Monday, March 25, 2013

Vegan Desserts - Cream Cheese Failure

After my dessert-deprived Saturday night, I was eager to make a vegan sweet treat to make myself feel more like a normal member of society again.  I turned to this vegan cream cheese filled coffee cake recipe from the book Vegan Junk Food (by way of the blog Chocolate Covered Katie).  I love cream cheese, I love cake, and I love sweets in general, so I was so excited to make this treat.

The recipe had three elements: cake batter, cream cheese filling, and crumble topping.  The cake batter was a bit thick, but it spread well enough.  The cake batter sandwiched a center cream cheese layer.  The cream cheese layer used Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese as the main ingredient.  It looked and had the consistency of cream cheese, but I was incredibly disappointed by the flavor.  This is the vegan cream cheese that so many people rave about for being the closest approximation to cream cheese in taste and consistency, but the taste was horrible!!!  It really just tastes like tofu.  It has that beany tofu taste, rather than the bite of cream cheese. 
The realization that the "best" vegan cream cheese was actually a disgusting failure at approximating cheese was really difficult.  I had hoped that modern technology would really make it possible for me to enjoy all the foods I've always loved (or at least many of them), but Tofutti is no substitute at all.  And I can only assume that the people out there raving about it either have no idea (or can't remember) was real cream cheese tastes like or they never liked it in the first place so they're not looking to replace it.   

But back to the coffee cake ...
Panda spent a lot of time trying to help and offering to lick out any and all mixing bowls and other implements, so she seemed to be a big fan of the cake.  The crumble topping was also a huge failure.  There was either too much Earth Balance butter or not enough sugar and flour, because it wasn't a crumble but more of another batter than I tried to drop in smallish chunks over the top of the cake.  Not pretty ... 


The final product looked pretty good, with a lovely middle cream cheese layer, and even a "crumbly" texture to my failed topping.  Look how nice?  Unfortunately, the taste was disgusting!  I couldn't believe how over-salted it was.  The whole recipe called for 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt total (1/2 teaspoon in each of the three elements), which apparently was way too much.  It was really bad. 

My boyfriend said it wasn't that bad, but I'm pretty sure he was trying to be nice because I was already so dejected about the tofu-tasting cream cheese.  On the plus side, the salt covered up the tofu flavor ...

In an attempt to salvage the situation, I turned to a coconut cream recipe I learned on another favorite blog, Carrots 'N' Cake, but that I adapted to be vegan with Agave Nectar instead of honey. 

All you need to do is let a can of coconut milk sit for a few days (I tried once after just one day and either my can was a dud or one day wasn't long enough to let the coconut milk separate).  Then scoop off the milk solids at the top, leaving the yummy coconut water to mix with pineapple and other fruit for a tasty smoothie another day.  Spoon the solids into a small bowl and mix with a bit of vanilla extract and agave nectar for sweetness (I don't measure either but just taste as I go along until I get the flavor I want). 

Adding a scoop of coconut cream to the top of coffee cake piece # 2 was a slight improvement, but I'm not sure it was enough to keep me from throwing out the rest of the cake :( 
I realize that the major failure of this cake was the excessive amount of salt, but it was still really difficult to have such a horrible dessert failure.  Since yesterday, I've been furiously reading vegan cream cheese reviews in an attempt to find a better alternative, but most people seem to swear by the Tofutti version.  I guess I'll have to run my own taste test in an attempt to find a palatable alternative - assuming there is one out there.  Taste test post probably coming soon ...

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