Q&A about vegan baking with Ms Cupcake
Ms Cupcake, author of The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town and owner of an award-winning bakery, answered your questions about vegan baking in May 2013.
Ms Cupcake is a glamorous, Fifties-styled vegan baker who dreams of bringing decadent vegan baking to the masses. She launched London's first entirely vegan cake shop in Brixton in April 2011, which was recently shortlisted for Britain's Best Bakery on ITV. In her first sumptuous book, Ms Cupcake shares her secret recipes and enthusiasm for delicious vegan cakes and bakes.
Have a look at her vegan recipes for red velvet cupcakes, blueberry almond crumble cupcakes and cream cheese buttercream icing.
Q. KennytheKangaroo: I'd like to know what kind of shortening you use for your buttercream toppings and does it really make a difference as I've always thought it would taste odd.
A. Ms Cupcake: The brand of vegetable shortening readily found in the UK is Trex. It doesn't have any 'taste' so it won't add a strange flavour to your buttercream, but it will allow your icing to 'stand up'. You can omit it and use equal amounts of dairy-free margarine but your buttercream will not hold its shape for very long and you run the risk of it separating.
Q. Carmel99: I too would like to know what you use for butter in your icing. I use dairy-free margarine, but it doesn't keep its shape when on the cake. I've had your cakes in Greenwich and they're gorgeous. Also, do you measure in cups in your book? I've yet to find a good vegan cake recipe book that doesn't, and measuring fat by volume strikes me as madness!
A. Ms Cupcake: The secret to making your icing stand up is the addition of a solid fat (like Trex) to your dairy-free margarine. This is what helps to give your icing shape. Also, I know what you mean about weight measures. And yes, our book features both cup measures and weight measures for every recipe.
Q. BooBoo: Is there an alternative to soya cream cheese that would be suitable for someone with allergies to nuts, dairy and soya, or could you suggest an alternative topping?
A. Ms Cupcake: Soya is becoming a much more widely found allergen, but there are so many different plant-based 'milks' on the market now that there are load of ways around the soya problem. My suggestion is that you use rice milk as your alternative.
As for the cream cheese in the icing, there are only soya-based non-dairy cream cheeses currently on the market. My suggestion is that you instead make a vanilla buttercream using a dairy-free/soya free sunflower based margarine (Pure Sunflower or Vitalite) Trex, rice milk, vanilla extract/essence and icing sugar.
Q. ppeatfruit: I'm looking for a good moist recipe for an almond lemon cake and am having difficulty finding one without eggs. I'm allergic to coconut oil and potato.
A. Ms Cupcake: Almonds are a great ingredient as they add moisture to a cake while still holding the cake shape, so can also be used in lieu of flour if you are trying to create a gluten-free cake. However, if you take out the flour completely it can result in a very dense cake.
For a simple sponge cake try: 120g self-raising flour (gluten-free self-raising is fine), 80g of ground almonds, 1 tsp of baking powder, 80ml of a flavourless oil (rapeseed, sunflower, canola etc), 200ml of soya or rice milk, tsp of vanilla extract/essence, and the zest of 1-2 lemons.
Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl and then add the liquid ingredients, stir by hand for about 20 seconds until just combined and then bake in a greased 8", 9", or 10" pan at 180°C for 20 minutes. Add a glaze of icing if you wish.
Q. Superroz: I'd like to know is there a way to make egg-free marshmallow and meringue? I would love to have a go at making a dairy and egg-free teacake (the ones with shortbread, marshmallow and covered in chocolate), and lemon meringue pie.
A. Ms Cupcake: There is a product on the market called No-Egg (found in health food stores) which is a commercially made egg-replacement product. It is a collection of different starches (so nothing strange in it) and they explain how to use their product to make meringue - and it really does work. This will work a treat for your lemon meringue pie, however keep in mind that the meringue will eventually go soggy so try to eat the pie on the same day you make it.
