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Julie Van Rosendaal/The Globe and Mail

No longer relegated to supporting roles, vegetables continue to gain recognition for the incredible qualities they bring to the table (in my experience, those “side” dishes seem to generate the most excitement anyway). Numerous studies have shown a steady increase in veganism and plant-based eating, as consumers increasingly factor environmental impact and animal welfare into their daily food choices – which includes dessert.

Admittedly, it can be a challenge when so many recipes default to butter, milk and eggs. Making plant-based meals is one thing, but tweaking recipes for cakes, cookies and other baked goods can be intimidating – pitch-perfect baking involves science, after all.

As we settle into a cozy winter baking season, here’s some advice for tinkering with your own recipes, and a few new treats that serve up plenty of comfort and good cheer – without relying on eggs and dairy.

The replacements: The lowdown on how to tweak recipes for vegan taste buds

Fat is present in most baked goods, generally in the form of butter, shortening or oil. There are plenty of plant-based butters (also known as margarine) on the market these days – sticks and bricks tend to be better suited for baking than tub-style spreads, though even they can vary greatly in firmness and texture, depending on additives and ratio of saturated to unsaturated fat. (It’s worth noting that since Health Canada banned the use of partially hydrogenated oils, palm fats are commonly added to provide a more solid texture.) Canola and other neutral oils are also excellent for baking – particularly cakes, muffins and other batters made using the wet-dry method (wet and dry ingredients are combined separately, then stirred together) that don’t require beating air into butter and sugar at the start.

Milk does not need to come from a cow – oat milk, nut milks, coconut milk and milks based on yellow pea protein, such as NotMilk and Nextmilk, work perfectly well in baked goods. Coconut or oat yogurt can be substituted for regular yogurt, and stirred 1:1 into non-dairy milk to make a substitute for buttermilk

Eggs can be tricky; they bind batters and provide leavening to cakes, loaves and cookies, but there are plenty of alternatives, depending on what it is you’re making. Baking soda boosted with boiling water or vinegar can be used in cakes, quick breads and cookies. Ground flaxseed or chia seeds (1 tbsp.) mixed with water (3 tbsp.) turns thick and viscous and can be used in cookies, cakes and loaves, but tends to also add texture; psyllium husk powder is a bit more potent – you’ll only need 1 tsp. psyllium stirred into 1 tbsp. water per egg. Try about 3 tbsp. vegan mayo or 1/4 cup aquafaba – the liquid poured off a can of chickpeas or kidney beans (white, if its colour matters in your batter), which can also miraculously be whipped into meringue – per egg in just about anything. And when making muffins and quick breads, you can encourage more lift by letting your batter sit for 20-30 minutes before sliding your pan into the oven to bake.

Cinnamon Sticky Biscuits

Makes 9 biscuits

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Cinnamon Sticky Biscuits.Julie Van Rosendaal/The Globe and Mail

Any biscuit or scone can easily be made with plant butter/margarine and non-dairy milk. These rolled sticky biscuits are made with oil and are quick to stir together – without the rising required with yeast-raised cinnamon buns. This is a great way to use non-dairy milk or ‘nog that’s nearing its best-before date. If you like glaze, stir 1/3 cup icing sugar and 1 tbsp. melted plant butter/margarine together with a fork and drizzle it overtop (instead of inverting them) while they’re still warm.


  • 1/4 cup plant butter/margarine
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Rogers golden syrup, corn syrup or maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp. water


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup oat, coconut or other non-dairy milk (or oat or coconut ‘nog)
  • 1/4 cup canola or other mild vegetable oil


  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (ish) Rogers golden syrup, corn or maple syrup (you can eyeball this)
  • a good shake of cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the butter, brown sugar, syrup and water into a parchment-lined or sprayed 9- by 9-inch square or round pan. Put the pan in the oven as it preheats for about 5 minutes, or just long enough to melt the butter. Pull out the pan and stir everything together with a fork.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the milk and oil and stir just until you have a soft dough.

On a lightly floured surface, pat or roll the dough into a roughly 9- by 12-inch rectangle (aim for a bit bigger than a standard sheet of paper – it doesn’t have to be perfect) and sprinkle evenly with brown sugar, then drizzle with syrup (you can eyeball this – no need for precision here) and generously shake over some cinnamon. Starting from a long side, roll it up into a log.

