Vegan Treats: Desserts That a Butter Man Could Love?
No animals were harmed in the making of these desserts.
Last Friday, we here at Y&H Central sampled some new seasonal desserts created by Danielle Konya, founder of the Pennsylvania-based Vegan Treats, a bakery that employs the nuclear option when making sweets. VT uses no butter, eggs, cream, or cream cheese. Konya, after all, is an ethical vegan, with a strong pro-animal/environmental philosophy behind her bakery:
Clearly, there's nothing appetizing about the needless suffering of ten billion animals a year for their flesh, milk and eggs. And there's really nothing tasty about aiding in the destruction of our environment for a cupcake. After all, the more one learns about the milk and egg industry, the more sickeningly un-sweet desserts made with them become.
Vegans don't often inspire a lot of cuddliness, particularly among editors. Erika Niedowski, assistant managing editor here at the paper, wasted no words: "I don't think vegans deserve dessert at all," she e-mailed me after our tasting. "I mean, what do they need dessert for, they've given up everything else. (Maybe a poached pear, but not anything more.)"
She may be joking.
Niedowski, however, did like the same dessert as all the other City Paper testers who sampled them (including me): Konya's caramel pecan cake, a moist, not-too-rich confection studded with little pieces of pecan for texture. I'd order the cake even if I had non-vegan options.
I was also impressed with Konya's seasonal cheesecakes, which are not cheesecakes in the leaden-bomb tradition of New York delis. Her pumpkin version has good sweet gourd flavor but a light, fluffy body — without the assistance of a single egg for airiness. How she does it, I have no idea. But it's a welcome alternative to the typically dense cheesecake.
"The 'cheese'cakes were great on texture, lighter than many cheesecake mixes, but low on hints of creme cheesiness...which makes the entire experience very mysterious," noted tester Ruth Samuelson, aka Housing Complex. (I should add that the caramel-apple cheesecake would have been a lot better without the thick, impenetrable layer of caramel on top.)
The low points for me were the pumpkin pie, whose filling was rich enough (even without condensed milk) but whose limp crust suffered without butter, and the chocolate-hazelnut pumpkin spice cake that left a bad, almost carob-like taste in my mouth even with all the other ingredients to counteract it.
Other tasters agreed. "The Choco Hazelnut cake was the only that couldn't pass as normal," Samuelson e-mailed me.