I know that people think vegan baked treats aren’t any good. Cupcakes probably taste like cardboard and cookies must be similar to sawdust wafers, right? Wrong! There seems to be a misconception that a baked goods flavor lies in eggs, butter and cream, but that couldn’t be father from the truth. If I had a dollar for every time someone bit into something I’ve baked and exclaimed with surprise, “this doesn’t taste vegan!”, I’d be one wealthy Veggiegirl.
If you need proof that vegan treats are tasty, you just need to watch an episode of The Food Network’s Cupcake Wars when a vegan baker is competing. Every time a vegan baker is on the show, a vegan baker as won. (I can’t say that every vegan baker who’s been on the show has won, because sometimes they are pitted up against each on in one show.) The first baker to win was Chef Chloe Coscarelli, who has since gone on to write two vegan cookbooks – Chloe’s Kitchen and Chloe’s Vegan Desserts. The second vegan baker to win was Doron Petersan of Washington D.C.’s Sticky Fingers Bakery. Sticky Fingers treats are so delectable that they were invited back to Cupcake Wars a second time. And they won a second time. The most recent vegan win on Cupcake Wars came from New Jersey’s own Papa Ganache.
Papa Ganache recently moved from their original location in Keyport to a new storefront in Matawan, and they special in vegan pastries of all sorts – from cakes and cookies to muffins and donuts. They use mostly organic ingredients, and their baked goods are always cholesterol-free, dairy and egg-free, never contain any trans-fats, hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup. They also have an expanding gluten-free line of treats. They’ve also recently added savory lunch items to their menu, including soups, pastas and pizzas.
Papa Ganache’s head baker Amy and her assistant Justin faced some tough competition on Cupcake Wars, which aired on The Food Network on April 21st. They were up against former Cupcake Wars winner 21 Cakes, online based bakery Sweet Dreamery Desserts and Sweet Magnolias – another vegan bakery. They faced their challenges with (mostly) calm and creativity though, unlike the bickering chefs of 21 Cakes who were eliminated after the second round.
The first round of Cupcake Wars was a tough one. The brief was to create a flavorful cupcake based on ingredients that the show’s fans voted for online. Among the list were items such as curry powder, coconut, espresso, Brussels sprouts and fried baloney. (Yep, fried baloney.) Amy and Justin went for the ingredient that would probably be voted the least likely to make its way into a cupcake – the brussels sprout. Their Brussels carrot curry cake with vanilla cream cheese frosting & maple reduction wowed the judges and blew away the competition. Guest judge Fred Nelson, president of People's Choice Awards exclaimed, "I can't believe this is vegan!" (Now where have I heard that before?)
The show’s second round is all about presentation, and with The People’s Choice Awards in mind, Amy and Justin came up with three more amazing creations: chocolate ganache cake filled with salted caramel and topped with chocolate buttercream, salted caramel drizzle, with a chocolate fondant star on top; “buttermilk” cake with creme brûlée buttercream filling topped with crème brûlée infused buttercream and topped with macadamia nut toile and a fondant film strip; and a gluten-free lemon cake filled with blackberry and thyme syrup topped with vanilla buttercream, blackberry sauce and a blackberry dipped in edible glitter.
By the show’s third round, just the two vegan bakeries were left standing, and the judges joked that the show could be called “The Vegan Choice Awards”. Amy and Justin pulled through with their creative flavors and elegant decorations and won the show, bringing home $10,000 for Papa Ganache and taking their cupcakes to the People’s Choice Awards.
Papa Ganache is located at 106 Main Street in Matawan. They’re open Monday through Thursday from 8:00am to 7:00pm, Friday & Saturday from 8:00am to 8:00pm and Sunday from 8:00am to 6:00pm.