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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

How to say “happy birthday” in vegan

Published: September 4, 2009
Section: Arts, Etc.

Vegan baking doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, and the end product needn’t be bland. Here are some common problems, with cheap and easy solutions:

Problem: Dry, crumbly texture.

Solution: Chose “wet” ingredients over “dry” ingredients, and add a little extra fat. In this cake, we’re using agave or brown rice syrup instead of sugar, and melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder. In addition to full-fat chocolate, we’ll add oil to carry flavor and improve texture.

Problem: Doesn’t rise.

Solution: Check your ingredient substitutions. Powdered egg replacement is sold in most supermarkets, but you can actually use everyday pantry items. Eggs bind ingredients together and provide lift. In this recipe, the banana is a great binder, but we need some extra baking soda to make sure the end product isn’t too dense.

Problem: The flavor is off.

Solution: Avoid most heavily processed vegan replacements and taste test often. Grocery stores stock baking substitutes, but many are more chemical-based than plant-based. Bake vegan goods that are delicious, not ones that imitate the textures and tastes of food containing animal products. It is occasionally difficult to avoid processed ingredients, especially when replacing solid fats. If you’re uncomfortable with the margarine used in the icing, you could replace it with coconut oil.

Anna’s vegan cake


2 ½ cups vegan semisweet chocolate chips OR 2 8oz bars vegan semisweet baker’s chocolate

4 cups of all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking soda

¼ – ½ cup agave or brown rice syrup

2 teaspoons olive, canola, or vegetable oil

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 ½ cups plain or unsweetened soymilk

1 ripe banana, mashed

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. It’s important to have the oven already hot, so that the cake has the best chance of baking evenly.

2. Oil a 9×13” baking pan.

3. Mix the flour and baking soda in a large bowl or Tupperware, or whatever you can find. Remember, we need the extra lift from the baking soda, and if it’s clumped up in the batter, the cake won’t rise.

4. In a different bowl or saucepan, melt the chocolate chips with a little soymilk. If you’re using a stove, stir frequently. If you’re using a microwave, check that your dish is microwave safe. Then, microwave on high for one minute, stir, and repeat until the chocolate is melted.

5. Add the remaining soy milk, oil, almond extract, mashed banana, and ¼ cup agave or rice syrup to the chocolate. Pour this wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix well.

6. Taste test! If necessary, add more sweetener. Remember, the icing is very sugary.

7. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 25-35 minutes. It’s done when a toothpick or fork poked into the center comes out clean, with no batter clinging to it.

8. Let cool before you turn it out of the pan or try to ice it.