Vegan Desserts, Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season

Liz Rueven

Perhaps one of the keys to the bold flavors and exciting range of vegan desserts presented in Hannah Kaminsky’s latest cookbook, VEGAN DESSERTS, SUMPTUOUS SWEETS FOR EVERY SEASON, is that she insists that there aren’t any disclaimers about her recipes.  “Each dessert must be delicious, bold and beautiful,  not just for a vegan dessert but for ANY dessert.”  It is for that reason, that Kaminsky’s latest book will appeal to a wide range of home bakers including those concerned with reducing fat and sugar, vegans and vegetarians, and Kosher bakers  (always on the prowl for non-dairy desserts)  alike.

Kaminsky, 22,  from Fairfield, CT., has chosen the less traveled path of the  typical Fairfield County young adult. At 16, she was an “unhealthy” vegan, living off waxy faux cheese slices and tofu pups.  She had heard about Sue Cadwell’s jewel of a vegetarian take out spot, HEALTH IN A HURRY, in Fairfield, and went to check it out one afternoon after school.  After an illuminating chat, Cadwell encouraged her to help out in  her tiny but highly productive and creative kitchen.  Kaminsky learned how to cook there, and began to experiment with vegan baking. Her craft blog about knitting soon morphed into a blog about vegan baking, a connection that Kaminsky sees as logical.  Her attitude about baking is one that encourages creativity and a focus on pure ingredients and strong flavors, elicited by using local and seasonal ingredients at their peak.  Her blog now receives between 4500-5000 hits a day.  Her current book, VEGAN DESSERTS, released on May 1,  follows her first published MY SWEET VEGAN,  PASSIONATE ABOUT DESSERT.  She consults on recipes and bakes special order desserts for HEALTH IN A HURRY  (check out my review), and is a regular contributor to various magazines.  She is a self taught photographer, working  towards a B.A. in photography.  She takes all of her own photos in her parents’ kitchen, which has evolved into her workshop and studio for her many projects.

I hoped that Kaminsky would treat me to something scrumptious when I visited her the day before her book launch at Barnes and Noble, in Westport, on May 7.  A pleasantly Tropical aroma permeated the air as we spoke at her kitchen table.  It was draped in a brightly colored cloth for some shot she had just taken, her camera and tripod, pans of cupcake bites, unwashed mixing bowls and tools, all contributing to the scene of bakery/studio/lab/home kitchen. Her mini bites,  dubbed MANGO TANGO CUPCAKES,  burst forth with the sweetness and exotic flavors of ripe mangoes, richness and crunch of chopped Macadamia nuts, combined with chewy flecks of finely chopped ginger.  All this in one explosive bite of Tropical goodness!

I love Kaminsky’s book, VEGAN DESSERTS, SUMPTUOUS DESSERTS FOR EVERY SEASON, for many reasons. First, it is a visual delight . It’s language is easy to read and understand.  There is one glorious photo on each page, facing one recipe per page.  This ideal set up allows the home baker to consider each recipe individually, without the clutter of too much text or visual information.  Her tight shots reveal moisture, texture, sheen and crumble ,beckoning the reader to take a bite.  The organization of the book is logical, beginning with an introduction that cheerfully encourages the reader to buy seasonal ingredients and allow them to shine in their baked goods.  Going way beyond pumpkin pie in the fall or berry crumbles in the summer, Kaminsky includes over 100 recipes categorized by the four seasons.  Who knew that SAFFRON has a season?  Kaminsky does!  Her friendly and informative writing style reveals that “crocus stigmas are painstakingly plucked by hand, one by one, and then dried for about seven days before they’re ready for use.  When you get the real things, then they deserve to be the center of attention, and this cake is just the way to give them the spotlight.” She educates her readers like this, here,  as an accompaniment to the recipe for GOLDEN SAFFRON POUND CAKE studded with raisins and moistened by plain soy or coconut yogurt.  I am suddenly hankering for the next saffron harvest.  This is the spell that Kaminsky casts. 

