Say Cheezecake: Q&A with Vegan Baker Trisha Lobefaro

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It all started with a slice of Cheezecake. Five years ago, dairy-avoider Trisha Lobefaro was craving the rich, creamy dessert and began testing alternative recipes. After some experimentation in the kitchen—and rave reviews from taste testers—Lobefaro launched her own vegan baking business, No Udder Desserts, in 2005. Lobefaro recently opened her very first brick-and-mortar bakery in Woodland Hills, California—a totally vegan venture that offers sweet indulgences such as cupcake shots, Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Cake, and (of course) the Cheezecake that started it all.

Q Have you always enjoyed baking?

A Always! Since I was in elementary school, actually. I used to make cookies, and I tried to make pies and stuff. I made a pie in high school and won first prize. I didn’t know how that happened. I just always liked baking, and it always seemed fun to me.

Q What inspired you to stop using animal products in your baking?

A I was trying not to eat animal products but I really missed cheesecake, so I started messing around with a recipe for that. I made it without eggs and I was happy with it, so I gave it to people and they liked it too. After that I just started making all of my desserts without any animal products. That’s how I got into vegan food: I realized it can be very tasty, and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.

Q  You often use tofu in your baking. What other substitutions do you use for more traditional baking ingredients?

A We use soymilk instead of milk and soy creamers instead of cream. We use raw sugar because for me agave nectar is a little hard to work with; it changes the texture and makes it a little looser. We use baking soda and white vinegar as a substitution for eggs because they create a gas that makes the cake rise. We use vegan margarine in the frosting. There’s always a substitution. You just have to play and see what works.

Q What advice would you give to someone starting their own business?

A Make sure you have a lot of money behind you (laughs). Really, that’s the biggest thing, you have to make sure you have operating money because you have to be able to sustain your business while you’re growing it, and that’s the hardest part. Also, know who your customers are, and target them. If you really enjoy doing something, you can turn it into a business. It’s just the financial backing that’s the hard part.

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