked in liquid, also can do the trick.

These intelligent workarounds are intriguing. However having no dietary restrictions, I had by no means been curious sufficient to attempt them out for myself. The opposite day, nevertheless, I made a decision to bake a cake from an outdated household recipe — not simply due to what was in it, however what wasn’t.

I got here throughout Nana’s Applesauce Cake with Caramel Frosting whereas flipping by way of the spiral-bound pocket book of recipes my grandmother, who we known as “Dodie,” had written out by hand some 30-plus years in the past for my sister and brother-in-law’s first Christmas collectively.

Because the meals author of the household, I’ve grow to be the guardian of this valuable heirloom, and harbored the concept I would really make a few of these recipes and polish them as much as unfold amongst Dodie’s different offspring.

This explicit recipe was one Dodie had inherited from her mom, aka “Nana,” whose baking abilities had been legendary. Scanning its elements, I might virtually odor the comfy spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves wafting from Nana’s wood-burning range.

A wave of nostalgia swept over me as I opened cabinet doorways and fortunately realized I already had every little thing I wanted to make it. However oddly, one ingredient this recipe didn’t name for was eggs.

Ruth Seymour Lund Frentz

No eggs? Why was that? Might Dodie have left them out by mistake? Eggs, in any case, are as elementary to cake-baking as flour and sugar. Any meals scientist can clarify the chemistry of how they supply richness, moisture, levity, and construction like no different ingredient, whereas guaranteeing that the cake browns correctly and doesn’t crumble at first chew.

Undoubtedly our Nana, baker-extraordinaire that she was, intuited all of this. Maybe there have been egg shortages in her day too. Or perhaps substituting different elements for eggs was a option to economize – it’s laborious to say for positive.

When substituting eggs in baking, one ingredient will get really useful extra usually than some other: applesauce. And that was the case on this eggless cake recipe of Nana’s. I might lastly deplete these nearly-forgotten little plastic tubs hiding on a again shelf earlier than they expired.

Earlier than I began making a multitude in my kitchen, I reached out to an knowledgeable for a fast seek the advice of: my longtime pal Anne Byrn, who has authored greater than a dozen books on baking, together with “The Cake Combine Physician” collection, and writes a bi-weekly Substack known as “Between the Layers” centered on this topic.

In devising a handful of vegan cake recipes for her most up-to-date cookbook, “A New Tackle Cake,” she experimented with all these options and concluded that applesauce, hands-down, was her favourite.

“Applesauce is admittedly like this magical ingredient,” she instructed me. “Rather a lot has to do with the pectin which acts as a binder in addition to an emulsifier, pulling the opposite elements collectively, a lot in the way in which that eggs do.”

Susan Puckett's applesauce cake, and her Nana's handwritten recipe.

She additionally famous that unsweetened applesauce is reasonable, handy, and gentle sufficient to meld simply with any variety of flavors, as her vegan chocolate cake recipe with Nutella frosting attests.

Our forebears, she identified, had this found out lengthy earlier than any of us did. In her earlier ebook, “American Cake,” she shares a recipe for applesauce cake from a 1917 ebook, “On a regular basis Meals in Wartime” that regarded conserving scarce and expensive elements reminiscent of butter and eggs as an act of patriotism.

The elements are much like those known as for in Nana’s recipe, and by my calculations, she very effectively might have give you her model across the identical time, when she would have been eking out a residing to assist her rising household by working a boarding home in Milwaukee.

My belief in Dodie’s immaculate cursive interpretation restored, I adopted her recipe practically to the letter. (Sorry, Nana, I couldn’t resist subbing butter for the margarine.) It turned out superbly: denser than egg-leavened desserts, however moist and extremely scarfable, much more so with the thick layer of caramel icing encasing it.

I known as Anne again to report my success. “I believe the lesson in all of that is that we’ve grow to be so accustomed to having eggs at our disposal, we restrict ourselves in studying extra about baking,” she mused.

If you wish to experiment with substituting applesauce for eggs in a cake recipe, she suggests utilizing 1/4 cup applesauce for every egg known as for.

“So perhaps as a substitute of agonizing over egg shortages, we lean into the problem and attempt to join with comparable experiences earlier than us. We’d be taught one thing new,” she instructed me.

“Plus, it’s cake in any case. It’s going to be scrumptious. And if it doesn’t fairly reside as much as our expectations, effectively, that’s what frosting’s for.”

Serves 8-10

I made this recipe of my great-grandmother’s based on the way it was written, with a couple of changes for readability. Though it dates again not less than a century, its old school style will possible by no means exit of favor. The applesauce gives the required moistness and binding that eliminates the necessity for eggs.


2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (plus further for dusting the pan)

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon floor cloves

½ teaspoon floor cinnamon

½ teaspoon floor nutmeg

½ cup shortening (plus further for greasing the pan)

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup chopped walnuts


2 tablespoons margarine (or butter)

⅓ cup evaporated milk (plus a bit extra, if wanted)

⅔ cup packed brown sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

3 cups powdered sugar

1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 levels. Grease and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan; put aside.

2. In a medium bowl, sift collectively the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

3. In a big bowl with an electrical mixer, beat the shortening and brown sugar on medium pace till well-blended. Mix within the applesauce.

4. Pour the dry combination into the moist combination and stir simply till mixed. Fold within the walnuts. Pour into the ready pan and bake within the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted within the middle comes out clear. Take away from the oven and let it cool within the pan for about 10 minutes. Then take away from the pan and let it cool utterly on a wire rack.

5. Make the frosting: In a small saucepan, convey the margarine or butter, the ⅓ cup evaporated milk, the brown sugar, and salt to a boil over medium-high warmth. Take away from the warmth, add the vanilla and powdered sugar, and stir vigorously with a picket spoon till clean.

6. Unfold the frosting over the cake instantly whereas the frosting continues to be heat. If it turns into tough to unfold, warmth a bit milk in the identical saucepan and drizzle excessive to loosen it up. Let the frosting agency up utterly earlier than slicing.

7. Wrap the leftover cake in foil or plastic wrap and retailer at room temperature for as much as 4 days.