Covered with delicate, earthy, abstract flowers overlaid in rich jewel tones, you’d be forgiven for wondering if you’d just walked in on some sort of woodland fairy feast when you first see cakes by Baunin, Iceland’s premier vegan cake company. Lára, the lady behind the frosting, is a cornucopia of imaginative pairings, consistently serving up flavours that make you say, “Wait, you made a cake of that?” So holidays of 2020, buckle up and get ready for some plant-based magic. Baunin is here.
Freelance cake artist
Lára officially opened Baunin in 2019, quickly developing a cult following in the local vegan community. “I noticed that the standards for vegan food were very low here in Iceland, as well as in other parts of the world,” she explains. “I wanted to raise that and provide something entirely different.”
She quickly corrects me, though, when I refer to the bakery as a business. “I certainly don’t like the complexity of being a business,” she notes. “I could consider myself a freelance cake artist”
You can sense the mirth in her words, but it’s nonetheless an apt title. Lára is an artist—both in taste and in presentation. Her wares embody the problem of wanting to have your cake but eat it too, which is natural considering how she got her start as a baker. “I started as an intern in a cake shop in NYC, making these kinds of cakes that look like skyscrapers or animals,” she explains. “We used to make cakes for all kinds of famous actors and businesses in NYC. I thought this was so cool to be able to see people and places I wouldn’t have seen if I wasn’t given access to that.”
Baunin’s vegan trick
Lára is, as previously mentioned, a passionate vegan and has been so for many years. The lifestyle change, she explains, was spurred on after seeing videos of animal abuse.
“It’s understandable that it causes people difficulty to understand what’s really happening. I think we’re a bit brainwashed in this,” she says. “[But] eventually something does ‘click’ in your head, if you’re open to it. I think animals are not put on this earth for our convenience and if I can do something to help them, I will. Normally I don’t even tell people the cakes are vegan. It’s a fun trick when they can’t tell.”
Granted, Lára’s cakes gastronomically go so far beyond the norm that focusing on whether or not they include milk and eggs could very well be the last thing on your mind when taking a bite. While she does serve up conventional cake flavours like vanilla and lemon, Lára also regularly whips up more eccentric ones, including matcha with black sesame, pistachio, and other, well, more off-the-wall offerings.
“I really like using herbs and spices, and things that don’t initially sound that great, but that’s why I experiment,” she says. “My favourite is my Bloody Mary cake. I made it for Luna Flórens. It had tomato and red fruit ganache as well as tomato and horseradish cream. The cake was a vanilla cake with black pepper. I think the one for the weekend had vodka in it too!”
While Lára won’t reveal just what she has planned flavour-wise for the holiday season yet, we can only imagine what combination she’ll cook up. She says you’ll just have to follow the bakery on social media to find out.
Our recommendation? Perhaps a nice grape flavour with an earthy vine-y undertone. Yum.
Check out Baunin on their website.
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