Laura Beck pretty much has her hands in every vegan event or animal-rights-related initiative in the Bay Area and is a founding editor of SF-based vegan lifestyle guide Vegansaurus.com. She has worked for several animal rescue, welfare, and rights organizations and is the community manager for vegan recipe site VegWeb.com. She is also a columnist for VegNews Magazine and has contributed to SFist, Huffington Post, The Bold Italic, Crazy Sexy Life, SF Weekly, San Francisco Magazine, and Eater SF, among others.
Karin Olsson has volunteered with various animal groups. She was one of the organizers for California’s Prop 2 campaign, which passed in a landslide victory in 2008 and outlawed the cruel confinement of egg-laying hens, veal calves, and pregnant pigs. For her day job, Karin works with schools and restaurants to adopt corporate policies that improve animal welfare (such as ending their use of eggs from caged hens and adding more meatless menu options).
Laura Beck and Karin Olsson. Photos by Mark Shrayber of Legally Blind Photography and Walker Phillips
Here, Laura and Karin tell us a little about how the SF Vegan Bakesale started, their thoughts on a vegan lifestyle, and what animals share their homes with them.
How were the SF Vegan Bakesales started and what do you hope they'll accomplish?
Laura: We were inspired by the Worldwide Vegan Bakesale and grew from there into a more regular event in San Francisco. We want to spread the joy and awesomeness of vegan baked goods and show the world that veganism is fun and tasty and should always involve cake.
Karin: After the Worldwide Vegan Bakesale, Laura and I got to talking about doing a sale to benefit a local cat rescue that was in desperate need of funds. Thanks to a bunch of wonderful volunteers who donated their time and baked goods, we were able to raise nearly $3,000 for the cat rescue in just a few short hours. We realized what a great tool this was to raise funds for local charities and decided to make it a regular thing. The bakesales are such fun events that bring so many people together for a good cause. Plus they’re an excellent excuse to stuff your face with cupcakes and brownies!
How do you choose the beneficiaries of each bakesale?
Laura: We choose local organizations that the money can hopefully really impact. We've done everything from bunny rescue to programs that help kids from low-income families get bicycles. If you know of any organizations that could use our help, please let us know! We're always taking ideas.
Bunnies up for adoption at previous Vegan Bakesale
What is the most delicious pastry you’ve had at a bakesale?
Laura: Uhhh... that's REALLY hard. Davey from A Fire Inside makes these tremendous cinnamon rolls called "Weekend Ruiners" that are mind-blowing. Cinnaholic also makes amaaaaaazing cinnamon rolls with a variety of crazy delicious toppings. Fat Bottom Bakery makes killer baklava. And Sugar Beat Sweets has the greatest brownies on earth. And that's just the beginning. We've had such luck with tasty treats, from Bike Basket Pie's delicious hand-held pies to homemade sea salt caramels. Seriously, it's out of control.
Karin: Oh man, there have been so many… Some highlights for me have included strawberry shortcake, chocolate croissants, and white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies. Oooh, and of course Pepples Donuts’ glazed raised donuts, Idle Hands Baking Company’s cookies n’ cream cupcakes, In the Mood for Food’s bialys with cashew cream cheese, and Fat Bottom Bakery’s savory hand pies are all out of this world. And ditto on Sugar Beat Sweets’ brownies! I’m getting hungry just thinking about this!
Pastries at a previous bakesale
When did you decide to be vegan and what led you to that decision?
Laura: I became vegan after reading Diet for a New America by John Robbins. I'd been vegetarian previously because I didn't want to eat animals. Why should I hug my dog and eat a pig? A pig is smarter than my dog! But my reasoning didn't go much beyond that. Reading Diet for a New America really drove home all that's wrong with the way we raise and slaughter "food animals." I mean, it's beyond screwed-up from any perspective. I figured the best way to fight back was with my wallet since all animal-product-producing companies care about is money.
