Starting out can be a bit daunting as you’re using ingredients and techniques you haven’t used before. Vegan baking relies on some simple principles about the ingredients you are using, how to combine them and how to cook them. Once you have that down, baking will be a breeze.
Here are some useful baking tips to help you:
- Follow the recipe exactly. If it says “sift the flour” then sift it.
- Always pre-heat your oven so items go in at the right temperature.
- Invest in a stand mixer or electric whisk, it will save you time and will give you better results.
- Weigh your ingredients properly or use measuring cups, and use the same units of measurements for everything.
- Roll out doughs on a floured surface or you will get a sticky mess.
- When you need to combine a lot of different dry ingredients do that into a separate bowl, and the same for wet ingredients, then combine the two. You usually add wet to dry ingredients.
- Use the right size pan or dish and grease it well.
Most ingredients in a vegans baking cupboard are the same as everyone else, but here are a few things to look out for.
Vegan Margarine is stocked in almost all supermarkets these days. Some recipes call for oil instead of solid fat, so look for a neutral oil such as omega-3 rich rapeseed oil, as strong oils like olive oil will add a strange flavour to your baking.
- Greenvale (Avocado & Coconut/Rapeseed) – from aldi
- Asda Avocado, Coconut & Rapeseed oil spreads
- Biona coconut spread
- JDS (an Irish brand) – from Heron foods
- Koko dairy free
- M&S made without dairy spreads
- Morrisons avocado oil spread
- Mouse’s Favourite
- Nutcrafter Creamery
- Suma olive & soya spreads
- Sainsbury’s free from spread
- Sunlite – from Heron Foods
- T.E.Stockwell & Co – from Tesco
- Tesco coconut, avocado & free from spreads
- Tiana spreadable – from Holland & Barrett
- Tomor (not the red tub) – from Waitrose & Jewish stores
- Waitrose avocado & rapeseed spreads
And of course, what about eggs? Eggs are used to add moisture, lift, structure and to help the ingredients bind together. Different egg replacers perform different functions depending on the recipe you are looking at.
- 1 can of coke – for cakes
- 1 tbsp Ogran egg replacement powder + 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp ground flaxseed + 3 tbsp water
- Aquafaba – meringue, mousse, anything that needs egg whites
- 1 tbsp chia seeds + 3 tbsp water
- 2 tsp baking powder + 2 tbsp water + 1 tbsp oil – cookies, muffins, soda bread
- 1/2 cup ripe mashed banana – cookies & brownies
- 1/4 cup of applesauce – cookies, brownies, cakes & muffins
- 1/4 cup of canned pumpkin – cakes, muffins, cupcakes & breads
- 1/4 cup of silken tofu, pureed
- 1 tbsp agar agar + 4 tbsp boiling water
- 2 tbsp potato starch – thickening sauces
- 2 tbsp mashed white or sweet potatoes – meatfloaf
- 2 tbsp instant mash flakes – binding meatloaf, burgers or meatballs
- 2 tbsp tomato paste – meatloaf
Most of the sugar in the UK isn’t bleached with bone char so the majority of the big brands are fine. You might want to use unbleached sugar though to be on the safe side. Most baking recipes call for caster sugar, which gives a fine delicate sponge.
- caster sugar
- coconut sugar
- maple syrup
- fruit syrup
- date syrup
Flour is the finely-ground, sifted meal of grains, nuts, seeds, legumes or certain vegetables—and each kind of flour has a different nutrition profile and cooking or baking qualities.
All flour is suitable for vegans, including white flour. There was some debate about whether flour is bleached using bone char (like sugar), but this isn’t true.
There are many different types of flour, all of which have an impact on how the final product will cook as well as its nutritional content. Always use the right flour for your recipe.
Traditionally, the most prevalent flours are milled from wheat.
The wheat flour category alone is extensive. Ideal for bread making, flour from “hard” wheat is higher in protein—including gluten, which makes dough sticky, elastic and able to hold air bubbles formed by a leavening agent as the dough rises. Flours from “soft” wheat have less protein and less elastic quality, so they are better for delicate pastries and cakes.
- Plain/All purpose flour. Used for baking, thickening and breading.
- 100% whole-wheat flour. Used in place of all-purpose flour. Makes a heavier bread; in baked goods, often mixed with all-purpose flour for a lighter texture and better rising. Has a shorter shelf-life than all-purpose flour.
- White whole-wheat flour. Use instead of regular whole-wheat flour in baked goods for a milder taste and a light colour.
- Self-rising flour. All-purpose flour with added salt and baking soda. Convenience product not generally used for yeast breads.
