Ask any vegan what they truly miss about their previous non-vegan life, and chances are you’ll hear cheese, cake or dessert as the answer!

While I can’t help out on the cheese front (there are some cashew-based alternatives though!) but I certainly can with the dessert front! Vegan baking can be trickier, as without the safety net of eggs and butter even the most basic of sponges can be temperamental.

However it can be a lot simpler too, and whipping up something delicious, egg free, dairy free and full of flavour relatively quickly is also possible, like our fool-proof Vegan Hero Sponge recipe. Just make sure you are always prepared with some staple vegan baking essential ingredients in your cupboard/fridge!

Vegan Cakes London

The 12 essential vegan baking ingredients you should always have handy

1. Plain Flour

Duh, no brainer. Plain flour is used for vegan cakes, vegan pancakes, vegan doughnuts, vegan get it. Store in a cool, dark and dry space, ideally air tight (but whom are we kidding - I leave it in its paper packaging at home as we go through so much of it pretty rapidly).

Vegan Baking Ingredients

2. Baking soda

AKA sodium bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda. It acts as a strong raising agent in cake sponges when combined with an acid such as vinegar and lemon juice. And since vegan baking does not involve fluffed up eggs and butter we need as much help in the leavening and raising department from baking soda as we can get!

Vegan Chocolate Sponge Cake

3. Baking powder

Also acts as a raising agent and is essentially a blend of baking soda, cream of tartare and corn starch. It doesn’t need an additional acidic ingredient to be activated as a leavening agent (gosh, I do sound rather geeky there don’t I! Bear with me, this stuff is interesting) but is “weaker” than using straight up baking soda and is best used in cookies where not as much rise is needed. Sometimes it’s used together with additional baking soda is some recipes too. 

4. Cocoa powder

An all-rounder ingredient to whip up chocolate sponges, frostings, biscuits etc. And pretty much everyone loves chocolate, vegans and non-vegans alike so #veganwinning.

Vegan Chocolate Cake Batter

5. Vegetable oil

As vegan baking excludes all dairy products and eggs, using a neutral plant-based fat becomes imperative to add and preserve moisture and tenderness to vegan cakes, vegan doughnuts, vegan pancakes etc. Also, it’s a very commonplace ingredient to have around for cooking anyway.

6. Apple cider vinegar

The acid in cider vinegar helps activate baking soda in vegan cake recipes and helps raise light sponges whilst adding a slight tang in flavour. You could also use white vinegar but I find the tangy tinge from the cider vinegar adds depth of flavour especially to vanilla bakes and pancakes.

7. Corn flour

Aka corn starch. When added to plain flour it stunts the gluten and adds structure and springiness to the rise in vegan cake sponges. It inhibits it from becoming “dense” as vegan cakes can often suffer from that. It can also be used in other fluffy vegan treats such as pancakes.

8. Dairy free milk

There are so many varieties of dairy free milk alternatives! Almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, oat milk, hazelnut milk, rice milk, cashew milk. My go-to dairy free milk choices are almond and coconut but you can go with any. Most are available as tetra paks that can be stored ambient in the cupboard unopened - hurrah! 

9. Dark chocolate

Most dark or plain chocolate bars tend to be dairy free but always check the ingredients label to be sure. Some may have a disclaimer of “May contain traces of milk” or similar, and that is generally due to the possibility cross contamination on premises and equipment handling dairy ingredients to produce other products. This does come down to personal preferences and tolerances so it’s up to the individual. Dark chocolate can be used to chop into chips for cookies or melted into a vegan ganache for vegan chocolate drip cakes and glaze for vegan doughnuts.

Vegan Chocolate Drip Cake

10. Granulated sugar

Sugar adds sweetness and much-needed moisture too to vegan cake sponges, and that’s an undisputed fact. Controversially however, not all sugars are considered truly vegan. Sure, by just looking at the ingredients label of a packet of sugar anyone would think it’s all good and green in the vegan hood, but some vegans are also concerned with the actual processing of cane sugar which may use animal-derived bone char in refining. Tate & Lyle and Billingtons’ brand sugars however do not use bone char in their sugar processing. Silver Spoon brand white sugar also does not use bone char however they cannot confirm regarding their brown sugar. So that’s that. Do look up your sugar brands and decide for yourself before lugging that sack of sugar out of the shop!

11. Vanilla extract

A good quality one. Really! Vegan vanilla cakes are tricky enough and the flavour does rely heavily on the quality of vanilla extract so don’t go through the process only to be let down by a weak essence. Nielsen Massey brand is always a good shout! You’ll also find you’ll use it for many other sweet items such as vegan doughnuts, cookies etc.

Vegan Doughnuts

12. Margarine/shortening

Not strictly a pantry item as it needs storing in the fridge, but it is a basic ingredient for a lot of vegan desserts whether it is vegan shortcrust pastry for pies, doughnuts or frosting for vegan cakes. Flora baking blocks are my go-to. Make sure you have the block type, not the soft spreadable tub type. 

With the above list of vegan baking essentials you’ll be set to whip up something delicious and vegan. Of course, as it’s an “essentials” list of stuff that could be supplemented with additional items if you’d like to get more adventurous or advanced for example icing sugar, fresh fruit, apple sauce, coconut cream etc but you won’t be caught out when you’ve got these basics and planning something more complex would be a whole lot easier with these bits covered. Of course, don't forget, the easiest and most fool-proof recipe is our Vegan Hero Sponge Recipe which is ready to download!

Vegan Birthday Cake London

Happy baking!

Reshmi xoxo

6 Responses

Gail McCoy

Gail McCoy

August 23, 2023

Thank you so much

Gail McCoy

Gail McCoy

August 21, 2023

Thank you so much



April 18, 2023

Please post some egg free/vegetarian cake recipe.



September 25, 2020

I just wanted to say that your recipe for the best vegan chocolate cake really was AWESOME! I made it for my daughter’s first birthday cake and it went down so well with everyone. You wouldn’t even know it didn’t have eggs or dairy in it. Any recipes for a vegan rainbow cake would be welcomed ;-) as I am now planning for her second birthday.



May 02, 2020

Vegan bakery is most essential for our new business opportunities for this time.
Plants, all living non-living are beings our existence of our world.
There’s plant livings are their. It’s a past present and future true 👌👍



July 19, 2018

Thank you so much for the helpful information! It’s so lovely to see vegan cakes that are so magnificent! Definitely my new favorite blog!

Leave a comment (all fields required)

Comments will be approved before showing up.