Vegan dessert for a birthday party
July 17, 2018 6:25 PM   Subscribe

My sweet vegan friend is having a milestone birthday and we're surprising her with a party. I've been tasked with bringing dessert for about 20 people. My current idea is to make vegan brownies and have some vegan ice cream and other toppings for a brownie sundae bar type thing. But I'm not vegan and haven't done a lot of vegan baking, so I could use some help!

1) What vegan-friendly toppings would you include on a brownie sundae bar? I'm not opposed to buying pre-made chocolate sauce, e.g., but I have no idea what vegan options there are and if they're good.
2) Do you have a favorite vegan brownie recipe (I saw this question, but perhaps there have been some vegan brownie innovations in the past 7 years...)? Tonight I tried a Trader Joe's brownie mix with Earth Balance and flax eggs and...meh.
3) Any better ideas for a celebratory vegan dessert for a crowd (not all of whom will be vegan)?

We'll be celebrating at a park so I'll have to make everything in advance. There will probably be a couple hours between the time I get there and the time we eat dessert so it will have to hold at (summer) air temp or in a cooler. Many thanks!
posted by Empidonax to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've made the raspberry brownies linked to here, and I have also made the amazing peanut butter pillows. So good. Ive made the chocolate yogurt bundt cake too. All great. I think I may have done the choco chip cookies but can't remember. I like your idea of the sundae bar. Nuts, sprinkles, cherries--all vegan. You can also do vegan whipped cream (like I think they sell it ready-made? Coconut maybe?). And I think you can even make magic shell w/ semisweet chocolate and coconut oil!
posted by bookworm4125 at 6:34 PM on July 17, 2018

Best answer: The Best Vegan Brownies live up to their name if you're going for a fudge-y brownie. They are miles better than than the ones linked above (I like those raspberry brownies just fine, but Isa is just not that good at brownies - her other baked goods are much better). If you want to do a non-chocolate option, or just have a variety of base options, add in the Peanut Butter Blondies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar (super easy and quick, shockingly delicious for how little work they are).

As for toppings, you can get vegan coolwhip at whole foods, it's actually pretty tasty. Definitely ice cream (van leeuwen makes amazing vegan ice cream if it's available in your area). Some berries would be nice. I'd be thrilled to find walnuts in syrup at the sundae bar (and the smucker's version is vegan). If you want to go a little further afield, pretzel pieces and a peanut butter sauce (I'd just mix pb and maple syrup until I got a taste/consistency that seemed good) would be pretty rad.

Sprinkles are often not vegan, and they're actually kind of a pain to find vegan (most have bug-derived glazes and/or colorings). Mini-marshmallows (look for the dandies brand at whole foods) or chocolate chips could be nice alternatives.
posted by snaw at 7:05 PM on July 17, 2018

The basic chocolate cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World is great.

For toppings: I'd recommend powdered sugar (confectioners' sugar), and some lovely red fruits like strawberries and raspberries, possibly macerated (cut into chunks and let sit with sugar so they get a little gooey).

--- however ---

Zucchini brownies don't use any eggs. Or milk. They are vegan.

The frosting recipe in the link uses butter, but you could easily substitute something or just leave off the frosting.
posted by amtho at 7:13 PM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've made bookworm4125's suggestions and can vouch for them as well. Anything by Isa Chandra Moskowitz is going to be good. I'd strongly recommend using an intended-to-be-vegan recipe by a vegan chef, and not trying to veganize a non-vegan recipe on your own. Baking is scientific, and vegan baking even moreso.

FYI: ghirardelli's semi-sweet chocolate chips are vegan. Lifesaver for me during my vegan years.
posted by something something at 7:15 PM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Also, Justin's mini dark chocolate peanut butter cups - chop those guys up and put them out with your toppings! Or peanut chews!