- Cake or pastry flour. Used for tender cakes and pastries.
- Bread flour. Used for bread making. Very high gluten content.
- Gluten flour. Increases strength and the rising power of dough. Blend with lower-gluten flours for bread. Significantly higher protein (gluten) content than all-purpose flour.
- Semolina flour. Used for pasta, couscous, gnocchi and puddings. High in gluten.
On their own, non-wheat flours also offer a variety of uses and qualities.
- Almond meal/flour. Adds moisture and nutty taste to pastries, baked goods and dessert filling. Not meant to replace flour in yeast or quick breads. Short shelf life. GF
- Amaranth flour. Use in baked goods for up to 25 percent of flour content. Excellent thickener for sauces, gravies and soups. GF
- Barley flour. Good as a thickener in soups, stews, sauces and gravies. Contains gluten, but not enough for adequate rising.
- Buckwheat flour. Good for pasta and pancakes. Combine with other flours to add a hearty, grassy flavour and colour to bread. GF
- Corn flour. Use in breading or blend with other flour for batters or dough. GF
- Flaxseed flour or meal. Use as a fat or egg substitute. GF
- Oat flour. Used to replace some flour in a variety of recipes. In baked foods that need to rise, must be combined with other flours. GF
- Peanut flour. Use to thicken or add flavour to soups and sauces. GF
- Potato flour. Use as a thickener for smooth, creamy sauces, soups, gravies & frozen desserts. Adds starch to dough, makes bread moister and extends freshness. GF
- Rice flour, brown. Used like white flour, but gives a grittier texture in baked goods such as cornbread. GF
- Rice flour, white. Used mostly in baked goods such as pie crusts and cookies. In shortbread, gives a tender mouth feel. (Doesn’t contain gluten despite its name.) GF
- Rye flour. Produces heavy, dense bread. For better rising, blend with a higher protein flour. Contains less gluten than plain or whole-wheat.
- Soy flour. Use to thicken sauces. As a wheat flour substitute in quick breads and cookies, use 1 part soy flour to 3 parts plain flour. GF
- Spelt flour. Can be substituted for wheat flour in baking.
Tip: Whole-grain flours (with oil from their germ) and nut flours may turn rancid over time. Refrigerate or freeze flours in airtight containers so they retain their powdery quality. And remember to bring to room temperature before using.
Tip: Cornmeal can be ground into cornflour in a food processor.
In kitchens around the world, there are many other flours for baking, thickening, bulking and binding the ingredients of ethnic dishes. Many are sold in ethnic food shops or world food isles in supermarkets.
- Cassava flour (manioc flour) – Often used to make breads, cakes, pasta and dumplings. It’s also used to make starchy custards and puddings. GF
- Chickpea (garbanzo) flour – Also called gram flour, Cici flour and chana flour. It makes a great substitute for egg in recipes that require a batter. So you can make French toast, fritters, anything battered and fried. It can even be used for omelettes or scrambled for breakfast, like this Chickpea Flour Scramble. GF
- Chapati flour – Used to make Indian chapatis.
- Dal flour. Legume flour used in Indian cooking to make puris, chapatis, dosa and uttapams. GF
- Fufu flour. Made from dried plantain and used in Nigerian recipes. GF
- Kamut flour. Can be substituted for wheat if combined with other flours in making bread and pasta.
- Millet flour. Used in bread baking and pancakes. In India and Pakistan, called bajri flour or kurakkan. GF
- Teff flour – Used to make injera (Ethiopian flatbread) and baked goods. GF
Different proportions and methods of combining and heating the basic ingredients of flour, sugar, fat and a liquid give you different baked goods.
Below I’ve put some common categories of baking so you can get a better understanding of why and what gives you these results.
Most pastry is made from rubbing fat into flour and then adding water to make a dough. Check out this recipe from Flora.
Making shortcrust pastry:
The process through which the fat and flour work together is called shortening, hence the name shortcrust pastry: the dough is ‘short’ rather than long, stretchy bread-type dough.
- Be gentle when you are handling pastry.
- When it’s the right size, transfer it to the greased baking dish (or on top of the filling if you are making a pie crust)
- Glazed with a liquid that includes some protein, such as soy milk.
- When it’s done, the pastry should be golden brown and come away from the edges of the dish easily. You can then add filling once the pastry is cooked.
- Use cold water and margarine from the fridge.
- Put the pastry in clingfilm and let it sit in the fridge for 20 minutes or so before rolling out. Keeping it cold minimises gluten development.
