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No meat!: Sweet-toothed vegans bake their cakes and eat them, too

When Vedika Webb became vegan in 1991, she started baking because she was hungry.

Eventually, she began sharing her creations with friends, and soon Webb, who lives in Philadelphia, was taking orders.

In 1999, she made her first wedding cakes, and became one of a small group of people who offer vegan wedding cakes.

“It’s really hard to find vegan wedding cakes,” says Allison Rivers Samson, the owner of Allison’s Gourmet, an online vegan bakery based in Nevada City, Calif. “A lot of vegan cakes are bad, and it’s too bad because it doesn’t have to be that way.”

The trick to good vegan baking is not to approach it like there’s a deficit, Rivers Samson says.

Both women say their vegan bakery businesses have grown every year. Some customers order Webb’s food for health or ethical reasons and others seek out her baked goods because they have allergies, says Webb, who plans to open her bakery in a commercial space in mid-July.

There have been a few skeptics, who ask snide questions: “Is it going to be made with lettuce?” Webb says.

However, most become believers after the first bite – even if the bite doesn’t contain dairy products, sugar, honey or eggs.

“I’ve gotten some pretty rave reviews,” Webb says, adding that she’s even fooled wedding guests into thinking a vegan bride ordered a traditional cake. Rivers Samson has fooled quite a few nonvegans as well.

Before she began her business, she would share her treats with unsuspecting co-workers.

“I always waited (to tell them it was vegan) until after they’d eaten it because people have their preconceived notions,” she says.

Rivers Samson offers chocolates, cookies or brownies as wedding favors, and on occasion she’s been talked into making cakes for weddings. “My philosophy about dessert is if it’s not good, why eat it?” she says.

“I would rather go without dessert than eat something that tastes bad.”

Here is a recipe for a vegan cheesecake.

Contact Liz Kohman at lkohman@stcloud.gannett.com.Source: “The Tofu Cookbook,” by Leah Leneman


Raspberry Tofu Cheesecake

Agar-agar, which is used in this recipe, is derived from seaweed, works like gelatin and is available in health food stores and natural foods supermarkets.

1/3 cup rolled oats

1/6 cup shredded coconut

1 tablespoon vegetable margarine

1 1/2 cups firm tofu

2 tablespoons soy yogurt

2 tablespoons raw cane sugar

1/2 orange, juice and rind

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons tahini

pinch of sea salt

2 to 3 tablespoons honey or honey substitute

4 tablespoons water

1/8 teaspoon powdered agar-agar

4 ounces fresh raspberries

Mix the oats and the coconut together. Spread the margarine over the bottom of a flan tin, then sprinkle the oat and coconut mixture over it. Set aside.

Combine the tofu, yogurt, sugar, orange juice and rind, vanilla, tahini and salt in a blender. Blend thoroughly. Pour into the flan pan.

Melt the honey in the water in a small pan over medium heat and dissolve the agar-agar in it. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the raspberries. Pour over the tofu mixture in the flan tin.

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Chill for several hours before serving.


On the Web

Gourmet: www.allisonsgourmet.com

Lotus Cake Studio: www.lotuscakestudio.com

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