By Louisa Moss, PRO, Vegetarian Society of Ireland
Lauren is a 19 year-old Culinary Arts student and amateur baker, as well as a vegan animal rights activist. She runs her own home-run vegan baking business, Buttercream’s Bakery, where she makes everything from celebration cakes to cookies and doughnuts!
Louisa: Lauren, congratulations on winning the sweet section of the VSI vegan cook off! Your cakes were amazing, we’d love to hear how you got into baking, have you always liked to bake or has it been part of your vegetarian/vegan journey?
Lauren: Thanks a million! I was delighted to win, and to have taken part in such a brilliant event too. Growing up, I would have baked as much as the average person, if not less, actually! My mother would make candy apples and Rice Krispie cakes and other delicious treats for Halloween, and I was always happy to help (once I got to lick the spoon smothered in chocolate afterwards!). I started to really get into baking during March last year. As an animal rights activist myself, I wanted to bring along some freshly baked goods for myself and fellow vegans to enjoy after protests. Everyone loved everything that I baked and within a few weeks of baking, anyone who had tried my baked goods was convinced that I needed to set up a vegan baking business ASAP – and that’s exactly what I did.
Louisa: Do you have a favourite vegan baker or chef?
Lauren: I quite like Tal Ronnen. He’s a famous vegan chef who actually became famous for preparing the vegan meals for Oprah Winfrey’s 21 day vegan cleanse. He also catered for Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s vegan wedding. He works alongside with Gardein (an American faux meat company) to help improve their recipes and keep them tasting delicious. I’ve never tried them myself, but I’m really impressed with the large variety there seems to be, and I’ve heard great reviews about them. Tal is great – he makes gorgeous looking vegan cheeses too. Working with him one day would be fantastic!
Louisa: People often think that it is impossible to bake without eggs and butter, but your cakes really proved that there is no need for either of those ingredients. What’s your top tip for baking without eggs?
Lauren: You’re absolutely right! People are usually beyond shocked when I tell them that my baking contains no animal products at all. In baking, eggs act both as a raising agent and as a binder, but there’s plenty of other alternatives out there that work just as well, if not even better. Bicarbonate of soda and baking powder act as the raising agents in vegan baking, while I find that for binding, different ingredients work for different bakes.
In some recipes, you don’t actually need anything to replace the egg. Just be careful not to over mix the batter, or you’ll end up with a dense sponge. Fruit purées (apple, banana, and pear) are great for binding loaf cakes, and muffins particularly. However, there will be an evident taste of the purée in your bake, so choose wisely! Ground flaxseed is another great alternative. Mix 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons of water, and leave to sit for a few minutes. It’ll turn to a similar consistency of egg white, and is ideal for using in brownies! (Since the seeds are brown, they’re best used in brown/dark coloured bakes.)
Louisa: You are obviously very creative, the Loveheart cake you made for the cook-off was incredible, where do you draw your inspiration for decorating cakes? Is it hard to find vegan ingredients for icing and decorating?
Lauren: Thank you very much! I’ll tell you how the idea for that cake came about, actually. It was about two weeks before the Vegan Cook Off, and I was lying in bed, desperately trying to fall asleep, when suddenly I thought “nobody has asked me for strawberry buttercream yet, why don’t I decorate a Valentine’s Day themed cake with it, and make it heart shaped too?!” I came across the heart sweets the next day, and was delighted that they were completely vegan. Where I got the idea that it would look nice to have them falling from the bag onto the cake, I don’t know, but I’m glad it turned out well anyway! To answer your question, lots of my ideas come to me completely randomly, while I may take inspiration from what I’ve seen in other bakeries, along with rambling around cake supply shops, supermarkets and craft shops, to see if anything pops out at me that could be used to make a delicious and creative vegan cake.
Surprisingly, finding vegan ingredients for icing and decorating isn’t too difficult. Go to any Dunnes, M&S etc., and they’ll have icing sugar, plant based milks and soya butter (or sunflower spread), and there you go, there’s the basic icing ingredients that everyone would use. A lot of the time, decorations will have egg white in them, so I find that I need to make my own from icing. It can be quite time consuming, but it’s something I enjoy. There’s always a way around making your own vegan decorations.
Louisa: We would love it if you could share a recipe with us, something chocolatey would be great, and perfect, just in time for Easter! Do you have one you could share?
Lauren: Sure! How about my vegan chocolate peanut butter cups? Everyone seems to love them, and they’re very easy to make. I don’t have exact weights for the ingredients, I usually just go with what looks and tastes okay, but I’ll try my best to come up with an easy adaptable recipe!
Louisa: Thanks Lauren, it’s been lovely speaking with you. If anyone wants to place an order with you for cakes, special occasion cakes, cookies, doughnuts, etc., what’s the best way to contact you?
Lauren: Thanks for having me, Louisa! If anyone would like to place an order or would like any further information, feel free to visit my Facebook page (Buttercream’s Bakery). I have some photos and further information there. I update the page regularly, so will respond to Facebook messages quickly. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Buttercreams-Bakery/618742768220872
Vegan Peanut Butter Cups
Ingredients (makes about 12 large cups)
- 150g peanut butter (I use smooth)
- 450g semi-sweet chocolate (most chocolates would do)
- 150g icing sugar
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter (or sunflower spread)
- Line a 12 cup muffin tray with cupcake cases.
- Melt half of the chocolate in a glass bowl over a pot of boiling water until fully melted.
- Pour melted chocolate into the cupcake cases and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix the peanut butter, butter and icing sugar (make sure to sieve it to avoid lumps)
- Place this peanut butter mixture on top of the hardened chocolate in the cupcake cases, and place in the freezer again for 30 minutes.
- Melt the remainder of the chocolate and pour on top of the peanut butter mixture, and place in the freezer for another 15 minutes.