- Using a rolling pin to transfer it to your dish makes it a breeze to handle.
- If you are cooking pastry for the bottom of a quiche or pie, prick the surface with a fork so air can escape.
- Blind Baking gives a nice and flat pastry layer and avoids it burning.
- Glazing the pastry with milk gives it a nice brown colour
Blind Baking = Baking blind is the process of baking a pie crust or other pastry without the filling. You to weigh the pastry down by covering with some greaseproof paper and dried beans and then partly cook. Then you remove the beans and parchment and cook the pastry alone for a few minutes.
Puff pastry is more complex, and it is generally easier to buy it. However, if you do want to try then this is a good recipe.
The main methods for making biscuits are rubbed (like pastry) or melted: instead of rubbing the fat in you add liquid fat, often melted with sugar or syrup, into the flour and create a dough that way.
Unlike pastry, biscuits and scones have more liquid, sometimes more fat and almost always sugar. Extra fat makes them much richer and moist. Liquids also add volume as the steam expands when heated.
Biscuits are endlessly variable, so once you have the hang of it you can make them exactly how you want.
- As long as you keep the proportions of fat, flour and sugar about the same you will end up with a similar result.
- Use paler sugars for a delicate scone, but a brown sugar for a ginger biscuit. (Darker sugars tend to be more moist and give darker finishes with heavier, caramel flavours).
- American style chewy cookies, and tray bakes like flapjack have more fat and liquid so they don’t crisp up as much.
A scone is similar to pastry, with fat rubbed into flour. However, the flour usually used is a self-raising and often calls for extra baking powder to make the scones extra light and fluffy. Check out my scone recipe.
- Roll them out once, cut out your shapes with a knife or cutter, then place directly onto a greased tray.
- Brush with plant milk and bake until they rise up and go golden brown.
- Plant milk adds fat, lift and flavour.
- Scones do not like to be handled too much.
- The dough should be wetter than for pastry and needs to be rolled out thicker – around 2cm.
- Use an upside-down glass to cut out circles of dough if you don’t have cutters.
- You can tell scones are done because they will come easily off the tray and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
- They’re best eaten almost on the day you make them, as they don’t keep very well (due to their low fat content the water in them evaporates and they go dry).
Cake methods fall into one of six main types: rubbed cakes, melted, creamed, oil-based, folded and vinegar. There is also a seventh type of cake making which is super simple, the ‘all-in-one’: just put everything in a bowl and blend.
The difference in methods are about the amount of fat in the cake and how you mix it in with the other ingredients.
- Rubbed cakes generally have less fat and more flour. Most fruit cakes are made using the rubbed method, as the fruit gives the recipe extra moisture.
- Melted cakes, involve melting the fat and sugar to a syrup then adding them to the dry ingredients.
- Creamed cakes involve beating sugar into the fat until you get a pale, fluffy mixture. Then the liquid is added, with flour sifted in.
- Oil based cakes are common in vegan baking and involve mixing oil with flavourings in one bowl then adding this liquid to your dry ingredients, then baking.
- The folded method is traditionally made using whisked egg whites (the vegan version uses aquafaba and no fat). Ingredients are carefully folded in to preserve the air bubbles.
- Vinegar cakes involve making a liquid mix with vinegar plus other liquids and blending it together with the dry ingredients. (They don’t taste like vinegar though, don’t worry).
Aquafaba = bean water, usually from tinned chickpeas.
Whatever method you use you want the cake mix to be at drop consistency before baking.
Some Tips For Baking Cakes:
- Get everything out before you want to start baking. Cakes are best made from room temperature ingredients.
- Always measure your ingredients.
- Coconut oil and dried fruit are a fantastic preservatives.
- Tap the spoon on the edge of the bowl to see if the mixture drops out easily before baking (this is called drop consistency).
- Line and grease your cake tin, or use a springform tin, to make sure the cake comes out safely.
- You can tell a cake is ready when it is firm and springy to the touch, and when a skewer comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool before trying to remove from the tin.
Some Tips For Storing Cakes:
- The more fat, liquid and moisture-preserving ingredients (sugar & dried fruit) you have in a baked product, the longer it will keep. Rich fruit cakes, can keep for years and years.
- Do not put cakes in the refrigerator, they will dry out and go stale very quickly: either cover with tin foil or put in a cake tin.
- Most cakes that include fat will freeze very well, defrost at room temperature and do not refreeze.
Baking With Yeast
Yeast is a fungus, like mushrooms and is suitable for vegans. As long as the yeast has not been prepared using animals or animal products, the yeast itself is perfectly fine.
