Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Homemade Vegan Birthday Cakes

The Topic: Homemade vegan birthday cakes that taste great and are budget friendly

The Dish: It’s no secret that I love to bake. I’ve always enjoyed baking, and grew up spending hours in the kitchen making cookies, brownies, cakes, and bars any chance I got. When I went vegan 16 years ago, a whole new world of dessert-making opened up to me, and I learned everything I could about what to use in place of eggs, butter, and cream. I discovered that incredible baked goods can be made without the use of any animal products, and it’s the binder, the fat, and the liquid that’s necessary in the chemistry of baking—not the dairy products themselves. Plant-based alternatives work just as well, if not better, and my baking repertoire now includes everything from egg replacer and white vinegar to non-hydrogenated margarine and soy creamer.

Here at the VegNews offices, we celebrate a lot of birthdays. And what better way to fête someone’s special day than with a homemade, vegan cake in the birthday guy’s/gal’s favorite flavor? After a few years of ordering in cakes for staff birthdays, I realized that the quality would be much better if I made the cakes myself (nothing beats a freshly made cake), and, guess what? The cost to make a cake is at least half of what it costs to buy one from Whole Foods or a local bakery. Yes, it takes time, but if you enjoy baking, I promise the reward will be worth it. It’s a wonderful feeling to give something from the heart to someone you care about, and now I look forward to our VN birthday celebrations all year long.

So what recipes do I use for my cake-baking? I’ve found a few tried-and-true favorites that our staffers seem to love—and then I customize it for the particular person. For VN Office Manager Lyndsay Orwig and VN Editor-at-Large Laura Beck’s recent birthdays (just days apart), I made a vanilla cake with vanilla buttercrème filling and frosting, all topped with fresh strawberries (which had just come in season). For Managing Editor Elizabeth Castoria’s June soirée, I whipped up a cocoa cake with vanilla buttercrème filling and frosting, and topped it with raspberries. And for Art Director Sutton Long’s upcoming celebration (Sutton, don't read this!), I am planning a triple-threat chocolate cake given her love for all-things chocolate. And the cost for each one? A very budget-friendly $12.

Lyndsay and Laura's vanilla cake with vanilla buttercrème filling and frosting, topped with fresh strawberries

Elizabeth's chocolate cake with vanilla buttercrème filling and frosting, topped with fresh raspberries

Here are some of my go-to cake and frosting recipes, all courtesy of the incredible vegan recipe resource, VegWeb.com:

And here's my favorite vegan buttercrème recipe:

Colleen's Vegan Buttercrème
This filling/frosting is easy to make and easy to customize. Add 3/4 cup sifted cocoa powder or three 1-ounce melted squares of unsweetened chocolate for an out-of-this world chocolate version.

Frosts and fills one 9-inch cake

What You Need:
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (I like Spectrum)
1/2 cup non-hydrogentated margarine (I like Earth Balance)
2 teaspoons vanilla or one scraped vanilla bean
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
3 to 4 tablespoons soy creamer

What You Do:
1. In a large bowl, cream together shortening and margarine. Alternatively, whip together in a food processor, but the frosting won't come out as light and fluffy. Add vanilla or vanilla bean until combined.

2. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, while beating at a medium speed. When all sugar is added in, add soy creamer one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. If need a slightly thicker frosting, chill for one hour before frosting your cake.

The Final Word: For a birthday to remember, bake up a customized cake that will be loved by all and is good for the pocketbook. The sky's the limit on how creative you can get, and don't forget the candles!


  1. These look awesome! I will also make sure to pass these recipes on to my sister! I love vegan food and I am trying to get her to make me some vegan goodies!

  2. $12 sounds expensive. Does it really cost that much to make each cake?!

  3. Hey there Kriss! What ups the price is adding fresh, organic fruit. If it was just the cake and frosting, the cost would be around $6 or $7. But I love the addition of seasonal fruit, so that does increase the price. It's still a bargain, as the per-slice cost works out to be about $1.20 each (and those are huge slices). Enjoy!

  4. See, a nonvegan cake would be much cheaper than this, of course the fats would be less healthy though. Earth Balance, soy creamer and vegetable shortening are a bit costly aren't they? I wish someone would write an affordable, healthier vegan cake recipe!

    P.S. I know this is about relative price, to a pricier, fancy vegan cake... but I don't want relative affordability, I want actual affordability. And I am on a VERY tight budget.

  5. Never mind, that was for the frosting? And I already know how to make a much cheaper frosting. Carry on! :D

  6. what do you use for soy creamer

    anon give us the cheaper frosting recipe

  7. You think $12 is a lot?! Crap! I have to do mine gluten free AND vegan! it runs me about $20 PER cake to make!!!!!

  8. Seriously $12 is expensive?! For a WHOLE VEGAN cake,if you order from a bakery 1. they charge more for vegan 2. Minimum cost starts at $25-30. I'll take the $12!! And you might even have some of these ingredients if you are already following a Veg. diet.... I cant wait to try out these recipes:)

  9. Please arrange a quick competition so that international countries can design #JoaquinPhoenix, 40th birthday cards for today!