Have your cake and eat it, too
Saving sweet treats from the bin. By Laura Gaga
I've been thinking about cake a lot lately. No, not just because we've been subject to a national lockdown and I fill my days with food... It started before then, if you must know!
Ok, so for Christmas (feels like a lifetime ago, now) I bought the ASDA avocado shaped, chocolate, birthday cake for our dessert… What? We were celebrating Jesus' birthday after all!
I also bought Wicked Kitchen's Lemon Cupcakes - I figured they would complement the chocolate (I was right), and both were yellow sticker, reduced on their best before dates, so why not?
After Christmas, I spotted an unopened birthday cake listed on food sharing app Olio. I requested it, collected locally and dropped it off to my mum.
After giving her boy friend, not boyfriend, Vic a huge slice, she cut the rest into individual slices and stored in the freezer, so she could take a piece out as and when she fancied, she explained.
Freezing cakes is a great way of preserving food and reducing waste. I was delighted to learn that Plant Kitchen's chocolate torte could be stored in the freezer when I received nine packs from an Olio food waste hero. So, you see, cakes have been taking up quite the space, in my freezer, and my mind.
Getting my sticky paws on all these delicious goodies, which would otherwise be wasted, got me wondering how much cake is, in fact, wasted. Cake is so often a marker of celebration that what becomes of it when the party is over?
In 2017, Harper's Bazaar published an article with the headline 'A tenth of all wedding food gets thrown away'.
The piece read: 'Uneaten wedding cake was found one of the biggest contributors to the nation's food waste problem. More than one in 10 couples admitted they eventually threw it away' (harpersbazaar.com).
A 2009 WRAP report into household food waste found that 800,000 tonnes of bakery goods is wasted yearly, and 190,000 tonnes of cake and desserts (wrap.org.uk).
Whilst it is amazing to have a growing range of vegan cakes and desserts available for social events, celebrations and Wednesday afternoon's, how can we ensure that this aligns with our vegan values of less environmental harm and promoting sustainability?
These days, I find myself entering an exhaustive list into 'chosen web browser' when looking for products 'vegan, cruelty-free, recyclable, green, sustainable, small independent business, diverse'.
Well not in vain, as when searching for a birthday present for my niece-in-law, who was taking part in the vegan lifestyle challenge, Veganuary, I found Mimi Vegan Bakes (@mimiveganbakes) and was able to buy a surprise box which include baked treats left over from previous orders, so no waste.
On this occasion, it was a caramel blondie and chocolate brownies which achieved shop owner, Maria's, aims of showing that being vegan need be anything but boring.
Whilst cakes are shipped nationwide, when Maria spotted that she and my niece-in-law were both in Newcastle, she personally delivered the cakes.
Such a thoughtful touch, as was Maria hand writing the birthday message that I'd included. Being a small business, Maria says that she hasn't had to worry about waste too much, but created the surprise box as didn't want to contribute to any environmental issues.
She also sells her baked goodies on Olio's 'Made' section which allows makers, bakers, crafters and cooks to sell their sustainable handmade crafts and homemade food in their local community (olioex.com).
Is there anything that big businesses can take away, excuse the pun, from this approach?London boutique cake shop, Konditor & Cook, sells leftover bakes on food waste app Too Good To Go (toogoodtogo.co.uk) - you might be lucky enough to collect their Vegan Pecan Brownies!
Likewise, Gail's Bakery have launched a Waste Not menu using ingredients that would otherwise be thrown away such as sourdough made from surplus bread.
I hope that they can extend this approach to their vegan treats such as their dairy-free chocolate muffins (gailsbakery.co.uk).
Mindful baking and spending
Major bakeries and cake chains could learn from the likes of Maria, who set up her shop through a love of vegan baking and experimenting with different recipes and extend their vegan options. They could use creative ways such as surprise boxes to lessen waste.
As consumers we can choose where to spend our money; we are the investors and decide what we enter in our 'chosen search engine'. We can also be more mindful of having our cake and eating it, too - whether that's creating new recipes or using stale cake in a trifle to give it a new lease of life.
It's important to store food correctly and share with others, whether that's the 'Vic' in your life, or someone you have not yet met via Olio. Keeping in mind that cakes, like dog's are not just for Christmas. We may cut cake to celebrate one-offs or yearly events such as birthdays, but neither the years, or the cakes, should be wasted.