Care of Dane McBurnie

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Any gathering of Toronto’s vegan community is an exciting experience, but none is as sweet as the Annual Totally Fabulous Vegan Bake-Off. I am not a veteran vegan (I went vegan in 2013), but for as long as I have been living this lifestyle, I had heard tell of this cruelty-free contest of cookies, cupcakes and confections.

On the cool Sunday afternoon of March 23rd, Toronto’s finest vegan bake-smiths gathered to share their wares and compete for the right to proudly claim, on this day, that they were the very best. My wonderful girlfriend and I managed to fit six plates of baked goods into our daily intake of food, and we can confirm that, in every category, deciding who was “the best” was rarely an easy task.

The afternoon was a delicious who’s-who of the vegan food community. Superstars such as Tori’s Bakeshop, Apiecalypse Now!, Bello Bio and Through Being Cool Bakery were represented in full force. The competition was also judged by prominent vegan chef Doug McNish, vegan blogger Lauren Toyota and councillor Michael Layton. I did not envy their position of having to choose best-in-show…except that they got to eat more than I did.

The food was absolutely delicious. It was a vegan food event, but that is no exception to the quality of the baked goods that were supplied. Any of these treats could stand toe-to-toe with their non-vegan counterparts and come out on top, in my opinion. As a new vegan, I still approach the food I eat with a sense of wonder. The flavours and compositions of the baked goods that would traditionally be made with non-vegan ingredients somehow become better than ever.

For months I have just missed out on the frequently-sold-out Pizza Buns from Through Being Cool. These fantastic rolls rightfully won best-in-show in the professional category, but there was definite conflict for me when comparing it to Tori’s Bake Shop’s Kale and Provolone Scone. While the sweets may be the main attraction to the bake-off, these two savoury pieces were a highlight for me. They also made me feel like I wasn’t just having dessert for lunch. The sweets, obviously, were outstanding as well. I especially loved Diljot Kaur’s Peanut Butter Bliss cookie (which also won in its category and won Best Presentation too). Apiecalypse Now! showed up with two supreme contenders: their Punk-ass Peppermint Nanimo Bars and, my favourite of the sweets, the Sticky-ass Buns. This bakery makes absolute magic and is well worth your time to visit their storefront on Markham St. in the Annex.

2014-03-23 15.30.59I am very proud to be a part of such a warm community of passionate vegan friends and foodies alike. Every day I wake up, I realize how blessed I am to be a vegan in Toronto. I can look into the eyes of my non-vegan friends and say, with great conviction, that I am missing out on absolutely nothing.

In fact, after attending the Totally Fabulous Vegan Bake-Off, I’d argue they are the ones missing out. No matter what your diet or lifestyle, this experience is eye-opening, wonderful and delicious. Vegan cuisine redefines the idea of love being a secret ingredient. The Bake-off was a sweet, cruelty-free tour of the best Toronto has to offer, and I’m already looking forward to 2015.