Sunday, May 11, 2008

Compassionate Cupcakes

I would be a terrible vegan.
I’m sure I could commit to the lifestyle for perhaps the morning, or for a period of time between lunch and dinner (unless I have a cup of afternoon tea), but anything surpassing a few hours would truly be pushing it. That being said, I have a great amount of respect for vegans, and how closely they live according to their beliefs. I appreciate their general sincerity and their limitless compassion, what encouraged them to live a vegan lifestyle in the first place. What I truly marvel at, though, are vegan chefs and bakers. I know there was a time when being a vegan baker would have been an unimaginable feat; after all, how do you bake without eggs? Or milk? Or chocolate chips!? But nowadays, there are so many food substitutes and ingredient choices that not only is it possible to bake vegan, but it’s not difficult to bake vegan with mouth-watering results.

This is what I discovered this weekend at Cake Shop in the Lower East Side. On the counter of the café sat a tray of cupcakes with an obvious dividing line between two separate sets of cupcakes. On the right were some chocolate and red velvet cupcakes, sprinkles on top, slightly oversized and very tempting. On the left was a collection of smaller cupcakes, some with green frosting (lime), some chocolate, some vanilla, and one with a nut-flavored frosting. These were the vegan cakes. I took a moment to study the vegan side and the non, and compare the two, attempting to determine what the differences might be. Size aside, the cakes appeared nearly identical.

Hoping to expand my palate, I went for the vegan cupcake (chocolate on chocolate) and took it to a table near the back where the solo diners/coffee drinkers sat, laptops open, probably working on important pieces of literature, or at the very least, their vegan blogs.

It would be inaccurate to say that I bit into the cupcake with a bit of trepidation, because vegan or not, it was still a chocolate cupcake. But I did bring it to my mouth with a minute hint of suspicion. How do they do it? Can a vegan cupcake really be as good as one that makes no apologies when mixing in butter, eggs, milk?

I can’t say for sure how they do it, but I can answer the second question with a confident “yes.” If I had picked that cupcake up off an unmarked tray at a party, I would never have guessed that it was made with anything but the most non-vegan ingredients. The cake was moist and the frosting creamy – truly a perfect chocolate cupcake.

I must give credit to all the vegan bakers, who meticulously create recipes that compromise neither their values nor their love for a delicious dessert. After a very limited search at a nearby bookstore and later online, I uncovered a handful of vegan cookbooks, like The Joy of Vegan Baking and Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan , all including recipes for treats like éclairs, apple crumble, and, yes, chocolate chip cookies.

I thoroughly enjoyed being vegan for a couple of hours, but a slice of homemade spinach quiche for dinner followed my compassionate cupcake. However, I’d be excited to try a vegan baking recipe as an interesting challenge – not simply to make a cookie or cake that’s incredible for vegan food, but to make an incredible cookie or cake that just happens to be vegan.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yay! Vegan baking! Knew all I had to do was bide my time and you'd go there ;) Love Cazore xx