Karin: I’ve always loved animals, and even as a young kid I couldn’t bear the thought of eating them. My folks were very supportive of my vegetarianism, and my mom used to make her own tofu burgers (which was pretty unheard of in the 80s). Once I began to learn more about factory farming and the abuses that occur not only in the meat industry but also in the egg and dairy industries, I went vegan.
What do you feel is the biggest misconception about a vegan lifestyle?
Laura: That we don't eat and enjoy delicious food. The opposite is true; the people I know who love food the most are vegans. Honestly, Karin and I are two of the most food-motivated people you will ever meet. Over the holiday break, we both went on eating tours of other cities. Karin even had all of her meals planned out on an Excel spreadsheet!
Karin: It’s true—I did plan an epic eating tour in Excel. I have to second what Laura said—vegans do eat amazing flavorful food, and yes, we do get enough protein.
If a friend were visiting the Bay Area for just one day, where would you take him/her out to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
Laura: Breakfast: brunch at Souley Vegan in Oakland (biscuits and gravy!). Lunch would probably be falafel at Old Jerusalem or a vegan cheesesteak at Jay's Cheesesteak. Dinner would either be Saha or Millennium. Only one day? That's hard!
Karin: For breakfast I’d have to go with the soyrizo breakfast burritos or vegan french toast from Sun Rise Restaurant in the Mission. Then I’d do a quick trip over to the East Bay for cinnamon rolls from Cinnaholic and a vegan milkshake at Saturn Café, followed by lunch at Cha-Ya [Vegetarian Japanese Restaurant]. I’d definitely pick Millennium for dinner, and if we needed a late night snack, I’d take them to get vegan pizza at Beretta!
What is your favorite vegan dish in the Bay Area?
Karin: I always crave Ike’s sandwiches. There are so many amazing vegan options to choose from, but my standby is the Meatless Mike. Ike’s is now at Lime, so you can grab a drink (or three) to go with your sandwich! [Rumor has it that Ike’s in SF is moving again to a new permanent location of their own soon.]
Laura: The Toasty Crispy at Souley Vegan!
What is the one ingredient you couldn’t live without?
Laura: I'm gonna be totally lame and healthy and say kale. But also, chocolate chips for baking. And Gardein Buffalo wings. Uh, I could go on.
Karin: Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread. It bakes up just like butter! And soy yogurt—it’s delicious on its own but also works as a super easy egg replacer in cakes and muffins.
Do you have any companion animals? What are their names/hopes and dreams?
Karin: I have a wonderful rescued cat named Sweetie Pancakes whose favorite pastime is to sit in the bathtub and drink water out of the faucet.
Laura: I have an adorable pit bull from Rocket Dog Rescue. Her name is Hazel and I think one day she'd like to be a professional eater. We have that in common.
So, grab a wad of cash and hit the SF Vegan Bakesale this Saturday for scrumptious treats, and adorable dogs and pigeons. I mean, frankly, if charity isn't a good enough reason to gorge yourself on pastries, then I don't know what is.
To pump you up for the sale, we’ve included a recipe from bakesale volunteer baker Robin Means of ieatcupcakes.com for vegan cupcakes that will be making an appearance at the sale. Based on vegan cream-filled chocolate-glazed donuts that are offered at two favorite vegan-friendly donut shops (Ronald’s Donuts in Las Vegas and Voodoo Doughnut in Portland), these sweet treats are her take on the donuts in cupcake form. It is a reimagining of a recipe for Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes featured in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. We figured you’d want this, in case you go to the sale, taste them, realize you can’t live without them, and decide to make a batch everyday for the rest of your life.
Voodoo Ronald's Donut Cupcakes
Makes: 22 cupcakes with icing
3 c unbleached white flour
½ T baking soda
½ T baking powder
2 T cornstarch
½ t salt
1 ½ c sugar
2/3 c sunflower oil
1 ½ c soymilk
½ c water
1 T vanilla extract
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 c soymilk
1 t agar powder
3 T arrowroot powder
1 package silken tofu
2/3 c powdered sugar
1 T vanilla extract
1 12 oz bag of chocolate chips
½ c soymilk
3 T agave nectar