Reviewed by Magdalena Ball
The Vegan Cake Bible
By Sara Kidd
Smith Street Books
29 March 2022), Hardcover, 256 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1922417572
Sara Kidd is truly a vegan cake guru. Her website is full of cake recipes, and she runs monthly workshops, a busy Facebook group with over 24,000 members, and a droolworthy Instagram feed, all focused on the art of vegan cake baking. Her new book doesn’t disappoint. It’s really attractive: large format, hardcover, stitched bindings, with eye-catching professional photos. It stays open easily as you’re cooking with it, and there are plenty of really well designed visuals to help you learn the many techniques including step by step instructions on how to make marzipan roses, properly fill a cake, ice and stack cakes, and much more. The book really is a complete guide that is worth reading all the way through as it provides a full set of cake foundations right from ingredients through techniques and equipment, troubleshooting, transporting, assembling and decorating. Beginners will gain from learning everything about cake making–I’m an advanced beginner and there were a lot of things I’d been doing wrong. Reading this book has helped me a lot. Experienced cake makers will learn all about the distinctive nature of vegan cakes and how to make them work in ways that are similar or even better to working with eggs, butter and milk before progressing to some really fancy cake recipes that will challenge even the most creative and advanced cook.
The heart of the book is the recipes, and Kidd provides over 60 recipes from the simplest cakes to very innovative and complex creations for when you want an impressive challenge. Each of the cake sections begin with a nicely animated image of the cake side on so you can see in advance how they are constructed. The book begins with foundation recipes and I have to admit that the first recipe for vanilla butter cake is so quick and easy, so good and so flexible in terms of how you can present it, that you could stop at this one and get your money’s worth. I’ve baked this cake several times already with a range of icings and fruit decorations and it has always been a success, eaten by vegans and non vegans alike. I make never make a non-vegan cake again. I’ve also done the chocolate cake which is very easy and light, and similarly flexible like the vanilla one. The basic cake section has a range of cakes from the classic sponge, loaf cakes and a range of gluten free cakes and I would highly recommend that beginners spend a bit of time with these before progressing to the more complex cakes.
If you are game to try the harder ones, I recommend you consider taking one of Kidd’s baking courses which can be done at super reasonable rates via her Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/sarakidd. If you join even for a month you’ll get access to the whole video archive and seeing her break things down step by step is very helpful for the more complicated creations and teaches transferable techniques that are really helpful. You can see a video of the Swedish Princess Cake which is one of the more tricky ones in the traditional Cake section here: https://www.patreon.com/sarakidd. Other cakes include a beautiful English Battenberg cake, mini-lamingtons, a Persian Love Cake, a roulade and more. Coming up with vegan versions of these traditional cakes couldn’t have been easy, but Kidd not only pulls it off, she makes them look even better and more delicious than the originals.
The traditional cakes look tricky enough but the specialty cakes are even fancier, with such delights as Summer sponge with Passionfruit curd and Coconut Cream, Caramel Swirl Bundt with Nougatine, Lavender-Lemon Cake with Jelly & Meringue Buttercream, or Poached Pear Maple Cake to name just a few. These are challenging cakes even for advanced chefs, but for special occasions they will really impress, and well worth giving it a try. However challenging the cakes are, the ingredient list is simple and can generally be found at most supermarkets: aquafaba (chickpea liquid), potato starch. vegan butter, flaxseeds, vanilla bean paste – there is really nothing you can’t find in here. There are also some exquisite gluten free cakes which look every bit as beautiful as the non-gluten free cakes. There’s a Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake with Almond Ganache and a Flourless Chocolate Cake that uses sweet potato puree which both look so good, I can’t wait to give them a go.
I doubt I’ll ever get my cakes to look as gorgeous as Sara Kidd’s but The Vegan Cake Bible is inspiring, and although I only baked the easiest cakes in the book, I’m keen to build my skills and try some of the harder ones as well. Because the book is so attractive it also makes a lovely gift for any vegan cooks in your life and a great way to create delicious and impressive treats that are ecologically sustainable and cruelty-free. The Vegan Cake Bible makes it clear that you don’t need to choose between eating exquisite cake or leading an ethical and sustainable life – you can have both and enjoy your cake knowing no creatures suffered for your pleasure.