Category Archives: Sweets

Vegan Lemon Cake for Every Occasion


Previously, I wrote about my experience trying to recreate a vegan version of a now-shuttered Tokyo bakery’s “lemon cake with wow”. As promised, I’ve continued my quest for a vegan lemon cake recipe that matches the best of non-vegan lemon cakes.

I tried both of the lemon cake recipes from Fairfoods (a bakery and caterer located in Devon, England), beginning with their gluten-free recipe. Since I had never used xantham gum, I followed the instructions closely (even weighing the ingredients–instead of using measuring cups–as professional bakers do) and also determined that the British “2 dssp” (dessert spoons) of ground flaxseeds translates to 4 teaspoons in American.

The gluten-free cake batter was so thick and viscous, I thought I had made a mistake, but Clare of Fairfoods assured me that thick and sticky batter is normal for xanthan gum, as long as it is not lumpy. “Always sieve the flours, xanthan and raising agents together,” she told me, “and give the batter a really good whisk so it is even. Just whisk as much as it needs and no more. ”

Sure enough, after baking, the cake’s consistency was spongy and moist.   Continue reading

Do You Like Coffee in Your Milk, or Milk in Your Coffee?

A recent article in the Washington Post discussing the effects of various foods on heart health identified the greatest health risk of coffee to be weight gain from blended coffee beverages packed with empty calories from sugar and dairy fat.

Lately, it seems the creator and biggest purveyor of the beverages has been trying to rise above criticism they’re as guilty as McDonalds and other fast food chains for contributing to high rates of obesity and diet-related diseases.

Along with introducing oatmeal to its menu, Starbucks published guides to 20 Drinks Under 200 Calories” as well as “Favorite Foods under 350 calories” on its website.  Unfortunately, Starbucks plays down the healthiest beverages (full-leaf teas, brewed coffee, espresso, caffe Americano, etc.) which all have under 10 calories. For example–if you’ve grown tired of Pike Place–did you know you can order any beans Starbucks carries be prepared with a French-press?

Adding milk or cream and sugar to brewed coffee is so common among Starbucks’ U.S. customers, the baristas “leave room” in the cup by default. No wonder hard-core coffee drinkers (those who know the difference between an ibrik and a v60) don’t take the chain seriously, especially after it introduced the lightly-roasted Blonde coffee (now its most popular), further blurring the line with pedestrian coffee.

Of course, only Starbucks’ pure coffees/teas and those made with soymilk–instead of dairy milk–are of any interest to those on a whole foods plant-based diet (those who haven’t given up caffeine, at least).

For the record, Starbucks custom-blended soymilk contains more calories and saturated fat than its skim milk. However, soymilk contains no cholesterol (vs 5g for non-fat milk) and does contain fiber, a beneficial nutrient found only in plant-based foods. Continue reading

Vegan Okara Oatmeal Carob Chip Cookies

Cooking with okara (soybean pulp) is fairly common among vegans attempting to make the most of the fiber rich bi-product of homemade soy milk. These versatile cookies served as breakfast, snack and energy bar on a recent visit to Hawaii. I found the recipe online, reduced the sweetener, and jazzed it up with spices from Veganomicon’s chewy oatmeal-raisin cookies.

Makes 20 large cookies


1 cup okara

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1-1/2 cups rolled oats (or quinoa flakes)

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup vegan carob

1/2 cup pecan (or other) nuts, sunflower seeds, etc

1/2 cup raisins

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon allspice

Continue reading

Craving a Wholesome Sweet? Try Halvah, the Ancient Candy

My mother used to buy halvah bars when I was young, believing it safe to keep the adult-tasting treats in the refrigerator–that was until I discovered just how delicious they were. After growing up and turning vegan, I rediscovered the wholesome snack.

Halvah of all varieties has been cherished all over the world for at least 3000 years, and is considered “food of the gods” by some accounts. The 2 main types are flour-based and nut-butter based. This sesame-based recipe is my favorite because it contains no animal products or sugar, instead using dates for sweetener. Note that many store bought halvah bars contain dairy products and eggs, so always check labels carefully.

