THE other day I was accosted in the street by a very nice woman selling vegan cakes. I’m always keen to support enterprising pop-ups, but I explained to her politely that as well as actively liking butter, I’m deeply suspicious of vegan baking, and also gluten-free baking.

I won’t have any truck with margarine, even supposing it’s been renamed as “sunflower spread”, and will never knowingly let processed soy products past my lips. I see the overpriced watery drink that’s passed off as “oat milk” as an abuse of language and labelling.

On taste, consistency, and health grounds, I avoid confections, such as carrot cake, that are made with “vegetable oil”.

A body of research suggests that industrially processed grain oils, which have absolutely nothing to do with vegetables despite their misleading title, are bad for us.

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You can keep your tapioca starch, and xanthan gum, used to substitute for the volume and holding properties of eggs in gluten-free ranges. I first encountered xanthan when a slice of gluten-free bread that was stiff with the stuff nearly wrecked my toaster by glueing itself to the element. If it does that to my toaster, what’s it doing to my guts?

This affable saleswoman reacted very positively. She wouldn’t use that food technologist’s box of tricks either. Her cakes weren’t that kind of vegan, more vegan by default. So she talked me through the ingredients, cake by cake, all sound stuff that I’d be happy to have in my larder.

Instead of crumbled biscuit base she used a mix of dates, coconut, and brazil nuts. Any “creamy” element was created by means of artful combinations of coconut milk, coconut oil, and cashews.

Chocolate has been commandeered as a “vegan” ingredient – try telling that to those bloodthirsty Aztecs who introduced it to us – so no issue there.

My vendeuse was an absolute trooper. She had given me a barnstorming performance, so I bought one raspberry “cheesecake” and one fresh mint and avocado “cheesecake”. She’d earned it, even if they cost £4 a piece and measured two inches square.

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These cakes were bland, not unpleasant, but nowhere near as appealing as the equivalent made with dairy would have been.

“Why do they cost so much for something so small?” was the obvious table talk question. Veterans of whole food shops will know the answer. All these ingredients are imported.

Tunisian dates and Mexican avocados are the least of your worries. Watch out while stocking up on Thai coconut oil, Sri Lankan palm sugar, South American Brazils, Indian cashews, Californian almonds, Texan pecans, and Brazilian Rapadura sugar: you may well find that your £45 contactless card limit won’t be up to the job.

Mind you, regular bakers know how ingredient costs have soared for items such as dried fruits, maple syrup, honey, and so on. But the rejection of more affordable dairy products – butter, milk, cream, yoghurt, cream cheese – and eggs, makes the vegan option substantially more expensive.

On reflection, I won’t buy these vegan cakes again. They didn’t match their conventional equivalents in flavour, and they cost more. Berries and mint apart, they contained no ingredients native to my land.

Why base what you eat almost exclusively on ingredients sourced from faraway places? Has anyone calculated the food miles in a vegan cheesecake?

Mind you, there’s the health argument to consider. At school our Home Economics teacher handed out free copies of the Stork margarine cookery book. Even then the ultra processed food industry was promoting its concoctions under the guise of food education.

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We learned to make disgusting frostings with icing sugar and margarine. We used 100% refined white sugar, various “essences”, for which read synthetic flavourings, and nutrient-light flour.

Our efforts were the opposite of today’s more thoughtful vegan cakes: cheap, voluminous, much easier to make, but resoundingly unhealthy. So any thought that goes into improving the quality and nutrient density of home baking is a worthwhile mission that gets a thumbs-up from me, from whichever quarter it comes.

But I do remember my HE teacher showing us how to make Scottish shortbread, by hand, no less. Stand away from the Stork book, she said, this traditional favourite absolutely must be made with butter.

You can tinker too much.

Some recipes just can’t be bettered.