easy as (vegan) birthday cake
I don't do a lot of baking anymore. There was a time when I baked on a near-daily basis, made all our own bread, regularly gifted people with cookies and pies and all sorts of goodies. Baking was kind of my thing. But people change. I started doing other things in my spare time, my diet changed, and now I can go months without getting out the flour. So when I DO bake, I try not to waste my time.
Nettie's birthday was this past weekend and at her request, we served "tiny pink cake," "little pink cupcakes," and "little brown cupcakes." All vegan. I got a lot of versions of this exchange:
Skeptical omnivore (Looking suspiciously at the cupcakes): "So, are all the cupcakes vegan?"
Me: "Yep, they're all vegan."
Skeptical omnivore: "Not even eggs?"
Me: "No, not even eggs in any of them."
Skeptical omnivore: (Looking at the cupcakes with narrowed eyes again.) "They look just like regular cupcakes."
There you go, folks. You may have eaten a vegan cupcake in your life and not even known it. I'll just let that sink in a moment.
Okay, if you've recovered from the shock of realizing that you may have indeed partaken of a vegan dessert without your prior knowledge or consent, let me tell you why I think vegan sweets are a really nice thing to make occasionally, especially to share with friends and family.
As my sister once sagely observed, "The cool thing about vegan food is that EVERYONE can eat it!" Now if that isn't already on a t-shirt, it should be.
Dietary restrictions and food allergies or sensitivities aside, this is true. And what's also true, and sometimes a little annoying, is that many, many vegan baking recipes also take into consideration dietary restrictions and food allergies. I have found that vegan dessert recipes seem, more often than not, to be gluten free as well. And many of them are nut free. Many are oil free, or refined sugar free. And many vegan recipes, if they are not free of all these things already, offer suggestions or substitutions to make them so. I sometimes read recipes that are free of so many things that I wonder what ingredient is possibly left to work with. Usually it's medjool dates and raw organic cacao powder. (That might be a little inside, I don't know.)
I know the thought of vegan baking makes a lot of people's hair stand on end. Regular baking can be difficult enough; why throw in the added challenge of cutting out dairy and eggs? But it's not that bad, really. You just have to find the right recipes. That's why I'm sharing with you, so you don't have to waste your time and ingredients. Here are a few vegan baking recipes that I think are delicious, easy, and fairly fool-proof. These are not healthy vegan recipes. These are special-occasion type recipes, for every few months or so. And they can be shared by (nearly) everyone. Don't be afraid, really.
This is my favorite white cake recipe that has never failed me. I tried three chocolate cake recipes for this party, two of which were good, though one was better, the third a complete wash. The cupcakes from that recipe literally disintegrated. It was sort of horrifying to watch. So try one of the other two recipes. (Second place chocolate cake)
A disclaimer about the winning chocolate cake recipe: it's an annoying format to follow. I didn't actually follow her instructions, just the ingredient list. Also, I am generally skeptical of recipes that include the words "EPIC," "THE BEST EVER," and "TOTALLY SIMPLE." But I made an exception for this recipe despite the fact that it included one of these phrases and also started with the prelude, "I've never really been a cake person." Are you freaking kidding me? Both those things should have disqualified it for sure, but the recipe was basic enough, and similar enough to my white cake recipe, that I thought it might work. And it did. So, you just never know.
I'm not going to claim that any of these recipes are actually epic, the best ever, or totally simple. But they are good, and they are worth sharing. And just look at those cute little sprinkles. I'm pretty sure you need some vegan baking in your life.
One tip that I've found when making vegan cake is that you need to fill your pans or muffin cups a little fuller than you normally would. Like instead of 2/3 full for cupcakes, more like 3/4 full.
This is a graham cracker recipe I like to make for kids, to give as gifts, favors, or to have as a less-sweet, unfrosted dessert alternative. Nettie loves them. Other kids I've made them for love them. I love them, too.
I found these pretty sprinkles on Amazon, of course. They are made with natural dyes. And I ordered some natural food dyes made by Watkins, too. I didn't use much of the dye since I made the frosting very light pink, but it worked okay. I think the red dye was made from beets, and I noticed that it bled a little inky-blue color down into the white cake. So it's not perfect, but it's natural!