As for the teacakes, I think you need more of a marshmallow recipe and, as I mention in another answer, I always tell people to start with a ready-to-go kit until they are comfortable with the making process and then they can start to blend their own ingredients.
Q. CMOTDibbler: I've been making nut butter cookies lately, and though they are gluten free and dairy free easily, I'd appreciate suggestions for binding them without eggs.
A. Ms Cupcake: Eggs are easy to replace in cookies. For a 'wholesome' cookie try using 30-40g of puréed apple, pear, pumpkin or banana for each egg you want to replace (but remember that the flavour of the fruit or vegetable will be noticeable in your bake). Or try using ground flaxseed. Mix 1 tbsp of ground flax seed with 3 tbsp of water and leave to sit for a few minutes. It will turn gloopy like egg white. Note that flaxseed does not completely dissolve, so you will still be able to see brown flecks of seed in your baking but it doesn't add any 'taste' to the bake.
Finally, try using a commercially made egg replacement. It creates awesome cookies that are crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. All of the different brands will have directions for use on the box, but feel free to play around.
Q. Uzma01: What are your tried-and-tested egg replacement suggestions? I've heard and read several suggestions, have tried egg replacer and vinegar but haven't been too happy with the results. I would ideally like something that's not too costly and is readily available.
A. Ms Cupcake: This is the question we get asked all the time. I tell people, the key thing to remember is there isn't one replacer that fits every recipe: different ingredients and methods work for different types of bakes. It's not a 'one-size fits all' scenario, I'm afraid. My basic suggestions are:
- Cakes, cupcakes, muffins - curdled soya milk method (vinegar) or vegetable/fruit purees
- Cookies - commercial egg replacer
- Traybakes - Flaxseed or soya yogurts or silken tofu
Remember to also use baking powder and/or bicarb for rising in addition to the above methods.
Q. Shelley72: My daughter is intolerant to dairy and allergic to soya. Would there be any alternative to the milk and soya cream cheese for the cakes?
A. Ms Cupcake: When we have a customer allergic to soya our next go-to milk is rice milk. It gives the sponges of the cake a slightly different texture with a few air pockets, but really tastes light and fluffy.
As for the cream cheese in the icing, there are only soya-based non-dairy cream cheeses currently on the market. My suggestion is that you instead make a vanilla buttercream using a dairy-free/soya free sunflower-based margarine (Pure Sunflower or Vitalite) Trex, rice milk, vanilla extract/essence and icing sugar. I am working on a soya-free cream cheese recipe at the moment, so perhaps it will be in our next cookbook.
Q. Lentilasanything: I'd love to hear any recipes if you make your own (beetroot etc), or which brands you recommend if ready-bought. Any other links to cake decorating supplies?
A. Ms Cupcake: You can certainly produce your own natural food colourings using beetroot, berries and so on, but you will really only ever achieve pastel colours, and the flavour will be imparted in your bake.
If you are looking to achieve vibrant colours, like in the picture, you need to look at commercially made colourings. There are different types of food colouring - liquid, gel and pastes. The liquid kind is stocked in most supermarkets but it is really hard to get a decent colour from them without changing the texture of your bake because you are adding liquid to the mixture.
Plus, the majority of liquid colours (including the 'natural' ones) contain animal-derived E120 (Cochineal). Professional cake makers generally opt for colouring pastes - you can get vibrant colours and the texture/taste won't change. These are usually artificial colours but are safe for vegetarian and vegans. If you are worried about the artificial ingredients, opt for a colour that says 'Tartrazine free', as this is the ingredient that can cause hyperactivity and other reactions in children.
Food colouring paste stockists include:
For natural liquid colours (that are also vegan) look for American brand India Tree.
Q. HeyBongo: I've seen vegan doughnut and yum yum recipes online but haven't dared try any yet, and the recipes seem to vary. Can you share a recipe for a novice, or offer tips? Bake them or fry them?
