Before starting as a professional pastry cook, I sold scones, muffins and coffee as a counter-girl in a bakery. Although the bakery was not exclusively vegan, it offered a range of options for those maintaining a vegan lifestyle. People would peer over the counter over-flowing with made-from-scratch pastries and I would always recommend the vegan cake. Those who were not vegan looked at me doubtfully, but I crossed my heart and assured them that the vegan cake was the moistest, richest product in the entire shop.
Before starting at the bakery, I too discarded vegan pastries as second-rate desserts. How could a dessert maintain its integrity without butter, eggs or cream? I could not have been more wrong. That was before I knew how much moistness peanut oil, rather than butter, can add to a cake, or before I knew about egg substitutes and applesauce. It was also before I learned how much flavor can be gained if you substitute granulated sugar, which uses animal bones in the refinement process, with more complex sweeteners like maple syrup, sugar in the raw, palm sugar, or blackstrap molasses.
Vegan pastries can be equally as exquisite to their non-vegan counterparts. In fact, vegan pastry products force bakers to use more dynamic ingredients, like the various natural sugars, resulting in a more exciting range of flavors.
To a pastry cook, baking vegan is a challenge to create better, more interesting products than those non-vegan desserts that already exist. The opportunity to explore a world of underutilized ingredients is an opportunity to create a type of pastry and flavor profile unique to the vegan community.
Below I have created a variation of a gingerbread cake that is packed with the flavor of molasses, maple, ginger and other wholesome ingredients that make it a winner among all crowds. As William Shakespeare once said, “Had I but one penny in the world/ Thou shouldst have it to buy gingerbread.”
Ingredients (Yield: 12 servings):
- 3 oz fresh ginger, finely grated
- ¼ cup blackstrap molasses
- ¾ cup sugar in the raw
- 1 cup dark corn syrup
- 1 cup peanut oil
- 2 ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 cup water
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 3 tsp egg-replacement (such as, ener-g egg)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- Peel and chop the fresh ginger very fine with a sharp knife
- In a medium sized bowl, mix molasses, corn syrup, sugar-in-the-raw and peanut oil
- In a separate bowl, using a whisk comebine flour, cinnamon, cloves, salt and black pepper
- Bring water to a boil and stir in baking soda. Add the hot water to the molasses mixture and mix. Then stir in the freshly grated ginger
- Whisk the dry ingredients into the sugar mixture.
- Mix the egg replacer with 3 tbsp of water and add to the batter, mixing until everything is combined.
- Pour batter into desired cake pans or muffin cups and bake for about twenty minutes, or until the cake springs back to a gentle touch.