“They’re new,” the barista said when I asked about the addition of a vegan muffin to their pastry case. “I tried one,” he said. “They’re not that bad. They don’t have that sugary taste that the others have, but…”
I commended him for not calling the egg-and-dairy versions “the normal pastries,” but that vegan muffin was disgusting. If my editor allowed me to curse, there would be a long string of expletives aiding my description of exactly how nasty that “muffin” was. For once, though, I will hew to Strunk and White’s “omit needless words” (by adding two sentences and a parenthetical—curiouser and curiouser) and tell you it was awful.
Tough and dry, that muffin tasted of baking powder not fully mixed; one bite crumbled the overly-dry mass to pebbles. That old trick of smashing crumbs together to catch the strays brought no better luck. The fresh raspberries were the saving grace. “We know,” they silently said to me. “We know, and we’re sorry.”
Vegans have all had such nightmares foisted upon us at some point. We meet a friend for coffee and it’s our only choice. Or a well-meaning coworker has picked up one of these rocks for an office birthday celebration, knowing you can’t eat the cake (coworkers, we really do appreciate the thought.)
Or, like me, your vegan baking adventures began with hippie whole-food cookbooks seemingly published by folks who had never actually learned to bake. I called the resultant disasters “flavor pucks,” ultimately flinging them sidearm into the woods adjacent to my childhood home.
We know it doesn’t have to be like that. Sacramento has flourished in the past decade, with restaurants offering vegan food—desserts, even —that are not just edible but crave-worthy.
A good vegan sweet is one of the few categories where a vegan can tell their omni friends “you can’t taste the difference” and actually believe it in their hearts.
Let’s start with pastries: Pushkin’s has been offering amazing muffins, cookies, cakes and cupcakes for a decade. The latest Pushkin’s project, Babes, offers both vegan donuts and vegan ice cream. Like all Pushkin’s output, every speck of it is gluten free, as well.
Relative newcomer Milk Money is also vegan-friendly. The flavors of their donuts and ice cream rotate, but they always offer a least one vegan option. They’re also current home to Love Child’s vegan milkshake. I’ve yet to try one, but if it’s as good as the Love Child pop-up options, it’s’ likely fantastic. You can visit Milk Money’s R Street location, but pre-pandemic they were available at coffee shops across the city.
I’ve touched on vegan ice creams and gelato here. Conscious Creamery is top-notch for vegan gelato and offers delivery for larger orders. They’ve been a staple of pop-ups for several years, and they’re nearly ready to open their brick-and-mortar location in Oak Park.
We’ve got a growing number of purely-veg spots in town with vegan desserts—please take a minute to pour one out for Mother’s salted chocolate chip cookies—Veg, of course, has you covered. If you’re at Burger Patch the shakes there are great too.
Beyond specialized spots, a good number of omni restaurants put out some of the best vegan food in the city, desserts included. Though their menu changes seasonally, I’ve never had a bad vegan dessert at Revolution. Pre-pandemic Hook & Ladder was a solid choice, though honestly their bars of chocolate-peanut butter fudge were a little hard to navigate gracefully after a couple of Old Fashioneds from the bar.
I want to single out Kasbah for always having vegans’ backs, as well as put out a public plea for their Vegan Chef Challenge Tahini Rose Water Mousse to be added to their menu permanently.
The season of giving is upon us. Budgets are tighter, but as you choose how to share the holiday spirit—donate to your favorite animal sanctuary, buy a gift card to a locally-owned small business, maybe even throw in a couple of bucks to help a plucky ‘lil alt-paper keep publishing—consider buying a meat-eating loved one a vegan dessert. Food is love, after all, and an extra serving of compassion is twice as sweet.