A Lone Vegan In A Sea Of Butter And Cream

2008 03 - DB White Cake (1)Daring Bakers Challenge was Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake from Baking From My Home To Yours. Good! I had to make a cake this month anyway.

The recipe seemed fairly straightforward, a run of the mill white cake like any other white cake; we didn't have to stand on our heads while whipping the ingredients together! (This is not meant to sound nasty towards any of the other challengers -- some of the recipes are very difficult and some are rather easy.) Morven from Food Art and Random Thoughts, the baker who issued this month's challenge, promised a delicious end-result, and who am I to argue with that? So, overall, it looked like an easy challenge. After last month's nine+ hour project, that was a welcome idea. But as usual, it wasn't geared for a vegan diet, so there were substitutions to be made. I used Earth Balance margarine in place of the butter, almond milk in place of the buttermilk, and Ener-G egg replacer in place of the eggs.

One good thing about being vegan is that you can taste your batters as you're going along without any fear of salmonella! The batter tasted okay, but something wasn't quite right. I attribute that to the Earth Balance. I was a huge fan of butter in my pre-vegan baking days. I really don't think anything else tastes quite as good, but I don't consume butter anymore, so... The cake didn't rise as high as I would have expected, but others Daring Baker's also indicated their cakes didn't rise, so I wasn't too concerned. It looked and smelled delicious.

2008 03 - DB White Cake (5)Out of the oven and on to the racks... everything looked and felt normal, but when I sneaked off a tiny piece of the cake to try, it didn't taste right. Lane agreed, but didn't think it was bad and suggested I carry on. But this was going to be a birthday cake for someone special, so into the trash it went.

Attempt number two came out a little better; I incorporated some almond meal in place of some of the flour, which gave the cake a nice flavor. Typically, I would be concerned that the almond meal would make the cake more dense, but this cake is dense already, so I didn't think there would be any harm in trying this. I often do that in my cookie recipes. I love the taste of the nuts, and there's the added benefit of injecting some nutritional value to something decadent!

The recipe called for a buttercream-meringue frosting. Alas. The other option afforded us was whipped cream. So, back to the internet I went in search of vegan buttercream meringue, no luck there. I was kind of relieved not to have to make the buttercream-meringue as Morven (the host) injured herself making it. After last month's near trip to the emergency room, I didn't want to have any medical disasters to have to blog about!!!

Surprisingly, there were many recipes for vegan buttercream out there, all basically the same: an equal amount of vegan margarine and powdered sugar, plus a tiny bit of liquid... soy milk, usually. So, that's what I went with, assuming that if there were that many sites lauding the same basic recipe, it had to be good. WRONG! It was horrible. It had a chemical taste to it. Trying for a quick fix, I added some almond extract which actually helped.

2008 03 - DB White CakeSo, I didn't like it. Everyone else was polite and said they did, but no one asked for seconds, and most people didn't finish their slices which is generally not a good sign. Lane's busy chomping down his second slice as I write this, so it wasn't a total waste. But I won't be making this cake again. There are some really amazing results out there. My absolute favorite was prepared by Sakya.

Overall, I'm left wondering if the Daring Baker's is the right group for me. The bakers are all wonderful and the group is supportive and fun. And I love the idea of baking something a whole slew of "my friends" are baking as well. There's a great sense of camaraderie in belonging to this group. But I'm a lone little vegan in a sea of butter and cream. We'll see what next months challenge brings!

Cheers! Jane


  1. Sorry that it didn’t come out as well as you hoped. Does it help that it looks very pretty?

    About being the lone vegan, isn’t Hannah at http://bittersweetblog.wordpress.com part of the Daring Bakers? Maybe you and she and any other vegans could form a vegan support group. I think it’s great that you’ve been out there participating; too often vegan blogs seem separated from the mainstream food blogs.

  2. Jane! My dear girl, don’t give up on Daring Baker’s!! There are actually about 9 vegan bakers! I am a gluten free daring baker, who also tries to lower sugar and fat content, and incorporate whole grains, and trying to use less milk… so you are not alone! It’s tough, but you can do it and actually another fellow gluten free DB, and a vegan gluten free DB are planning on baking together next month! You are welcome to join us!! I’m not sure of the date just yet, but please email me if you are interested! We’re all for supporting each other and our baking! Check out Sea’s Book of Yum (http://www.bookofyum.com/blog/daring-bakers-perfect-gluten-free-dairy-free-egg-free-party-cake-recipe-with-vegan-buttercream-recipe-1711.html ) , she’s brand new to the Daring Baker’s and she just posted her cake for this challenge as well! It looks wonderful! But please don’t give up!

    Carrie @ Ginger Lemon Girl

    PS… I LOVE your idea for using a heart shaped pan for this cake! LOVE it!!

  3. Aw! The cake looks so cute. Sorry it didn’t come out better.

    For buttermilk, maybe try mixing your “milk” with some lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to curdle it. I’ve read that soy milk curdles best, followed by almond.

    Also, shortening is often vegan, which may make you a better frosting.