Oh, you could also do brownie inception by getting brownie brittle at Trader Joe's and having that out as a topping!
posted by snaw at 7:30 PM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Ghirardellis semi-sweet chocolate chips used to be vegan, but they recently started adding dairy. Guittard makes the best vegan chocolate chips now.

Trader Joe’s speculoos cookies are vegan, and would be great crumbled up on ice cream. Oreos are also vegan.
posted by FencingGal at 7:47 PM on July 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

Crushed up Oreos (they’re “Accidentally Vegan!”). Most semisweet chocolate chips will be vegan (avoid milk or butterfat but cocoa butter is fine). Walnuts or pecans. I think canned or fresh peaches would be peachy. Maraschino cherries. Shredded coconut.

Third-ing anything by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I suggest the caramel sauce in the Dulce de Leche recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.
posted by shalom at 7:51 PM on July 17, 2018

Not trying to be argumentative, but most semi-sweet chocolate chips are not vegan. Nestles aren’t. Hershey’s aren't. Ghirardelli’s aren’t. There’s a brand called Enjoy Life, but they aren’t very good. In my medium sized, liberal college town, I have to go to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s or order from Amazon.
posted by FencingGal at 7:57 PM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

FencingGal, you are correct.
OP, look for the Guittard Extra Dark; or, as I stated, just avoid milk, milk fat, and butterfat.
posted by shalom at 8:34 PM on July 17, 2018

If you do the banana ice cream thing, make sure the bananas a very ripe. Freezing tends to bring out the 'green' taste. Also, if you're not serving it right away, add some lemon juice when blending in the food processor... it will keep the bananas from turning brown.
posted by wryly at 9:08 PM on July 17, 2018

Maraschino cherries. You'd need to make them, or make sure the brand is free of "carmine, cochineal extract, crimson lake, natural red 4 and E120."
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:24 PM on July 17, 2018

Most Betty Crocker cake mixes are vegan, as are some of the frostings. I substitute organic banana apple baby food for the eggs (because I am a lazy mofo) and add chopped walnuts to the vanilla sponge and it makes a sort of banana walnut cake that's nice.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:14 PM on July 17, 2018

Best answer: You may have the vegan ice cream covered, but if not, I’m really enjoying NadaMoo right now. I’m not vegan but I’m on a strict dairy free diet right now, and I’ve found NadaMoo to be really creamy and satisfying.

This is really sweet of you! Have fun!
posted by bananacabana at 2:22 AM on July 18, 2018

Best answer: I can't speak to brownies but I would confidently say that the majority of simple vegan chocolate cakes I've had have beat the pants off of most non-vegan simple chocolate cakes. So I feel like maybe you could do cake, as is traditional for a birthday, with a toppings bar, instead of brownies, if you're having trouble finding a good brownie recipe.

Definitely have some chopped fancy nuts, like macadamia and pistachio, to up the specialness factor. A raspberry syrup can be made way ahead of time and goes perfectly with chocolate. I had a coconut dulce de "leche" sauce a couple years ago at a friend's house that I'm still thinking about - looking around I see that there are many recipes for this. I doubt any of them are bad. Depending on your shopping options it should be pretty easy to find vegan marshmallows, which are fantastic.
posted by Mizu at 4:44 AM on July 18, 2018

Not brownies but I have made these Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. They certainly would be good as part of a sundae.
posted by mmascolino at 5:01 AM on July 18, 2018

Vegan cheesecake is always well-received, I've had people request the recipe who are not vegan, only glitch is it's a bit of a pain to travel with it as you don't want it to thaw too much before getting to the party.
posted by lafemma at 6:34 AM on July 18, 2018

There are lots of yummy vegan treats at
I can recommend the fudge topped crunch bars!
posted by sconbie at 6:44 AM on July 18, 2018

Best answer: I didn't address your transportation question, but I make the peanut butter blondies for an annual picnic I go to and they travel excellently - just cut into squares and pop into a container. I've also brought the best vegan brownies I linked to picnics, and, although the edges smoosh together a little, they hold up fine too. For maximum elegance, insofar as that's possible with brownies, I would bring them in their pan, uncut, and then cut and serve on-site.