I ground the sesame seeds into tahini without using any added oil, as per the original recipe. The food processor got very warm, and you may need to let it rest a while as you go. Unless you have a high-speed blender, you may prefer to purchase tahini instead of making it from scratch.

The recipe is quite flexible. You can adjust the number of dates you use depending on how sweet you like it (I used about 10 dates per 250g of sesame seeds), as well as stir in any kind of nuts and dried fruits you like. I added some tart dried cherries and vanilla syrup to a recent batch, and it came out tasting like a cherry pie!

While halvah is more nutritious than the typical candy bar, be aware it is far from low-calorie. According to the recipe’s author, it has 528 calories per 100g, and 70 percent of calories from fat. Portion control (and sharing) is advised, or you may devour the whole batch (1600 calories) before you know it.

Yet another reason to avoid added oils

Recently, in the course of looking for recipes using the natural sweetener and wonder food lucuma, I discovered one for butterscotch tahini bars containing tahini and coconut oil, a popular ingredient in raw vegan diets. Continue reading

Vegan Lemon Cake with “Wow”

A certain bakery makes a lemon cake with a perfect balance of sweetness, tartness, and softness. This undeniable “wow” factor is attested by their repeat customers, many who purchase lemon cakes as gifts.

Their secret lemon cake recipe took untold hours of development and tweaking. As you would expect, it contains lots of fresh lemons. Unfortunately, the cake is also loaded with eggs and butter and copious amount of sugar.

Putting aside sugar for later, my primary mission was to demonstrate it is possible to make a heavenly lemon cake “cruelty-free” (without eggs or dairy products). I assumed a pioneering vegan baker must surely have done it already…

Continue reading

Matcha Vegan Ice Cream Beats The Heat

Here’s an idea for those who love matcha but don’t find hot drinks quite so inviting in the summer.

While there are countless non-dairy ice cream recipes, few are matcha-flavored, and on the healthy side, too. I found one that used soy milk as a base, but wanted to experiment with some raw cashews I had on hand. I was so pleased with the results I wanted to share them with anyone else craving a mid-summer matcha fix. Continue reading

Almost Sugar-free Vegan Banana Blondies

I had been overbuying bananas on sale lately and realized there’s no way we were going to eat them all, unless I got busy baking.

Problem is, since watching Robert Lustig’s video “The Bitter Truth” calling sugar a poison, I can hardly bring myself to use sugar, even when baking sweets. The other day, I prepared my favorite (PPK’s) banana bread recipe minus sugar for the first time, and honestly thought it could have done with a few chocolate chips. So, when a recipe calls for chocolate chips–even semi-sweet ones–like this one for banana blondies, it wasn’t a difficult choice to leave the sugar out of the blondie dough.

Until recently, I had routinely cut the amount of sugar in recipes by half, or even two-thirds, in addition to reducing processed fat like oil and margarine to a minimum. As time went on, I found the taste was often still too sweet, but I didn’t reduce sugar further for fear of ruining the original recipe or winding up with something friends or house guests would find inedible! Continue reading

Crustless Vegan Pumpkin Pie

I had been saving FatFreeVegan’s “Impossible Vegan Pumpkin Pie” recipe to make for over a year, but always seem to find other more pressing uses for the Japanese squash (kabocha) I buy. Pumpkins are so versatile, able to be used in anything from soup or curry to baked items and pasta dough or even ravioli filling.

The best thing about this pie is that you don’t need to prepare any crust, which of course saves both time and calories. In fact, I just learned the reason it’s called “Impossible” is because you can grab a piece of pie in your hands without making a mess. And here I thought it was enough of a feat to make the pie vegan and crust-free, but it’s also gluten-free and fat-free!

The only place I deviated from FFV’s recipe was to reduce the sugar from 3/4 cup to 1/4 cup. It still tastes plenty sweet to me, but you may want to go with the original amount if you prefer it that way. You could also add additional sweetness with a dab of non-dairy whipped topping.

No need to wait for Thanksgiving with such an easy and delicious recipe!