Vegan cakes, cookies, and pies have been never more delicious, and we want to share with you how it’s done. To take the mystery out of baking without eggs and dairy, we went straight to one of the sweetest sweets experts around—Fran Costigan, a renowned vegan pastry chef in New York City. Here are Fran’s tips for baking up extraordinary vegan desserts.
What it does: In baking, butter adds flavor and a rich, sometimes spongy texture. It also helps baked goods rise evenly and adds to both the density and sweetness.
How to substitute: Butter is extremely easy to substitute in vegan baking. The simplest swap is margarine, and we don’t know any vegan baker whose refrigerator doesn’t include a tub of Earth Balance. Unrefined coconut oil (which is solid at room temperature) can add the thickness that butter would, and canola oil works in recipes with liquid sugars (think agave) or solid fats, such as ground nuts or chocolate in cakes. Vegan shortening works well with cookies, pie crusts, and frostings.
What it does: Milk adds flavor and richness and creates texture in baking.
How to substitute: Milk is a cinch to substitute in vegan baking, as many non-dairy milks already exist. Full-fat soymilk will help create the richness of whole milk, while rice milk is lighter. Almond milk can add a subtle almond taste, as can coconut milk, and both will contribute to the richness of a recipe. For added vanilla oomph, try vanilla-flavored non-dairy milk.
What it does: Eggs add moisture and act as a binding agent in baking. They are also a leavening agent, helping food to rise during baking.
How to substitute: Milk might be the easiest ingredient to substitute, but a close second goes to egg substitutes . Ground flax seeds are a popular substitute that are also nutritious—three tablespoons of water to one tablespoon of ground flax seeds equates to one egg. Mashed banana and applesauce are other healthy alternatives that completely cut out the cholesterol eggs add to baking. And the popular Ener-G Egg Replacer powder sold in stores will work in most baked goods.
What it does: Honey acts as a natural sweetener. It also helps to brown your baked goods, adds color, and retains moisture.
How to substitute: Simply reach for other viscous liquids, such as maple syrup, rice syrup, or agave nectar. They add the same natural sweetness and contribute to the browning effects.
What it does: Cream creates a smooth and sometimes fluffy texture in baked goods. It adds richness, and can make for a satin-like quality.
How to substitute: The richness of coconut milk can make a good replacement for cream. For a homemade replacement, blend one-part cashews and one part water until smooth. There are also a variety of non-dairy creams and creamers on the market.