Egg cake is a cake with a high proportion of eggs in the ingredients. While most cake recipes call for eggs as binders in the cake, egg cakes use a large number of eggs, creating a very moist, rich cake with a light texture. Recipes for egg cakes are usually very simple, often containing just eggs, butter, flour, sugar, salt, a flavoring, and sometimes a leavener like baking powder, and these cakes are easy to whip up, making them excellent spontaneous baking projects.
Eggs are used in cakes for a variety of reasons. Primarily, they act as binders, pulling the ingredients together. Eggs also add loft and volume to a cake, as people who have tried to make cakes without eggs may have already noted. Because eggs are themselves rich, they can also make a cake more rich and moist, enhancing and intensifying the flavor.
Recipes for egg cake commonly call for the yolks and whites to be separated. The yolks are beaten with butter and sugar before flour and flavoring are added, and the whites are whipped into soft peaks before being folded into the batter. This adds even more loft to the cake, creating a very light texture which many people find enjoyable. For a more dense version of egg cake, the eggs will be beaten in whole. Buttermilk or milk may be added for more moisture.
These cakes often have a yellow hue, thanks to the high egg content, although it is also possible to make a white cake by reducing or eliminating the yolks. Flavorings like vanilla, almond, and orange can all be used in egg cakes, along with chocolate or marble swirls. One great thing about egg cake is that it tends to be extremely flexible, which means that cooks can play around with the flavorings without having to worry about ruining the cake.
Many egg cake recipes have “egg” in the title, often in the form of “x egg cake,” with x being the number of eggs in the recipe. These cakes may also be called “lighting cakes” or “1-2-3-4 cakes,” referencing the proportions of butter, sugar, flour, and eggs in the recipe. Creative bakers sometimes like to make Easter Egg Cakes, oval egg cakes which are decorated to look like Easter eggs.
Most egg cakes are presented frosting, with buttercream frosting being especially popular. The frosting may also be decorated, with a plain color being used for the base while shapes like flowers and swirls are piped onto the cake. Egg cakes can also be glazed for a more sophisticated take on frosting.