Bake Off Competitor Freya Cox’s Vegan Creations Show Plant-Based Baking Is Just As Delicious


While The Great British Cake bathed in camp comedy and nostalgia for cooking, he also likes to evolve with the times. This year, 19-year-old Freya Cox is the show’s first vegan contestant.

And while the vegans celebrated her success in the Tech Challenge, in which her malt bread finished second in Paul and Prue’s blind tasting, she later revealed that it wasn’t actually vegan cooking.

“I was desperate to show the world that vegan baking is just as exciting in the hopes of inspiring people to try,” she posted on Instagram.

“For obvious reasons, I couldn’t change the technical challenge as that would mean the whole show was unfair.”

Outside the strictly regulated arena of the Pastry shop tent, the vegan bakery market is booming. It’s easy to find a range of plant and nut milks in your corner store or supermarket and the industry is expected to be worth over £ 35 billion by 2027.

Revolutionary brands are taking over the online market as major food manufacturers launch vegan versions of their products. Recipes, cookbooks, courses, and online tutorials are booming.

Bettina Campolucci Bordi discovered that vegan cooking had developed rapidly (Photo: Louise Hagger)

It’s been a decade since chef Bettina Campolucci Bordi started taking plant-based baking seriously, but the scene quickly changed. She started cooking at retreats at a time when the terms “herbal” and “aquafaba” (chickpea water – mixed, it is an alternative to egg white) were not used. current and it was difficult to get ingredients, so chefs usually experimented. and do theirs.

She traveled to Los Angeles to learn from early adopter Matthew Kenney and now teaches aspiring herbal chefs herself.

“Ten years ago, I had to do everything from scratch,” she says. Nonetheless, Bettina could tell there was a thirst for knowledge in this area and last month published her third cookbook, Celebrate: herbal recipes for all occasions.


Vegan spreads have gotten better and most major brands are making at least one now. Most are similar to margarine and made from palm and vegetable oils. Eady Timms opened his Root Cafe in Hythe, Kent, in 2020 after designing and delivering locked out vegan meals. Her favorite is Flora (ideal for baking).

The more traditional route is to use cashew or coconut oil based butters, and Bettina mentions Naturli, which is made from shea, coconut, and rapeseed oils.

Kate Langston and Sam Dennis opened Heyl Bakery, Plymouth’s first all-vegetable sourdough bakery, at the end of 2020. cafes, ”says Kate.

Kate Langston and Sam Dennis’ Heyl Bakery in Plymouth sell all plant-based sourdough pastries

They use Naturli, in everything from cookies to brioche. “We developed a vegan sourdough brioche,” she explains, “which isn’t the easiest thing to duplicate given the amount of eggs and butter in the original. We have a great recipe, but we are always working to improve it.

Don’t expect these products to work as a direct substitute. “While you can buy equivalents, they will never be exactly the same,” says Bettina. “I ‘ve vegan birthday cakes, pie tins and puff pastry, but there are different measures and techniques.

The oils give a light result in cakes. If you are using one with a strong flavor like olive or coconut oil, make sure it’s a flavor you want to taste in your finished cake – Bettina recommends coconut oil or of odorless rapeseed.


Aquafaba is popular with vegan bakers because it behaves like egg whites in meringues and mousse. If you don’t want to produce your own, open a box or buy it in a carton from Oggs. There are also plenty of vegan milks, creams and yogurts to experiment with, made from nuts like coconut, cashews and macadamias or oats and soybeans.

I was delighted to see a thick yellow cream in Celebrate. Bettina’s secret? Store-bought custard powder, vegan, made with any plant-based milk; choose coconut for a thick and rich cream, oat milk for something lighter, almond to bring out its nutty flavor.

Eady Timms vegan carrot cake at the Root Cafe in Hythe, Kent

Take height

This can be trickier in vegan pastries compared to egg-based ones. In her sponge cake, vermicelli and ultimate chocolate cakes, Bettina uses a combination of leavening agents – self-rising flour, baking powder, aquafaba, and apple cider vinegar. Another trick is to use both baking powder and baking soda.

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Vegan baking is not just a self-taught experiment. Kimberly Lin has held positions at top UK hotels, as executive pastry chef at Corinthia and Claridges, and innovative kitchens such as Dominique Ansel – famous for inventing the croissant-donut hybrid cronut. She is now the Patron Chef of Lilly’s at 3 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, and founder of Floozie Cookie.

“The hardest part is finding creative cookie toppings that are vegan and also easy to get in bulk,” she explains.

“Many edible sprinkles and cake decorations contain beeswax or shellac. Some food colors are derived from animal products. I double and triple check the labels and ingredients, even though they were vegan before. Sometimes manufacturers change ingredients without notice.

Pastry shop

Even vegans may be on the lookout for pork pie substitutes and sausage rolls. After a vegan pie won first prize at Melton Mowbray’s British Pie Awards in 2019, the 2021 event had the highest number of attendees – 70 – in its vegan category.

The success of Gregg’s vegan sausage roll is legendary, and last week he introduced a vegan bacon roll. You can easily make a coarse puff with vegan butter, but the choux pastry could trip all vegans on GBBO.


“I think my least successful baking is when I try to make something that’s too healthy,” Kimberly admits. The combination of gluten-free and vegan is much more difficult to achieve, ”agrees Bettina. “When you can use flour, it’s a lot easier to trade. In my nugget cake I didn’t skimp on anything, it’s not sugar and fat free, it just happens to be plant based.

Celebrate: herbal recipes for all occasions by Bettina Campolucci Bordi (Hardie Grant, £ 20) Photography: Louise Hagger

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