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On Cheeky Custom Cakes, Better Buttercream, & Rockin’ Out in the Kitchen, with Lyndsay Sung

To learn more about the process of "veganizing" in order to achieve maximum tastiness, we sat down with the indomitable self-taught baker and author of new cookbook, Plantcakes, to chat about unlikely ingredients, baking soundtracks, Cat Burgers, and more...

On Cheeky Custom Cakes, Better Buttercream, & Rockin’ Out in the Kitchen, with Lyndsay Sung

Plantcakes: Fancy + Everyday Vegan Cakes for Everyone is the second book by self-taught baker, and all-around cool-as-heck Vancouverite, Lyndsay Sung. As the title implies, Sung’s new cookbook brings a plant-based twist to traditional baking and dessert recipes — without losing the fun, sugar or sprinkles along the way.

Featuring clear instructions and beautifully photographed dishes, Plantcakes kicks vegan desserts to the next level. It’s a dope addition to any seasoned vegan baker’s library, as much as it is a useful reference guide for those looking to explore the world of baking, period. (And anyone who digs a tasty bit of cake with their tea, natch.)

To learn more about the process of “veganizing” in order to achieve maximum tastiness, we sat down with the indomitable Sung to chat about unlikely ingredients, baking soundtracks, Cat Burgers, and more…

Baking is one thing…but cookbook writing is an entirely different beast! Have any skills honed in the kitchen been helpful to you in your writing? Ha! I have notebooks crammed full of batter-stained pages of notes and scribbles, through recipe testing, and also illustrations of cake ideas/inspiration. Time management is always a key aspect of working in the kitchen, which definitely translates to writing a cookbook as you attempt to meet deadlines. When a draft is due, it’s similar to the “ding” of the timer going off as a cake is baking – I try to snap to it!

Your first cookbook, Coco Cake Land: Cute and Pretty Party Cakes to Bake and Decorate (Roost Books, 2018), was not vegan, but Plantcakes (Appetite by Random House, 2023) is. What inspired the shift to an entirely plant-based lineup of recipes? I’ve been in and amongst plant-based eating for decades and have always enjoyed “veganizing” recipes, both savoury and sweet – I have one vegan chocolate cake recipe that made it into the Coco Cake Land cookbook, as well as a whipped chocolate ganache frosting and some vegan ingredient swap mentions. We’ve always been a plant and veggie-forward family, and with close vegan friends, having plant-inclusive or even totally vegan parties is very common for us! I always love to make sure guests feel cared for and included, so I’ve always loved the idea that everyone can eat the birthday cake! I also had never seen a book like Plantcakes out there. Oftentimes, vegan baking books may have a “healthy” aspect to it – agave syrup, blended tofu, soaked cashews, etc. (all of which make delicious desserts, too!), but I wanted to make a book that was modern, colourful, delicious and full of sugar, butter, flour and sprinkles! It was a fun challenge translating my cake aesthetic and vibe into plant-based cakes, so the goal of wanting to see if I could veganize cakes to a high level of deliciousness really pushed me.

In your research, testing, and development of plant-based recipes, which new ingredients did you discover that surprised you the most and are now regularly used in your baking? Aqua faba: the thick liquid left over from a can of chickpeas. You whip that up with sugar to make a meringue for Swiss Meringue buttercream. So cool!

Which plant-based version of your all-time favourite recipes is better than the original (conventional) version? I have to say Swiss Meringue buttercream again! It’s lighter and so delicious, flavoured with things like vanilla bean, freeze-dried strawberry powder, coffee extract, etc. My husband and kid prefer my vegan cakes to my conventional ones now!

You’re not just talented in the kitchen but also on the stage as a member of the band KCAR. With that in mind, let’s chat “music”. What tunes get you in the baking mood? Which guilty pleasure songs satisfy your sonic “sweet tooth”? I listen to a huge range of music. When baking, I usually play songs I can sing along to – The Sundays, Low, Sinead – TRACY CHAPMAN, her first album! Hehe. Also, I’ll listen to my friends’ music, as it makes me feel like they’re there with me and giving me support during anything stressful. I listen to one of my bestie’s bands, Lightning Dust, a lot. Guilty pleasure music – I love pop music too! 80s or 90s dance music hypes me up when I need to be energized or get lots of baking done!

What was the most fun you had baking a cake recently, and why? Ooh… I made a burger cake that was also a cat. A “Cat Burger” cake! Though I wasn’t sure if I should call it Burger Cat instead, as I didn’t want to imply the cake was made from cat. Haha… it was all plant-based, too.

What is the strangest occasion you’ve been inspired to bake a cake for (or that someone requested one for)? Once many years ago when I was baking cake orders for clients, a person ordered a cake that said “ANUS TART” – an Arrested Development TV show reference (“a new start”) – but still kinda fun to write out in buttercream on a cake!

Image via Plantcakes

If you had to pick just one recipe from Plantcakes to highlight and share with our readers, what would it be? There’s a very delicious black sesame cake with coconut Swiss meringue buttercream and black sesame candy brittle. It’s dangerous to make, though, as the sesame brittle is super addictive to eat – it’s like the black sesame version of Sesame Snaps (a very random candy-like “healthy” treat from childhood).

As a two-time cookbook author, it’s safe to assume that you are a cookbook consumer as well. What’s been the most informative/formative cookbook for you? I love cookbooks and have a brutal collection, though I try to purge it now and again. I taught myself to bake using the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook back in 2008! I love Jam Bake by Camilla Wynne – full of beautiful jam recipes, but also pastries and cakes, and it’s just written in a clever, informative and enjoyable-to-read way, like this cool professor guiding you through your jam journey. My favourite recent cookbook is More Than Cake by Natasha Pickowicz – slammed with gorgeous flavour combinations and neat pastry/cake hacks that you might never have thought about.

What’s your favourite treat to indulge in outside your kitchen creations? What is your favourite local bakery and what are we buying? I love soft serve ice cream. To Live For Bakery has this amazing strawberry soft serve – and their flavours change, so it’s always fun to see what’s swirling! While you’re there, try the special croissant-of-the-month. Our fave so far was the S’mores! We also love Tall Shadow Bakery for sourdough and raspberry buckwheat scones.

Where to score

To scoop up your copy of Plantcakes the moment it drops, be sure to hit one of two launch events (or both!) coming up later this month:

Collage Collage Celebration | Sunday, Sept. 17th | 1-4pm
Details: A double-whammy celebration, head to Collage Collage on Main Street for the launch of the Plantcakes cookbook alongside the shop’s 14th birthday! Expect an afternoon of crafting, delicious cake, and a special book signing by the Lyndsay Sung. Pro tip: Ensure your spot at the launch event and support a super cool, woman-run small business by pre-ordering your copy of Sung’s new book here.

Collage Collage
3697 Main St.

Evening at To Live For Bakery | Thursday, Sept. 28th | 6:30-8:30pm
Details: An evening of sweet cake and savoury snacks, and another opportunity to meet the Sung in-person, purchase Plantcakes, and/or have her sign your copy – happening at one of the author’s favourite local bakeries, to boot!

To Live For Bakery
1508 Nanaimo St.

There is 1 comment

  1. Congratulations, Lyndsey! Can’t wait for delivery of your new book!

    ~ Your mother’s “old” friend🤗

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