    Do you have Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World? Aside from the tastiness of the recipes, flipping through it gives you a good idea of how the different ingredients interact so you can use them in other baked goods.

  4. Hi Susan — Thanks, it does help, especially since the cake actually looked better than the photos I took. Funny you should suggest a support group, I just got email from Carrie saying they are doing just that. Apparently there are about 10 of us “alternative” bakers on the DB blogroll.

    Carrie — I emailed you. YES. I’m looking forward to hearing what you and the others have to say. I complain about the butter and cream, but I think gluten-free would be even more difficult.

    Hi Jenny – I don’t know about Crisco, but I think Health Balance is… I have to check the name of the product at the grocery store.

    Ah Seitan – yes the lemon juice. I just read that would have reacted with the baking powder… Obviously, I never went to culinary school! 🙂 I will try the shortening last time, the Earth Balance just didn’t taste right. Even today! My first vegan baking book is The Joy of Vegan Cooking. Goudreau gives a lot of commentary. Perhaps I should go back and read it! Clearly I need a little help here!

  5. Aloha Jane!

    Your cake looked very pretty, if that’s any consolation 🙂

    I responded to your comment on my blog regarding substitutions in vegan baking. I hope that I could be somewhat helpful. And I hope that you decide to stick it out with the Daring Bakers. Personally, I find it’s my calling to bring delicious vegan goods to the masses 😀

  6. Your cake looks so lovely. Sometimes substituting all the nondairy things and other additives you need can really change the flavor of a cake. However, you did a great job of rising to the challenge. I used vegetable shortening and coconut oil in my cake and the frosting was of vegetable shortening, coconut oil and cocoa butter…I wonder if I could have substituted agar agar powder for the egg white. I can’t use Earth Balance since we have a soy and dairy problem at our house. Try these options out, they do have a much better flavor than some of the soy things. I also use homemade almond milk for the cake too.

    Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

  7. Hi Gail – Thanks, yes I saw your comments earlier today. I will definitely try subbing the soy yogurt in for eggs. I will definitely hang around for next months challenge!!! I’m very excited about that one.

    Hi Natalie, Thanks for the suggestion. I like the idea of the coconut oil and coco butter. Obviously, we don’t have soy issues here, but I just haven’t had much luck with vegan baked goods. You indicated the flavor is better here, and that’s my main sticking point, so I’m hopeful I’ll be able to do better with these ingredients. I’m looking forward to the idea of the alternative DB support group. Thanks for putting it together with Carrie!

  8. This wouldn’t help with the frosting issue (which I’m shocked about personally!! I can eat that vegan buttercream all day!!! haha) but I find that the ener-g egg replacer typically gives a strange flavor to baked goods. I avoid it at all costs when baking. You can find lists of good substitutes (applesauce, ground flax, pureed silken tofu, etc) and choose based on which would complement that particular dish.
    As far as the frosting, I love the earth balance/powdered sugar/soymilk combo, so I’m not much help there. I do know that they do make a shortening version, and maybe doing half that/half soy margarine would taste better to you.
    And also I highly second whoever posted about Vegan Cupcakes take over the World. The methods they use are very helpful for vegan baking in general.

  9. i’m so sorry that your cake didn’t turn out good 🙁 i’ve had that happen on a few occasions when trying to veganize things.

    i’ve been diary free (necessity) for at least three years. i was most sad about giving up butter, as i loved me some butter, however i have a very suitable substitute that is dairy free and taste very good if you ask me. i personally do not like earth balance…we use a cheap off name brand called nucoa. it’s a cheap margarine that is not the healthiest though i think it is cholesterol free, but imho it taste the best. it does have its fair amount of salt so i adjust salt to taste in some recipes.

    i do use a lot of ener-g egg replacer and i don’t know if i’ve gotten used to it or if i use enough strong xtracts or what, but i don’t always detect the taste in my baked goods.

    i’m planning on joing db…i’ve submitted my name and i’m sure if we all band together we can make some delicious vegan baked goods…i have no choice i can’t live without my sweets…and can’t live with dairy and eggs!

    i’ve got some recipe reviews and what nots on my blog, feel free to come poke around.


  10. Hi Tanya, Well, yes, that does make me feel better. Actually, I had the same thought when reading thru the recipe.

    Shannon – wow, you actually love that stuff? I’ve always loved frosting, more than the actual cake, so this was terribly disappointing for me. Interesting about the EnerG. I’ll have to pay attention to that and see if I notice it. It’s not evident in the waffles Lane’s been making for breakfast lately. I’ve been using Joy of Vegan Baking lately and having some successes there, but overall, I’m an old fashioned Paula Deen devotee… a stick of butter makes everything better. The Earth Balance works great as a savory substitution, but it’s not so great in sweets. When I use apple sauce or banana, things taste better. I just have to learn what works well together and what doesn’t and that takes time.

    Kiandra — I go into it knowing that there’s always a risk when you start changing a recipe. Sometimes it makes things oh so much better, and other times…. Anyway, good luck with the DBers. I

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.