Using dental floss or a sharp or serrated knife, cut into 9 biscuits and place each piece cut side down in the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden. Invert onto a serving plate right away, while they’re still warm.

Chewy Dark Chocolate Orange Cranberry Cookies

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Chewy Dark Chocolate Orange Cranberry Cookies.Julie Van Rosendaal/The Globe and Mail

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

This is an excellent go-to drop cookie that can be tweaked to suit the seasons; stir in any kind of vegan chocolate (chopped or chips), dried fruit and/or nuts you like.

  • 1 cup plant butter/margarine or coconut oil (or a combination)
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • grated zest of an orange (optional)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. fine salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned or quick oats
  • 1 cup chopped vegan dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries or 1 cup chopped fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugars, orange zest and vanilla for a minute or two, until pale and light. Stir in the flour and salt (or beat it in on low speed). Stir the baking soda into the boiling water and stir or beat it in too, along with the oats, chocolate, cranberries and nuts. Let the dough sit for about 20 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350 F.

Drop the dough in scoops or large spoonfuls into a parchment-lined sheet and if you like, press an extra chunk of chocolate into the top. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until deep golden around the edges but still soft in the middle. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Chocolate Gingerbread with Ginger Caramel

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Chocolate Gingerbread with Ginger Caramel.Julie Van Rosendaal/The Globe and Mail

Though it’s fantastic straight from the oven, the flavour of gingerbread becomes even more complex after a day on the countertop; if you like, warm individual (or multiple) squares in a skillet with a bit of oil or plant butter. For an easy, amazing chocolate cake, simply omit the molasses, ginger and spices.

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. dry ginger
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. fine salt
  • 1 cup hot water or coffee
  • 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup dark molasses
  • 1 tbsp. white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger (divided)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Caramel sauce:

  • 1/4 cup plant butter/margarine
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk or cream

Preheat the oven to 350 F and spray a 9-inch round or square cake pan with non-stick spray, or line it with parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda and salt. In another bowl (or measuring cup) whisk together the water or coffee, oil, molasses, vinegar, almost all the ginger (save about 1/2 tsp. for the caramel sauce) and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk just until well blended.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until springy to the touch. Meanwhile, make the caramel sauce: whisk the butter, brown sugar, coconut milk and remaining bit of ginger over medium-high heat until bubbling and smooth; remove from the heat and pour through a sieve (if you like, to get rid of any bits of ginger) and set aside to cool slightly. The gingerbread will get even better after a day, but you could serve it right away; it’s best warm, with warm ginger caramel. Serves 9-12.

Mincemeat Galette

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Mincemeat Galette.Julie Van Rosendaal/The Globe and Mail

Serves 8

A galette is a free-form pie baked on a sheet, made with pastry (use shortening in any recipe to make it plant-based), or use frozen puff pastry, which is commonly made with shortening.

All-fruit mincemeat:

  • 3-4 apples and/or pears, half chopped, half coarsely grated (don’t bother peeling them)
  • grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 2-3 cups raisins, currants and chopped apricots (any combination)
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar (dark or golden)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice, rum, brandy or water
  • 1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger (if you like ginger)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/3 cup plant butter/margarine or coconut oil
  • pastry for a single crust pie or 1/2 pkg. shortening-based puff pastry, thawed
  • coconut or other non-dairy milk, for brushing (optional)
  • coarse sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

To make the mincemeat, combine everything except the butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, for about 20 minutes, until the fruit has partially broken down and the mixture has thickened. Cool completely and then grate in the butter or coconut oil, and stir it into the mincemeat. (This way it will be evenly dispersed, and won’t melt and then solidify on the surface as it cools.)

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 F. On a lightly floured surface, roll your pastry out to a circle about 12 inches in diameter – I do this directly on a silicone mat, then transfer the mat to a baking sheet.

Spread about 2 1/2 cups of the mincemeat over the pastry, leaving an inch or so around the edge, and fold the edge of the pastry over to enclose the filling. If you like, brush the pastry with milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar. If you want a crumble topping, rub together 1/4 cup each flour and brown sugar with about 2 tbsp. plant butter/margarine or coconut oil and scatter overtop.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Cool to warm before slicing and serving.

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