For lacto-vegetarians -- who do eat dairy, but don't eat eggs -- the only options for cookbooks on baking and desserts have always been to either a) use conventional cookbooks with traditional ingredients, and only attempt the really basic recipes for things like butter cakes and drop cookies, where the eggs can be easily substituted for a little extra baking powder, some yogurt, etc., or b) use vegan cookbooks, where the recipes are constructed without eggs from the beginning, but the taste and ingredient potential of dairy is lost too.
Then there's C: this book. Cookbooks written by and for Indian cooks can be an awesome option for lacto-vegetarians, since many people of the Vedic religions (which are based in India) adhere to this diet as part of their religious practice. Here, you get the best of both worlds. You get the taste and texture of dairy in recipes for cakes, mouses, and cheesecakes, but you don't have to figure out how to substitute for eggs. With traditional cookbooks, there are tons of recipes where there's no way to simply replace the eggs with a substitute and get the right result -- souffles and sponge cakes are impossible. And with vegan cookbooks, some of these desserts are created with products like tofu, but it doesn't taste the same to dairy eaters (and sponge cake is still impossible).
But the recipes in this book completely bridge the gap. It has recipes for mousses, souffles, cheesecakes, and yes, perfect sponge cake, all created from the bottom up without eggs, but with the other traditional ingredients of the dessert palette still there -- so the taste and texture stays in tact. For example, the secret ingredient that gives eggless sponge cake that particular texture that usually comes from egg whites is sweetened condensed milk. I never would have guessed, but it works -- and the cake comes out perfectly. It's great for soaking syrups, able to withstand refrigeration, and has every other specific trait of the old fashioned sponge cake. I'd thought it was impossible!
The only catch is that since this book was written for a particular readership, the ingredients are still in metric, (I just wrote the conversions in the book as I went through it). Also, there are some ingredients that might at first leave Americans scratching their heads -- but don't worry, none of them are scary. Occasionally a recipe calls for "curd," and this is basically a really thick yogurt. If you happen to have an Indian grocery store nearby, you can buy it there, but otherwise just pick up some Greek yogurt from the Whole Foods or Trader Joe's -- it's very thick, and if you want it to be even thicker, you can just spoon it into a paper towel, wrap it up for a few minutes and get some of the water out. It won't even stick to the paper towel.
Another such ingredient is agar agar or "China grass." This is a colorless, tasteless powdered product made from seaweed that is basically a vegetarian gelatin (it's used in some very cool recipes, more of which I thought only non-veggies could eat, since gelatin is made from animal products). This can also be found at health food stores, or at Asian Groceries. And lastly, some recipes call for "custard powder," which is a British product. You can find it in the British import section of the grocery store, but the product itself is just cornstarch with vanilla and a dash of salt -- it's basically just pudding mix, where you add your own sugar. So if you can't find custard powder, you can substitute it easily for cornstarch and maybe an extra dash of vanilla if you feel like it.
I've tried a few other eggless dessert/baking cookbooks by Indian authors, like another book that's also called Eggless Desserts, by a different author, Nita Mehta. But none of the recipes were as clear or as good as this one. I've also tried books by American authors, designed for people with egg allergies, like the popular Bakin' Without Eggs. But none of the recipes in those books are really helpful or necessary -- they're just the basic butter cakes, drop cookies, and quickbreads that you could pick out of any cookbook and just replace the eggs with the simplest substitutions. Those books never cover anything like souffles or the elusive spongecake.
So if you're lacto-vegetarian and you thought you were doomed to tofu cheesecake, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater -- or at least don't throw the milk out with the eggs. Pick up this book and hopefully publishers will start selling more cookbooks like this here in the States.