Skip to Content

Cake Batter – Eggs

This is the fourth in a series of 7 “Cake Batter” classes. We’ve been using the traditional “quatre quarts” pound cake recipe as a tool to understand the baking science of cake batter. This post will explore another ingredient in cake batter, eggs.

Six forks each with a bite of cake at the end against a gray background. Shows how in Cake batter eggs make a huge difference

The same recipe made with varying amounts of eggs, yolks and whites.

In the 3rd class we looked at one of the cake structure-builders, flour. We learned that low protein, chlorinated cake flour produced a cake with a light and tender texture. Now it’s time to learn about the other structure-builder for cake batter, eggs.

To learn detailed information about the composition and science of eggs as an ingredient, please visit the Baking Ingredients – Eggs page. This class will focus specifically on eggs in pound cake batter.

Two slices of cake on a white background. Text overlay shows how in cake batter eggs make a huge difference

Whipping the egg whites in the pound cake batter improved the texture of the cake.

The Function of Eggs in Cake Batter:

The most important job of eggs in a cake batter is to contribute structure in the form of proteins from both the yolk and the white. The protein coagulates as the cake bakes and, along with the starch from the flour, forms the cake crumb.

So what does all this mean for our pound cake recipe? It means we can alter the cake significantly by manipulating the number of eggs, yolks and whites in the batter.

What Egg yolks do in cake batter

The yolk contributes protein, but also some fat, flavor, and emulsifying lecithin. Because emulsifiers hold water and fat together, adding extra egg yolks to the batter enables the batter to hold extra liquid and, consequently, extra sugar. This helps create a moister and sweeter cake that will still bake up with a good structure rather than falling into a gooey mass.

What Egg whites do in cake batter

When separated from the yolks and whipped to a foam, egg whites can be used to leaven a cake. Whipping egg whites has the same effect as cooking whites- the proteins unfold, reattach and trap water. Since the whipped whites are already partially “cooked” they don’t contribute as strongly to the structure of the cake.

In my testing I found that a cake made with the same proportion of yolks and whites had a softer texture when the whites were whipped and folded into the batter.

If you find your cake recipe tends to be on the dry side, try swapping out some of the egg whites for extra yolks. If you find your cake has a poor structure or is gummy, you can add some extra whites. Want to lighten up the texture without adding more baking powder? Separate and whip the whites and fold them into the batter.

Testing different amounts of eggs in cake batter:

I wanted to see how changing the number of yolks and whites in our pound cake recipe would affect the final product. So I baked six cakes, changing the number of yolks and whites for each test.

I kept the other ingredients (butter, sugar, flour) to 8 oz each. Though I varied the number of yolks and whites, I kept the total weight of eggs for each test at 8 oz.

For the last two tests I separated the eggs, whipped the whites with 2 oz of the sugar, and folded them into the batter before baking.

There is no “right” answer as to which outcome is the best. It’s a matter of taste and what works for your purposes. But knowing how to use eggs to tweak your recipes is a valuable tool for every baker.

You can learn how I used this information to create a great White Cake Recipe from my Vanilla Butter Cake Recipe.

a chart showing various amounts of eggs in a cake batter and the results

Six slices of cake on a white background. Text overlay explains the cake batter egg volume in each cake.

Our next “Cake Batter” class is all about the sweet stuff, sugar!

When we’re done experimenting with all the ingredients for this “cake batter” course, we’ll use all we’ve learned to create Pound Cake Perfection. In This comprehensive post about creating a great cake recipe you’ll find the perfected pound cake recipe, and lots of great information to help you adapt and create your own cake recipes.


If you love to learn about the basics of baking, you’ll love my new book: Easy Baking From Scratch: Quick Tutorials, Time-Saving Tips, Extraordinary Sweet and Savory Classics. The book contains over 100 recipes that have been well-tested and are presented in simple, clear language. It’s available now on Amazon.


You Might Also Like:

A glass measuring cup with whisked eggs on a marble surface.

Baking Ingredients – Eggs

Two forks each with a bite of cake at the end against a gray background.

Cake Batter Mixing Methods

Four forks each with a bite of cake at the end against a gray background.

Cake Batter Salt & Leaveners

Six slices of cake arranged in a pinwheel pattern on a white background.

Flour in Cake Batter

Two pound cakes standing on a marble slab. One is taller than the other. Blue text show how much sugar in each cake.

Sugar in Cake Batter

Five slices of pound cake on a marble slab. Blue text overlay shows how much butter in each cake.

Butter in Cake Batter

Sri

Monday 12th of April 2021

Your work should be appreciated first u did a lot of research and gave lot of information

Nichole

Friday 2nd of April 2021

I hope based on your Article I didn't make a fatal mistake. Recipe called for "3 eggs separated, plus 4 more whites" I misread and only added 1 more white for a total of 4 and I think it should have been seven whites. Cake feels heavy. Am I doomed??

Nichole

Monday 5th of April 2021

@Eileen Gray, Thanks for replying to my question. Made Martha Stewart's Zebra Cake. It ended up being very heavy, not a light and airy cake like I wanted, more of a pound cake (3lbs that is-lol). Frosting is delicious however! Fun recipe if you do it right...will try it again with 7 whites.

Eileen Gray

Saturday 3rd of April 2021

Which recipe you making?

Brea

Monday 22nd of March 2021

So, just to clarify your process, you're separating the eggs, whipping whites, and when you say folding that into batter, does that mean you have creamed the butter and yolks together, mixed them into the dry ingredients, and are now folding egg whites into that?

Eileen Gray

Tuesday 23rd of March 2021

Well, this post is meant as more general information about how eggs work in cake batter. The process will vary based on the specific recipe. For my Vanilla Butter Cake I like to separate the eggs, mix the batter and then fold the whipped whites in at the end.

Naomi

Thursday 18th of March 2021

Hi Eileen, thanks for making this post. I realized my cakes come out too sweet. I use the same amount of sugar as my friend but mine often yields a more sugary result. I saw from your post that eggs hold extra sugar, could it be that I'm using more eggs than necessary? or there's something else I'm not doing right? More Details, I use 500g butter (well creamed), 500g flour, 350g sugar and 12 eggs

Eileen Gray

Thursday 18th of March 2021

What size eggs are you using? Large eggs. 12 large eggs would be about 550-600 grams. That's a little heavy. Your recipe is very close the the original pound cake recipe which uses equal weights of flour-butter-sugar-eggs. I can't say why your cakes differ from your friend's cakes without seeing both recipes and know how you measure your ingredients, what type of flour you use and what size eggs.

janine

Thursday 4th of March 2021

Thank you for doing this research! very interesting! I understand that it is a matter of taste, yet I am curious as to which result you liked the best.

Eileen Gray

Thursday 4th of March 2021

If you look at my Pound Cake Perfection recipe you'll see the final result of all the testing.