For many people transitioning into plant-based eating comes with a bit of dessert and sweet treat anxiety. This is totally understandable and relatable – after all, almost all cakes, cookies, pies, puddings we know are made with loads of dairy products (cream, butter, milk, …) and, of course, eggs. So, vegan desserts may seem as unreal as unicorns!
The big secret, which is actually not as big as it used to be few years ago, is that you can have your vegan cake and eat it too. And the best part is that with embracing vegan and naturally sweetened cake and dessert making you get to leave all your less than healthy habits behind. What do I mean by that? Well, most if not all desserts are sweet and that usually means heaps of pure, refined sugar.
But, if you take a step back and offload all that added sugar what you’ll find is that there are plenty of naturally sweet ingredients out there. Different types of fruit may have immediately jumped to your mind, but the fruit is just the top of the iceberg. Natural sugars are in everything of plant origin since plants make sugars through a process of photosynthesis. So, we can trust plants to deliver lots of sweetness on their own, and the best thing we can do is learn how to let their natural sweetness shine through.
A new cookbook by Marisa Alvarsson, the blogger behind Miss Marzipan, achieves just that – letting fruits and vegetables shine through as key ingredients of desserts ranging from breakfast items, like pancakes, breads, puddings and porridges, to cookies and cakes, loads and loads of cakes. The new cookbook is called “Naturally Sweet Vegan Treats” and features more than 85 sweet treat recipes that offer lots of different strategies for those of us born with a major sweet tooth.
One of my favorite sweetener is roasted sweet potato, and I used it for a lovely chocolate mousse pie. I also experimented with using zucchini in baking which resulted in an amazing fruit cake. So, when I saw a recipe for “Veggie Patch Brownies” that includes both sweet potatoes and zucchini I had to give it a try. The recipe was super easy to make and it’s fun enough for the kids to get involved. The brownies were moist and full of chocolate, which is exactly as brownies should be! And those pesky veggies? You would not know they were there, so here is something you can offer to your picky eater and still feel great about your parenting skills. It’s win-win for everybody! These brownies are easy and delicious, and are definitely something that I look forward making again.
I followed the recipe below as given with one modification – I used roasted sweet potato purée as I think that roasting just brings the best out of the sweet potato. But, I am pretty sure you can use boiled, or canned sweet potatoes here as well.
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM “Naturally Sweet Vegan Treats” by Marisa Alvarsson
Veggie Patch Brownies
Oil-free with nut-and gluten-free options | Makes 12–16 brownies
½ cup (100 g) sweet potato purée
½ cup (75 g) grated zucchini, excess liquid squeezed out
1 cup (240 ml) almond milk or oat milk
⅓cup (50 g) coconut sugar
8 pitted medjool dates, soaked in boiled water for 10 minutes
1½ tsp (8 ml) pure vanilla extract
¾ cup (100 g) organic whole wheat pastry flour
¾ cup (75 g) pure unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powderPinch of salt
½ cup (60 g) chopped walnuts
¼ cup (37 g) chopped dark chocolate, optional (but recommended)
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Line a 9 × 9 inch (23 × 23 cm) square cake pan with parchment paper.
Blitz the sweet potato, zucchini, milk, sugar, drained dates and vanilla together in a food processor or blender until the mix is a smooth, soup-like consistency.
Tip this mixture into a large mixing bowl. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Gently fold to combine.
Add the walnuts and chocolate (if using). Fold in, but do not overmix.
Pour the brownie batter into the lined pan and smooth over the surface with a silicone spatula or the back of a large metal spoon.
Place on the center rack of the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
Allow to cool completely before frosting, if desired. Slice into squares to serve.
Recipe Notes: To make these brownies nut-free, use oat milk and omit the walnuts. To make the brownies gluten-free, use a gluten-free all-purpose flour and baking powder.
RECIPE AND IMAGES REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM “Naturally Sweet Vegan Treats” by Marisa Alvarsson. NO FURTHER RE-PUBLISHING ALLOWED WITHOUT EXPLICIT PERMISSION OF THE ORIGINAL CONTENT CREATORS.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this cookbook through a community of vegan bloggers. This did not influence my views about the recipes I tried thus far and mentioned above.