Her helpful glossary demystifies her highly edited list of ingredients, some unfamiliar, like Ricemellow Creme, a vegan alternative to Marshmallow Fluff, and many, familiar and super helpful, like which non-dairy margarine to buy  (she recommends Earth Balance or Willow Run).  She has a couple of pages on KITCHEN TOOLS AND TOYS  (there’s that wit again) which includes recommendations on things like which ice cream maker to consider along with the value of Silpat nonstick baking mats.  Next comes TROUBLESHOOTING, with answers and suggestions to questions like why the cake or bread you have labored over, is gooey in the center.

FINALAMENTE!!!  The fun begins with a section for each season, which gratefully includes some holiday recipes like Mexican Chocolate Creme Caramel  (Why wait for the next Cinco de Mayo?), Hamantaschen, and  Pistachio Nog.  Never mind those thin, gross “soy nogs” or those fatty , highly caloric, traditional egg nogs. Consider this celebratory blend of pistachios and agave nectar next time you are gathered around the blazing hearth.

As our CT spring has finally sprung , here are a couple of faves that pop off the page and beckon me to share with you.  Kaminsky’s  recipe for  SPICED BEET CAKE BITES starts off with a strong case for reconsidering this “humble root veggie as a worthy dessert ingredient.” Here’s how she has me convinced, “ Plated with an impossibly rich beet caramel sauce, creamy salted caramel frosting and cacao nib brittle, the contrasting flavors and textures play together so beautifully, I promise this pairing will turn anyone into a beet believer.”  Convinced yet?

Summer shines joyfully as Kaminsky includes one of her longest and more complex recipes for WATERMELON BOMBE.  Imagine the goodness of gloriously sweet , summer watermelon pureed and combined with chocolate chips to mimic the speckled beauty of this quintessential summer melon?  If Kaminsky can combine fresh mint leaves, avocado and almond milk to create the vivid green rind of the melon, and create this frozen wonder,  I am a true believer.

The simplicity of this recipe for KUMQUAT POPPY SEED SCONES highlights Kaminsky’s focus on one distinct ingredient and flavor

Find Hannah Kaminsky’s VEGAN DESSERTS, SUMPTUOUS SWEETS FOR EVERY SEASON at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.  Check out her blog at


Kumquat Poppy Seed Scones

Tangy and sour, the bright citrus flavor of kumquats is unlike that of a standard orange, lemon, or lime.  Although they have a very short season and can be difficult to find, the hunt is absolutely worth it, since there’s nothing else quite like it.  Should you miss the boat on this unique little fruits, you can substitute candied orange rind in this particular recipe… But it just won’t be the same.

1 1/4 Cup All-Purpose Flour

1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar

1 Teaspoon Baking Powder

1 Tablespoon Poppy Seeds

1/4 Teaspoon Salt

1/4 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine

1/2 Cup Fresh Kumquats, Chopped

2 - 3 Tablespoons Plain Non-Dairy Milk

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and line a baking sheet with a silpat.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, poppy seeds, and salt before using a pastry cutter or two forks to cut in the margarine.  You want this mixture to have some bigger and smaller lumps of margarine, but no larger than a pea.  Once you get it to be the consistency of coarse crumbs, set it aside. 

Chopping the kumquats into the proper size is critical to making an edible scone- Too large and you'll get some rather sour bites!  The way that I make sure everything is about even, is I first cut my kumquats in half horizontally and remove the pips (as small as they are, they still aren't pleasant to bite down on.)  Then, depending on the size of the fruit, I usually will cut each half into four or six equal pieces, so they're about the size of raisins.  The process of cutting up all of the kumquats can be a bit time consuming, but trust me, it's worth the effort.

Once you've gotten through all of the fruit, drop the pieces into the flour mixture and make sure each piece is thoroughly mixed in and coated in flour.  This brings in a lot of liquid, so start slow when adding the soymilk- Pour in no more than a tablespoon at a time.  Stir just until everything comes together into a cohesive ball of dough, and pat it together into a circle with your hands.  Cut this circle into four equal parts, and place these triangles on your prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 15 - 18 minutes, until nicely browned on top and toothpick poked into the center comes out clean. 

Makes 4 Scones