I would put Yeast into the ‘more complex’ category of baking. However if you’re used to baking with yeast then it’s pretty straightforward as you just need to swap a few ingredients (usually fat and/or eggs).
For people who have never baked with yeast, it can be a bit daunting.
The Key Things Are:
- Knowing which yeast you need! This blog has a good explanation of yeast types.
- Make sure you use in-date yeast. Ditch that sad packet of yeast at the back of the cupboard that expired 2 years ago.
- Yeast needs liquid and some kind of sugar (either as sugar or more usually in starch). The carbon dioxide produced by yeast causes the dough to rise.
- Add salt in with the flour rather than adding it directly to the yeast.
- Yeast wants to be at a warm temperature. Generally, you want to mix yeast with warm liquids (between 40-50C) and leave the dough to rise at room temperature (20-25C)
Baking With Beans
These pods of protein give a lovely moist texture to your cakes. And don’t throw away the liquid from your empty bean can. Aquafaba (bean water) is a staple for vegan bakers because it behaves almost exactly like egg whites.
Aquafaba has taken on a bit of a cult status in the vegan cookery world, and rightly so because it really is amazing. You can make all kinds of treats, including meringues and ice cream.
A Few Tips:
- An electric whisk will save you lots of time.
- Add a couple of drops of flavouring to mask any lingering bean smell or taste.
- Using xanthan gum will help keep your peaks glossy and the meringue will be crunchy and hold together better.
Gluten-Free And Allergies
Gluten-free vegan baking isn’t all that difficult, though gluten-free flour can need a bit of taking used to as it doesn’t behave the same way as wheat flours. This blog has a really good rundown on the different types of flours and how to use them.
Often a mixture of dry ingredients are used to create the right balance, so make sure you measure correctly.
- Polenta makes a lovely textured cake, most commonly with lemon or orange.
- Buckwheat, which confusingly does not contain wheat, is appropriate for richer cakes.
- Ground nuts are also common.
- A lot of the time it’s about making simple substitutions such as using gluten-free biscuits or grinding up dates and nuts for a cheesecake base or pie crust.
Most vegan baking avoids the common allergies by default, so as well as wheat, you generally only need to think about avoiding nuts and soy.
- Many recipes use soy milk which you can just swap for a different sort of plant milk.
- You can easily check whether your margarine is soy-based or not.
- Soya lecithin is a common additive, particularly as an emulsifier for chocolate, so look out for that when you are buying ingredients.
- Nuts are common in vegan cooking and used to add protein to recipes. Some oils are derived from nuts too so avoid using those.
Something Went Wrong
Sometimes things don’t turn out how you expected. That’s OK, there’s a good chance I can help you rescue it.
Below I’ve put a list of common problems with baking and what to do.
It’s Cooked Unevenly
- This is likely your oven. Always make sure you preheat first and place the item in the centre of the oven.
- NEVER put anything directly on the bottom of the oven, otherwise, the bottom of your bake will be burnt.
- If it’s only a little uneven, rotate your dish by 180 degrees and cover the more cooked section with tinfoil. *This will mean that the overcooked section is protected from the heat.
- If you have a half raw and half-burnt cake then you can scoop out the raw part into a new greased baking dish and bake that separately. Deal with the burnt cake as per the section below.
Caused by an oven that’s too hot, a bake that’s been in the oven for too long or not being protected whilst cooking.
- Some ovens run really hot and to get a decent result you will need to use a lower temperature and/or cover your baking with some foil or greaseproof to protect it.
- Some burnt things are beyond help and you will just have to feed them to the birds or put them to compost.
- Cut the burnt bits off, and break the cake into pieces. Cover the nice pieces with jam or golden syrup, pour over some custard and you’ve got yourself a pudding. *This also works for cakes that are a bit dry.
Soggy & Undercooked Pie Base
Although cooking the pastry without filling (baking blind) can seem like a bit too much effort, it really does prevent soggy bottoms. In this instance, there is nothing that can be done about the pastry but you can scoop out the filling and save that.
- Quiche fillings will generally cook quite fine without pastry, like an omelette or frittata.
- Fruit is great with custard or ice cream.
- Savoury pie fillings are just as good with some veggies.
Got you in the mood for baking? You can check out all my recipes here.
Subscribe to my newsletter and follow Vegan Babe Life on social media to keep up to date with the latest news, recipes and product launches from the vegan community.
I hope you enjoyed this post.
Let me know what you think in the comments or tweet me @veganbabelife
Thanks for reading!