While most people don't equate wedding cakes with suffering, it's an uncomfortable truth that many of the animals who contributed ingredients were raised in unhealthy, stressful conditions. Not only does this produce unwholesome eggs and dairy (hint: it's not a great idea to look up FDA allowances of animal byproducts before eating), but it casts a shadow across your wedding festivities.

Make your day about love, togetherness, and happiness, instead. When you use vegan ingredients in your wedding cake, you can savor each bite without guilt. Plus, you have the added satisfaction of knowing that your money isn't supporting animal cruelty. A vegan wedding cake is the perfect way to round out your meat-free wedding feast. It's a day of celebrating love and life, after all.

Finding a Vegan Bakery

Are you dreaming of a cake shaped like a wrapped present, a flower bouquet, or a chest of gold? If you're the type of couple who wants to make a splash with a creatively-shaped wedding cake, you're in luck. Most fondant icings (the type that give your cake a smooth, flawless finish) are vegetarian- friendly, and there are scores of recipes online to remove the gelatin and make it truly vegan.

Most metropolitan areas have a wide choice of bakeries that specialize in vegan goods. If you can't locate a vegan-friendly baker near you, however, you can ask your favorite bakery to come up with a special-order vegan version of their dessert. If you choose this approach, however, leave plenty of time for tastings to make sure they've gotten the taste exactly right. Don't forget to ask the in-store bakeries at any health food or co-op grocery stores in your area if they have any vegan bakery contacts in the area.

Still coming up empty? Don’t give up. If you can find even one vegan-friendly resource in your town, such as an animal cruelty prevention meeting group, pose the question to that community and see if anyone can come up with any leads. You may need to travel to a larger city nearby. You can also order vegan wedding cakes from afar. Vegan Treats, for example, is a vegan bakery in Bethlehem, PA that became famous by shipping desserts to celebrities around the country.

Substituting Animal Ingredients

While making your own wedding cake is an enormous undertaking, it can sometimes be the easiest option if you can't find a vegan-friendly bakery. Whether you attempt the following substitutions yourself or you bring this list in to discuss with your baker, take comfort from knowing that animal ingredients are not, in fact, essential for creating a delicious and beautiful wedding cake.

Butter: There are plenty of butter replacements at the grocery store, including margarine. Just be sure there aren’t any dairy products, like whey, hiding in the ingredients list. If you use oil-based products (or plain oil) in place of butter while baking, take care to read the "Making it Taste Right" section below.

Buttermilk: Use a mix of soy milk and vinegar, to taste.

Cream: Not only does coconut cream taste just as thick and sumptuous as dairy cream; it also contains slightly fewer calories. Coconut cream isn't the same as coconut milk. It's the thick, white part that's skimmed off of the top. Coconut cream also makes a decadent whipped cream.

Eggs: You can find ready-made egg replacer products in most natural foods stores, but it's also relatively simple to make your own. One egg is approximately equal to any of the following: ¼ cup of vegetable oil, ¼ cup of soy yogurt, or 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil mixed with three tablespoons of water. You can also use 2 heaped tablespoons of potato starch, arrowroot powder, or cornstarch in place of each egg.

Depending on what will go well with the taste of your cake, you can also substitute ingredients with stronger flavors, such as ¼ cup of applesauce mixed with 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/3 cup of cooked pumpkin, or ¼ cup of pureed banana.

Milk: Dairy milk substitutes abound. The best way to choose a favorite is to sample them all yourself. While exotic varieties like hemp milk can be an acquired taste, you usually can't go wrong with the classics: soy milk and almond milk. These usually come in vanilla and chocolate versions for added appeal. If you want your cake to have a creamy, tropical taste, add a dash of coconut milk.

White Sugar: Believe it or not, some sugar refineries still use "bone char" to whiten their sugar, which is charcoal made from animal bones. Unless you can be sure that your sugar comes from an animal-free refinery, look for sweeteners like rice syrup, maple syrup, agave nectar, fruit puree, or even honey, if your definition of vegan allows. (Brown sugar isn't off the hook, either; it's often just white sugar that's been coated in molasses).

Making it Taste Right

If you've tried vegan cakes in the past and were less than impressed, the problem probably lay with the butter substitute. Many oil-based baked goods fall flat and don't taste as rich or as fluffy as their dairy-based cousins. However, the problem is easy to fix. The cake just needs a melt-in-your-mouth component added back into the mix. Find vegan ingredients that have a high fat content, just like butter. These can be anything from ground macadamia nuts and coconut butter to soy yogurt or dairy-free chocolate. When you mix these ingredients into the batter, they'll give the oil the buttery boost it needs.

Your vegan wedding cake is the perfect opportunity to show your more skeptical wedding guests that a cruelty-free dessert can also be a culinary masterpiece. Pile it high with colorful fresh fruit or heap it in white vegan icing; your wedding cake is a symbol of your personality and your relationship. Choose one that reflects your beliefs and your values, and you'll smile as you savor every bite.

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