How to Bacon… I Mean, BAKE VEGAN. Sorry, Hard Habit to Break…
I am not necessarily known for my love of vegetables; although, I do love veggies when seasoned with bacon. And, while I am a lover of all food, I rarely have had the desire to venture into the land of the vegan. This all changed when I met “Eric”, a co-worker of mine whose named has been changed to protect the innocent, or in this case, just because I’m not sure he wants to be forever known as “The Vegan” in my blog.
So,everyone at work knows I bake, and when I have an audience, I feed the audience. Every birthday I offer to bake the birthday person’s dessert of choice, and having recently joined this team at work, I had a new group of individuals for whom I could provide delicious treats. Normally, we’re talking cakes, pies, cookies – things that involve milk, eggs and other mainstream ingredients. However, on my new team is Eric. He and his wife have been vegans for a few years now, and they made the switch to the vegan lifestyle for a number of reasons and have benefited greatly from this decision. I like Eric. He’s nice, and I knew when he told me he was vegan that I was going to both learn something and challenge myself to expand my foodie repertoire.
Not long after joining the team, it was going to be Eric’s birthday, and I had to do some major studying. I have to admit aside from the obvious “don’t eat meat”, I had to delve into the differences between vegetarian and vegan, not knowing a whole lot about the subject. This adventure had me researching the origins of just about every ingredient I’ve ever needed for baking, and to be perfectly honest, the whole time I was reading vegan cake recipes, I kept thinking, “that does NOT sound delicious.” Granted, I may have been reading some sucky recipes initially; so, put the pitchfork down all you vegetable soldiers. I know there are some kick ass recipes out there, and I write from a place of love. Shoot, I even have contributed to the kick ass vegan recipe cookbook, and in a few seconds, I’ll have some pictures to prove it.
Now, mind you, Eric did not ask for this cake, and I’m pretty positive he may have even been a little scared about what I might show up to work with to eat, given my inexperience with vegan baking. I mean, I’m a CIA certified baker who can whip up pate a choux blindfolded, but vegan baking??? I’m more like Bridget Jones in that scene where she’s making blue leek soup with a side of burned marmalade when it comes to vegan baking.
However, I took it upon myself to take a popular vegan chocolate cake recipe and improve upon it. I actually made two chocolate vegan cakes that same week, one for practice and one for the actual birthday. I was going to make a vegan cake, dang it, and it was going to be good!
First thing is first, I found out very quickly that I do not, under any circumstances, recommend eating vegan butter. I would rather drink castor oil first. It has an unpleasant after taste, and there are so many other alternatives than whatever in the world that stuff is – have coconut oil or applesauce for fat/oil/moisture when a recipe calls for vegan butter – your tastebuds will thank you.
You can see in my “ingredients for chocolate cake” pic that vegan butter was in the mix with applesauce as a back up (because that’s how I roll). Use the applesauce, and ignore that bottle of wine in the background. That was just for me and had nothing to do with cake.
After some tweaks with using applesauce instead of vegan butter, adding more natural vanilla than in the recipe, and using vegan simple sugar syrup instead of granulated sugar, I decided to really get crazy and make it a chipotle chocolate cake with a chipotle chocolate glaze. Next round was actually an amaretto chocolate cake – vegans may be healthful but they enjoy a good liqueur like everyone else.
Thankfully, as you can see here – the cake turned out beautifully. The glaze was trial and error for the first round but was perfected by round two, and now I have two excellent chocolate vegan cake recipes in my arsenal! Eric gave the stamp of approval, and believe it or not, the entire team loved it. And, it wasn’t an, “Oh, that was nice of you (insert small bite into mouth)… thanks, O (throw cake in trash once around the corner).” They really liked it! (Now, I’m starting to feel like Sally Field – thank you, I just totally dated myself.)
So, from now on, every time we have a birthday, I have vowed to make a vegan dessert for Eric. He doesn’t ask; I just feel like why should we all be able to celebrate with an afternoon snack and he have to watch us enjoy a dessert that he could be eating if he had a dessert option??
Two desserts so far have been Vegan Coconut Lime Cheesecake with Coconut Caramel Sauce when I made a Sour Cream Lemon Vanilla Cheesecake for someone and Vegan Strawberry Shortcake when I made Strawberry Shortcake for someone else.
I will be the first to tell you that while I have been able to improve upon the taste of vegan dessert recipes, I have not yet mastered improving their appearance (hence, the blob to the right of the shortcake). That’s my next goal, and since we have three more birthdays until the end of the year, I have plenty of opportunity to craft my skill.
Oh yeah, I did make Chewy Ginger Snaps one Monday just because I was bored, and I had nothin’ for a vegan recipe so I just brought Eric a Clementine Orange for snack time. That technically doesn’t count as doing something vegan, but I don’t have an article where I can show you my Chewy Ginger Snap cookies. So, here they are… ta daa!
While I may not personally change my ways to a vegan lifestyle, I am certainly appreciative of Eric’s introduction to a whole new scope of baking and cooking for me. And, I will continue to venture out into new ways of making food fabulous, vegan and otherwise.