Vegan baking has a reputation for flat and tasteless cardboard sponges. Modern vegans though, will say that’s completely unfair.
Baking with vegan substitutes can still mean delicious cakes, biscuits, brownies and trifles. Plus all vegan food shows respect to animals and the environment.
Why Baking With Vegan Ingredients Is a Good Idea
Veganism isn’t just a Millennial fad. There are several reasons why swapping to the vegan cake life is a good idea.
The calorific content of non-vegan baked goods is high because they’re packed with cream and butter. Cutting out those calorie-laden ingredients can make a difference to your waistline. (Vegan alternatives are not necessarily healthier so be careful. They can still contain plenty of sugar and some alternatives can be calorific, such as avocado.)
Another reason to eat vegan is that animals in the food chain are subject to infection from their dismal living conditions. Preventative antibiotics routinely used on factory-farmed animals move into the human food chain.
Medical professionals are warning us about the ‘antibiocalypse’. This overuse of antibiotics means they’re becoming less effective. Eliminating them from our food is a smart step.
Last but not least, a vegan lifestyle is kinder to animals and the environment. Going vegan or part-vegan is one of the best ways to support animal welfare and the wider environment.
We use a lot of resources rearing animals for food. These resources could be better used for growing a more varied, healthier range of crops. Fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes are all foods proven to promote better health.
But Aren’t Vegan Cakes Horrible?
In all honesty, vegan baking is delicious, but it can taste different and this is where people fall down. We want a buttery, moist cake that tastes exactly like the one we’ve always eaten – but with different, kinder, ingredients.
Thankfully, the growing vegan trend has vastly improved the baking situation. Plenty of YouTube and Twitter tutorials show us how to bake well with vegan ingredients.
The ingredients available are better too. We can now use vegan margarine and egg replacer instead of mashed banana and olive oil. It’s getting much harder to taste the difference!
If it’s been a while since you tried a cruelty-free cake it’s time to give it another go.
Why Dairy-Free Baking Is Not the Same as Vegan Baking
Animal products are everywhere in the food chain. Often people don’t even know they’re eating animal products. When you’re baking the vegan way there are certain items to avoid alongside milk, butter, and eggs.
Honey – Made by bees so some vegans avoid it for exploitation reasons
Red food colouring – ‘Carmine’ is a ground-up cochineal beetle. It’s often listed as ‘natural colouring’.
Sprinkles and decorations – These often have shellac glazing, a resin secreted from an insect.
Jelly – Jelly tops my gag list. Gelatine gives jelly its wobble and is made from boiled up animal ligaments and skin.
Jam – May also contain gelatine.
Sugar – May be made with bone char, so check the label. Icing sugar may include egg.
It’s surprising where animal derived ingredients slip in!
Common Vegan Baking Replacements
It isn’t a mammoth task to make a vegan cake or pile of brownies; all you need is a list of swaps.
Vegan trending has pushed straight out swaps directly onto supermarket shelves. Whereas ten years ago vegans had to be inventive, now we can buy ‘vegan butter’ and ‘vegan eggs’.
Eggs are the first ingredient people ask about. “How can I make a cake or meringue without eggs?”
Amazingly, eggs are not the only foodstuff on the planet that binds. The quickest way is to buy a vegan egg replacement and use it straight out of the carton such as Orgran No Egg. Egg replacements are usually created from potato or corn starch and they work well.
Another way to replace eggs is by using a tablespoon of flaxseed mixed with three tablespoons of water. This is affectionately known as ‘Fleggg’. Or you could try soy yoghurt, mashed silken tofu, mashed avocado, or a mashed banana.
There is the mysterious aquafaba too, which we’ll look at later on.
Milk is simple to replace. Choose between soya, almond, cashew, rice, oat, or coconut milk. New plant-based milks appear all the time.
If you like a creamy taste, coconut milk is best. If you’re making a chocolate cake then choose hazelnut milk. There are so many milk substitutes and they enhance recipes more than plain old cow’s milk ever could.
Tinned full fat coconut milk is a great dairy alternative. Let the contents settle for an hour so the cream rises to the top and simply scoop it off.
You can also blend a silken tofu, but if that’s too much trouble just buy a dairy-free cream replacement off the shelf.
Buy a vegan margarine or butter – simple!
Sugar is not an animal product but some are bleached with bone-char. Check the label for one that is vegan – luckily most sugar is bone-char free in the UK.
Maple or golden syrups are perfect honey alternatives.
Flour and Yeast Replacement
Flour is vegan and yeast is made from fungus so you’re in the clear.
Shock, horror, you’re already eating some vegan food!
What About Using Cola?
There are rumours that vegans can bake cakes using cola and witchcraft. This is partially true.
Ready-made vegan cake mixes can be mixed with a can of cola instead of egg. It’s a quick and simple way to make a cake, but they never taste as good as ones made from scratch – but then what does?
Non-vegan ready-made cakes can be made with cola too – it’s not a secret reserved only for vegans.
How About That Aquafaba?
I mentioned aquafaba above, but it deserves it’s own section as it’s such a brilliant, low-cost vegan ingredient.
Aquafaba is chickpea or bean juice. It’s the stuff we usually pour down the sink when we empty a tin of chickpeas or mixed bean salad. It doesn’t look particularly appetising, but it’s a fantastic egg replacer in all vegan cooking including meringues and mayo.
You need to whisk it until it’s foamy and white. Use about three tablespoons to replace one egg.
Full credit to whoever first thought of whisking up bean brine!
Have You Tried Vegan Christmas Cake?
With Christmas looming it’s an ideal time to think about vegan Christmas swaps such as mince pies, trifle, and Christmas cake. I make vegan Christmas foods and people don’t notice the difference. It’s often the assumption it’ll be horrible that stops people trying vegan food in the first place.
Take your usual Christmas cake recipe and swap the milk for soya milk and the butter for a dairy free spread. It really is that easy, I use my granny’s recipe this way.
If you’re planning to use marzipan check the label for added non-vegan touches like milk, honey and icing sugar. Icing sugar is one of those ingredients you’d assume is vegan, but some companies add egg.
Thankfully, brandy is vegan. Which is good news because this year I’m going to make vegan eggnog using aquafaba and coconut milk!
Don’t Give Up Cake if You’re Going Vegan
Vegan stands for “Vegans Eat Grass And Nuts”. I’ve heard this many times, usually just after I’ve turned down food. It’s as old as the hills and simply not true.
Eating a vegan diet doesn’t mean you have to give up cake. You just need to make a few clever swaps to enjoy tasty treats with the knowledge you aren’t contributing to animal cruelty.
Often veganism gets a bad reputation from those who think it’s a massive hassle. It isn’t, but if you’re unsure, why not make a gradual change? Swap your milk first and next time try an egg replacement. Even using 50% vegan replacement products makes a difference to food chain animals and the health of our planet.