One of my friends is vegan, and when I invited her to my birthday High Tea, I decided to also make some vegan bakes. After some research on the possibilities with vegan baking, I decided to make the whole spread vegan instead! Now, whenever I have visitors, I tend to make too much food. And for my own birthday cakes, that would not be an exception. I made a whole plan, consisting of 11 bakes plus multiple savoury kinds. And as I would serve cake the day after at work – a tradition in The Netherlands: whoever celebrates has to treat! That tends to be cake but it’s sometimes also a round of beer in the pub – I could easily make a lot. I work in a large company and have never found myself at a loss for what to do with baked goods. They complain sometimes but then complain more when I haven’t baked anything… And there’s occasionally some money in my piggy for ingredients, which is immensely sweet of everybody. The money has been stolen multiple times but I refuse to let that dampen my spirit. Anybody who’s willing to risk their job for a couple of Euro has already lost in my eyes.
Anyhoo… back to baking! Not all planned bakes were considered mandatory by myself, I had already planned for 2 types of choux which are last minute bakes – if I wasn’t in the mood anymore I could easily skip those.
(PS: all the bakes are linked at the end of this blog, but you can also find them under “Baking and Sweets”, under “Vegan Baking”)
Start the planning!
We have another Dutch phrase: “voorpret”, which means “before-fun” and it describes the fun one can have in anticipating an event. Some say that voorpret is the best part of any event. It definitely is part of what makes baking so enjoyable for me.
This time, I did excessive research beforehand on vegan substitutes (eggs being the trickiest), see the blog post Vegan Baking – how to start?
And then I started my regular preparation: Pinterest, Instagram, and a lot of thinking up wild combinations in my head. I made a list of bakes and then, I went to sketching what I wanted the finished bake to look like. This is what all sane people do, right?
Any baking session starts with the baking of cakes – although I occasionally make chocolate decorations, meringues and crispy components sooner as they last fine for days or even weeks. I made five cakes: rose vanilla, chai, chocolate, carrot and banana. The rose vanilla and chai have chia as an egg replacement. The banana has the bananas (duh) and a little chia egg replacement. I had to make two banana cakes though, the first one came out unrisen and very inedible rubbery. The chocolate and carrot cakes don’t have egg substitutes.
Jams and mousses, but then vegan?
Now came the tricky part: how to make fillings without always relying on coconut cream as a cream substitute? I like coconut but I honestly wasn’t looking forward to have a full coconut inspired spread.
Nut creams came to the rescue for the more earthy cakes; for the banana and carrot cakes I settled on almond and cashew cream respectively. Nut creams are delicious and make a nice moist frosting to any cake.
For the fruit jams I really didn’t need to stress, I have used pectin a lot before and knew it would work wonders for jams and compôtes – strawberry, blackberry and blueberry jams were made that way. For the pears I used another trick that I learned earlier: boiling them down with caramel to a thick paste.
Now came the tricky one: a blueberry mousse, for which I knew I needed to rely on agar agar. I am always afraid of agar agar, as it’s easy to overshoot and make a rubbery jelly. Nothing ruins a cake like a mousse which is set too solid. One shouldn’t have to chew a mousse…
For the chocolate mousse, I had a secret weapon: avocado mousse. I had to severely adapt my non vegan version to a vegan kind, but it worked a charm. I filled my entremet moulds with them, and they froze and defrosted – and re-froze! – perfectly.
Meringues. But wait, that’s only egg whites!
I wanted to make crispy meringue domes, to then top with a coconut cream piped rose – Amaury Guichon style. I was expecting that bake to be my downfall regardless. Not only are Amaury’s creations pure works of art, I had to do that vegan?
First, the meringues – aquafaba (chickpea juice. Falls in the category “don’t ask, don’t tell”) whips up into great meringue. More about my struggles – my first batch liquified in the oven – is in the other blog post Vegan Baking – how to start? I finally got great crisp domes to use.
Finishing it all
I had kind of given up on making piped coconut cream roses after the coconut cream became lumpy and then another batch was too thin and not pipe-able. Instead, I would make a compôte, top that with coconut cream and place a meringue on top. I settled on trying my hand at the combination of cherry and hibiscus flowers. I had the impression that they’d go marvelous together. Lucky me, I was right. They made adorable dessert shooter glasses.
The apple pies I had in mind became a modern version of apple domes on crisp cookies. They’d be adorable, bitesize and (not unimportant) would save me the time of making all those mini pastry shells.
I filled and glazed the cakes – the recipes are all linked below – and filled my fridge to the rim. Based on the massive amount of food I made, I decided to skip the choux puffs and lemon tarts. Which suited my tired ass just fine.
Wait, we’re not done yet!
But a High Tea (or afternoon tea… or a royal tea considering the cocktail aspect of the afternoon) would need a savoury spread as well. I’m not too scared about savoury though. I can make amazing hummus, and roast some veggies. I wanted to make something a little different too, though. So I looked up a vegan cream cheese. My, was I disappointed. It’s absolutely nothing like a cream cheese. But when I set myself over the initial disappointment, I found that I had made an absolutely delicious cashew cream spread. I therefore refuse to call it “vegan cream cheese” because it doesn’t do it justice. The same is true for the “vegan bacon”. Bacon without bacon isn’t bacon! But the salty aubergine slices are to die for! They are great on garlic mushrooms and the cashew cream spread. And those leftover chickpeas from the aquafaba made a great roast garlic hummus.
Now I could put everything on platters, top the banana cake with crunchy cookies and the carrot cake with caramelised walnuts. Make some (homemade, of course) ciabatta bites with hummus, cashew cream, garlic mushrooms, roasted peppers, salty aubergine and walnuts and thyme. Not all on a single slice of course…
And to make the madness complete, I had a whole selection of drinks to choose from – from chai and matcha lattes to mint tea to bellinis of Prosecco and fruit purees, with the option for Nosecco (the alcohol free version) and even Mojitos and Licor 43 cocktails. And only two were really chosen: the bellini with either grapefruit juice and thyme or strawberry puree…
The bakes were a huge hit, and so were they at work. Except for one person who didn’t like them (but who kept telling me she enjoyed meat so much) everybody raved about them. I had non vegans ask me for recipes, and a lactose intolerant colleague (whom I didn’t even know was lactose intolerant) really enjoyed being able to have a piece. Not that anybody stuck to one piece, which was the entire idea behind the spread. With 8 miniature cakes to choose from, having 3 or 4 kinds was very much acceptable.
Although it was a massive amount of work, I love baking and thoroughly enjoyed this. Also, I love to challenge myself and don’t think I could have chosen a bigger challenge than to go fully vegan!
(also all in the Vegan Baking section)