A. Ms Cupcake: If you are using a yeast-based recipe you really need to fry it. The baked doughnuts are much more like a cake than a bready doughnut. Vegan doughnuts definitely need to be eaten within a few hours of making them. You can whip up a batch of your own at home as our recipe is in our cookbook Ms. Cupcake: The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town.
Q. forcookssake: I would love a recipe for vegan marshmallows, or a marshmallow-style cupcake frosting please.
A. Ms Cupcake: Vegan marshmallows are tricky beasts. They take a fair amount of time to make and they don't always turn out. If you are new to making marshmallows without gelatine I suggest that you try your first time by using a marshmallow kit. We sell them at our shop and you can also get them online here: Amanda foods. This way you have a pre-measured set of ingredients and you can just stay focused on the how-to process. Also, pick yourself up a candy thermometer - it will make the process so much easier.
Q. Totallyeggflipped: My sister-in-law is vegan and I'd love to bake her something that I can take when I go to see her, but I'd need to be able to make it a couple of days in advance and it would need to travel well (flight to France.). She also follows a very low-fat diet, so ideally oil-free too. Do you have any suggestions or any recipes that would fit the bill??
A. Ms Cupcake: We don't really do anything fat-free at Ms. Cupcake I'm afraid. However, I can recommend that you look at one of my favourite cookbooks - Secrets of Fat-free Baking by Sandra Woodruff. It is not a vegan book but it actually contains a lot of recipes that are 'accidentally vegan' or are easily veganized.
There is a great recipe for a fat-free orange loaf cake (which happens to be vegan) in that book, which is super-yummy. Once you have baked the loaf cake and it has cooled, wrap it tightly in cling film to hold in the moisture. You can also freeze it and then take it on the plane with you in a frozen state to help preserve the freshness.
Q. Orangeblossom2: Any tips for a dense vegan fruit cake suitable as a wedding cake and able to stand up to being dowelled and tiered?
A. Ms Cupcake: The fruitcake recipe we make is essentially the same as a traditional fruit cake, but we omit the eggs completely. Because of the fruit and the long, slow baking, the eggs aren't really necessary. I've found a recipe on the Vegan Society's website which is similar to the recipe we use.
Q. CecyHall: Are you planning on opening any more branches of your bakery, either in London or further afield?
A. Ms Cupcake: Yes we are. We are planning significant expansion in the coming 18-24 months, which will include more branches in the UK as well as branches in Europe or possibly the Middle East.
Q. Hystericalparoxysm: Please could you open a branch in Brighton? There are lots of us vegans down here and we would gobble up all your cakes with glee.
A. Ms Cupcake: Yes we have always said (and are still sticking to this) that our second branch of Ms. Cupcake will be in Brighton. We hope to open our doors in the next 18-24 months.
Q. SundaySimmons: My question would be, how do I find out if sugar is vegan or not? Many foodstuffs say suitable for vegetarians but not vegan, even if they are suitable for vegans. Sugar is a really tricky one as some sugar is vegan and some isn't.
A. Ms Cupcake: There is a bit of a misconception when it comes to sugar. It is correct that a lot of sugar in the world is NOT vegan, but if you are in the UK you can rest assured that all of UK-made sugar (except royal icing sugar) is actually vegan and not refined using bone char.
Additionally, many other countries in Europe, as well as Australia and New Zealand, have banned the use of bone char in the refining process.
Where you need to be careful is if you are buying products made in America where a good amount of the sugar manufactured is not vegan. Unless the product is labelled vegan or 100% organic (all certified USDA organic sugar is vegan), you need to contact the manufacturers directly to find out what sugar is in their products.
Q. VeganCow: Can I ask if you are vegan for dietary or moral reasons?
A. Ms Cupcake: Hahaha, I love this question. I'm a very 'rotund' lady, so a diet of cookies/cakes (vegan or not) is not a great way to slim. I'm a vegan because of ethical reasons. I firmly believe that every living thing should be given the right to do just that - live. However, I'm also intolerant to dairy, so I have lived most of my life drinking soya milk.