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Vegan baking delights customers—including non-vegans

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 3:24 PST, Fri February 7, 2020

Have you ever tried a cookie or brownie, enjoyed it, and then been shocked to learn it was vegan—made without egg or dairy products?

Vegan baking is a growing commercial industry, part of a larger-scale push to cater to customers with dietary restrictions or allergies. 

For some bakers, vegan recipes are a challenge. For some, they have become a hobby.

For Richmond baker Monica Tang, vegan baking is a career. Tang quit her job last July to focus on baking full-time. She currently bakes out of her home, but along with a business partner—who owns a local matcha tea company—is planning to open a storefront in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. 

“Because I’m partnering with her, we’re sharing the workload of having to get permits and a budget and a business plan and everything. We’re doing that together, so it’s a lot better than if I was just doing it myself. We’re learning together,” Tang says of her partnership with Kimmy, owner of Whisk Matcha.

“A lot of my customers, I know they aren’t vegan, but they might have a child who has a dairy allergy or an egg allergy and they can’t go and get a cupcake from another bakery. Having a vegan bakery in the community is very beneficial for those who have a food allergy,” says Tang.

Tang began vegan baking as a hobby.

“I went vegan, and my friend who’s vegan as well wanted me to make her a birthday cake,” she says. After making that cake, she advertised her goods on a Facebook group geared towards local vegans, and her business took off through word of mouth.

Tang offers a variety of cakes on her website. Each one is fresh and custom-made, and some can also be made nut-free or gluten-free. She also makes vegan macarons in more than 10 flavours. All her baking is vegan.

The biggest challenge, says Tang, was replacing butter with a vegan substitute called Earth Balance. However, Earth Balance doesn’t have the same hardness as butter, so can be something of a challenge.

“When you’re making icing, (Earth Balance) melts really easily compared to butter,” she says. “That’s a huge challenge that’s really hard to overcome in the summer. You don’t really need eggs when you’re making sponge cake, and also there are other alternatives like aquafaba, which I use for my macarons,” Tang explains.

Aquafaba is the term for the water in which legume seeds—for example, chickpeas—have been cooked. Due to its viscosity, it makes a good substitute for eggs in recipes that require frothy or whipped egg whites.

“It took me a while to have my recipe finalized for my vegan macarons. I would use different amounts of the aquafaba versus the almond flour, and it’s a completely different bake time compared to traditional French macarons,” says Tang.

Compared to traditional macarons, which use eggs and cream, Tang says her vegan creations take longer to bake.

“With eggs it takes 20 minutes, with aquafaba it takes two hours (to bake),” she says.

Tang’s best-selling item is her tiramisu cake, which she sells wholesale to several retailers. It is made out of vanilla cake soaked with coffee, and then the icing is coconut cream.

Despite initially venturing into vegan baking as what she calls a “side hustle,” Tang has made it her full-time passion. 

“People liked what I made and I’m good at it, so that brought me here,” she says, referring to the success and future storefront of her business.

“My favourite thing is when I receive a text, an email, and they say they love the cake that I made them and they’re going to order again for their grandma or something like that,” says Tang.

To learn more about Tang’s baking or to support her kickstarter, visit her website.

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