Also, the vegan coolwhip comes frozen, so if you keep it frozen until you leave the house, it should be perfect after a couple of hours in a cooler.
posted by snaw at 7:16 AM on July 18, 2018

Not brownies, but this chocolate pie is silken tofu magic and could be veganized by using vegan chocolate as discussed above, replacing honey with agave or maple syrup, and using vegan cookies for the crust. I have made this pie several times and it is intensely chocolatey, and would hold up fine in a cooler for several hours. Fresh fruit or nuts would be a lovely topping. You could double or triple the recipe and make a 9x13 pan.
posted by esoterrica at 7:54 AM on July 18, 2018

Best answer: Isa Chandra's vegan brownies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar are hands down the best vegan brownies I've made, and I've tried a lot. I love a fudgy brownie, and those are great. My takeaway was: brownies need tofu to be fudgy without the eggs. If you (or she) like(s) a cakey brownie ... I really can't help you.
posted by freezer cake at 8:50 AM on July 18, 2018

Best answer: Do use vegan recipes, or mixes with vegan instructions, rather than trying to veganize a recipe yourself. It's not worth the returns. Ditto ice cream, unless you have high-end equipment for DIY, and bananas are not ice cream. So Delicious is maybe the best of the vegan bunch, but for me it freezes rock hard in both of my home freezers and then is real hard to work with. It's not good for a park, anyway.

Vegans are pretty accustomed to not having things like chocolate chips or chocolate sauce, and most shelf options are Frankenfoods made with skeevy oils. I'd rather make a great cake or brownies with really good cocoa and higher-grade fats and an excellent strawberry or cherry or orange or vanilla sauce or frosting (and some vegans are militant for vegan sugar and many vegans are like just trying to do their best as best they can there). Vegan cream cheese is...okay, it has a soy-y musty taste that needs overwhelming with other flavors, but that's easily done, if you wanted to make a vanilla-maple dip for all your offerings.

You're doing this in a park, so keep it simple and heat-tolerant. You don't need a brownie bar; you'd be better served with a spread of brownies, cookies, and then some great fruit (ideally really gorgeous strawberries, but you may have to wing it on the day). Find a nice fabric tablecloth and cool plates (if you have a Tuesday Morning, they have gorgeous printed paper plates) and some sparkly ribbon to make a pretty table. Add a big jug of cold brew coffee and two milks (there's so many allergens, one vegan milk is never enough) and a bottle of agave nectar (easier to mix in, definitely vegan) and clean ice for drinks.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:21 AM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For premade ice cream I suggest something like Coconut Bliss, which I love despite not being vegan. Soy products can taste weird to omnivores, but coconut is good in its own way.
posted by noxperpetua at 11:24 AM on July 18, 2018

I've made the No Bake Black Bottom Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie from Vegan with a Vengeance for a non-vegan crowd and it went over spectacularly. Super tasty, have happily made again. Maybe serve with berries or summer fruits on the side.
posted by carrioncomfort at 12:36 PM on July 18, 2018

Response by poster: ALL of these answers are so helpful - thank you! I especially appreciate the guidance on which products are vegan (and taste good).
posted by Empidonax at 12:38 PM on July 18, 2018

OMG this Raw Cashew Dreamcake is flipping out of this world. We were doing the Whole30 when I made it for Mr Origami’s birthday, so instead of honey I just tossed in a handful of dates for sweetness. I made this in a large springform pan, and with an added blue layer. It’s rich and will feed many people, but maybe two midsize pans would make more sense for 20. It’s so fancy looking and delicious everyone will rave. And yes, you’d need a cooler for sure, but it will be eaten so fast you won’t have to worry about it melting.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 11:24 PM on July 18, 2018

Note that only the original flavour oreos are vegan!
posted by womb of things to be and tomb of things that were at 2:01 AM on July 19, 2018

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