CakeSpy: First off, an important question: what was the last baked good you ate?
Your Veganesse: A carrot cake. I am in the process of experimenting with different ingredients and carrot/flour ratios to get a cake that is very carrot-y. I also am trying to use more healthy sweeteners like raisins, dates, fruit juices, and molasses to replace the sugar altogether.
CS: You've been veganizing desserts since the age of nine! Please, tell us more about how that got going.
YV: I always thought I'd be a chemist growing up. I was always experimenting with baking soda, vinegar, agar and other food reactants, that when I wanted to cut out non vegan ingredients because of animal cruelty issues, things just fit.
CS: Is there anything you haven't been able to veganize? Or, is there any dessert in particular which is really difficult to veganize?
YV: Tiramisu. Marscarpone cheese is so hard to replicate.
CS: Your dessert roster is rather eclectic, with recipes taking inspiration from different world cuisines and flavors. So where do you get your recipes?
YV: A lot of recipes are healthier veganized versions of the American comforts I remembered growing up. Some, like the Chinese sponge cake and fruit tarts, are influences from my mother's Asian culture.
CS: You're based in Charlotte, NC. What is the food scene like for vegans there?
YV: There's a lot of options if you're willing to eat in a place that cooks meat and veggies side by side. You just have to hope when your plate comes out, that there was no touching between the two. There are currently 3 eateries in Charlotte I know of that are completely vegetarian. A lot of the people here are interested in healthy food, so finding vegan options or substitutions is becoming very easy.
CS: A lot of vegan desserts are actually not much of a step up healthwise from their nonvegan counterparts, but you are committed to using quality natural ingredients. How does this affect the final result?
YV: The worst part of a lot of the commercial vegan desserts is the trans fats and hydrogenated oils (a.k.a. margarine) that they contain. This is easily replaced with canola oil or safflower oil and gives a cleaner, less waxy taste. The other worst part is the refined white sugar or high fructose corn syrup content. Even when replacing it with healthier sweeteners, I still keep away from over-sweetening (like in many store-bought desserts) so that it does not dominate over the pineapple, or berry, or carrot or chocolate, or whatever natural flavor that I want to shine most in the dessert. Overall, the ultimate effect is that you get to have a delicious and decadent-seeming dessert without having any repercussions.
CS: Have you ever "fooled" any nonvegans with your desserts?
YV: The cakes are definitely most like the nonvegan versions. The eggs are the main ingredient to replace, which is more of a binder and leavener and not for taste purposes. When I tell the person while they're eating, that it's actually vegan and thus, cholesterol-free and naturally low in fat, they usually eat the whole thing and grab another slice.
CS: What is your personal favorite item on your menu?
YV: I really love the Raspberry-Lemon Swirl cake. It's a cake that turns into an art form (which I hate covering up with frosting) and is the lightest and most moist of all my cakes.
CS: What is your biggest veganized dessert success?
YV: Making vegan frosting is definitely my biggest success-- particularly the chocolate frosting. It's tofu-based! Absolutely no one can tell what it's made of; all they can taste is the whipped chocolate texture.
CS: Finish this sentence. When I'm baking, I couldn't survive without my...
CS: What's next for your business?
YV: I want to hold a grand-tasting party soon to test out some new dessert ideas and also some old favorites.
Curious? If you're in the Charlotte area, hire Angela to make your next special-occasion dessert; even if you're not in the area, you can enjoy the menu and pictures at yourveganesse.com.