It’s long been said amongst the vegan community that one of the biggest (and easiest) things we can do to help open people’s hearts and minds towards adopting a cruelty-free diet is to show people that it is possible to not feel deprived, that there is no real sacrifice in living this way and you CAN have your cake and eat it (pun intended). It’s a great activism tool for people that might not be comfortable doing other more direct things like leafletting or going to protests.
A couple of weeks ago the idea of a bake off was suggested by some members of staff on one of our inservice days at my amazing school, the rationale being that it will put some fun in to the proceedings and bring a sense of community. I thought that was a fantastic idea. I immediately got thinking that I should contribute something to this because this would be a fab opportunity for some baketivism, potentially showing the whole teaching staff about how delicious vegan baking could be. A few people already knew, but how awesome to show so many people in such a public setting!
I am a huge believer in the power of baketivism (a term coined by legendary vegan cookbook writer, Isa Chandra Moscovitz) and something I have been doing for a long time. Bringing in delicious baked goods has not only surprised people by how tasty they are, but many times has started a conversation about this issue. As anyone who knows me will be aware. I want to have a conversation about this issue and this is a great way to do it.
I had a lot of doubts. What if my baked goods didn’t make the cut. I wasn’t baking for myself (I am seriously not competitive), but for the animals and if they were not good enough then I would be letting down the animals. It sometimes felt like it would be easier to not bother, then I decided that I’d suck it up and do it with all the effort I could muster.I was also up against a lot of very good bakers. Yikes.
I decided to bake three different things. From following many blogs I knew that there were several recipes out there that were supposed to be off the hook awesome. I wanted to choose items that were especially decadent and possibly a bit fancier. I usually can’t be bothered with cupcakes. I suck at decorating and cupcakes require 2 phases, the cakes, and then the frosting. Meh!! Still, this was worth the investment of time. Thankfully we were off school for a few days so I could get ready.
My choices were;
1. Peanut butter and chocolate pillows from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar
2. Chocolate and Banana Cheesecake from Vegan Pie in the Sky
3. Chloe’s Award Winning Ginger Nutmeg-Spiced Cupcakes from Chloe’s Kitchen.
I was especially keen to try the cupcakes. Gorgeous (and amazing ambassador for vegan living) Chloe competed against 3 other bakers using conventional ingredients in a TV show on the Food Network called Cupcake Wars and won much to the shock of the cupcake community! Would I have the same success?
So, over lunch the day before the ‘Shut Your Cake Hole’ baking contest we talked about how the ‘contest’ would look like. It was decided that there would be a panel of 4 judges and they would sample all the baked goods and rate them on presentation, taste and texture. People sampling the baked goods would pay 10,000 IPR for a small plateful of whatever they liked and would get a couple of counters. They would be able to place their counters in a cup next to the baked goods they thought were their favourites. This would serve as the People’s Choice award. It was also decided that we were try to keep the bakers’ identity secret. I was really pleased with this because on one hand I didn’t want people to be prejudiced against vegan goods and on the other hand I wanted vegan goods to stand alongside non-vegan baked goods as equals because I truly believe that they ARE as delicious as conventionally baked goods.
So, I knew what I was cooking but it did not go smoothly. I’d never cooked any of these dishes before. I wasn’t sure about the chocolate cheesecake. It didn’t look that great and the bottom layer looked a little gray. This is probably because it of the banana in the it but I still wasn’t happy. I also had a crisis with the cupcakes. I thought I had followed the recipe properly the day before, but as I was cooking them, there was something that was not quite right. The cupcakes were taking too long to cook and they just didn’t look right when they came out of the oven. Early this morning (the morning of the bake off) I woke up early (as usual) and realised that I had used the wrong milk. I had used (homemade) almond milk from an unlabelled bottle instead of coconut milk (which was in a similar bottle). Stoopid, stoopid, stoopid!!!! This was probably the problem. The cupcakes would have a substancially lower amount of fat using almond milk and this would probably impact the taste. The chocolate peanut butter pillows did not look anything like the beautiful pictures on PPK website or on other blogposts I’ve seen. I changed the name to choc peanut butter cookies.
So, I made another batch of cupcakes at 5:30 in the morning of the bake off. I frosted them at home, had a panic on the way to school that the frosting would slide off the cupcakes in the heat of an Indonesian morning. Had another crisis of confidence when I thought that my frosting looked like a white dog turd.
At 10, bakers met to plate our goods and for me to dribble over my date caramel sauce and give them a dusting of cinnamon. There was a respectable amount of entries, I think about 12 in all. The judges each had a plate with each entry on it in a taster portion. As we stuffed our faces I glanced over at the judges who were taking the job very seriously. Everyone was enjoying the baked goods but I was so worried about how many counters would be in the cups?
Towards the end of our morning tea break, our enigmatic head of school, John from the judging panel announced the results. Would this be a victory for the animals or not?
Well, I was beside myself when John announced that a chocolate slice had won 3rd prize this was actually my chocolate and banana cheesecake. Huzzah! A victory! Second place went to a dear colleague friend of mine who won with her mini-cupcakes beautifully decorated. First place was described as a muffin with lava on top!!! Sally said “Brighde, I think it’s yours!!” And it was!!! The cupcakes won the bake off. To top it all off, the cupcakes also won the People’s Choice Award! I was so excited. Seriously excited!! This felt like a wonderful victory for the animals in my little activist’s world.
My Chocolate Banana Cheesecake and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pillows.
The winning cupcakes
Some other gorgeous entries! Some very inventive ones, for those that do not have ovens.
Sally’s beautiful mini cupcakes
People enjoying all the baked goods.
The judges’ tasting platters
John taking his role very seriously! 🙂
The judges are hard at it!
My prize to keep until the next bake off sitting proudly on my desk in my classroom.