“Banana, vanilla and chocolate in my life”… Who doesn’t love to bake delicious cakes? And right now, we have soo many reasons to just that. A lot of spare time to pass together with our families and develop our baking skills. What’s more, now is the best time to try out delicious cakes with fresh jackfruit…or mangosteen! Just go along with the season to get the ripest fruits! If you’re unsure, chocolate cake is always an option you can’t go wrong with!
I have put together the best tips for waste-free, plant-based and environmentally friendly baking for you here in 3 parts:
Part I – Zero Waste baking
Part II – Plantbased baking – The best alternatives for eggs, milk & butter
Part III – Sustainable baking
Have fun with them!
 (DNCE, from: Cake by the Ocean)
Zero Waste Baking
Zero Waste baking is actually super easy. Mostly, you don’t need anything, you just have to leave something out, yes, the waste. It looks great and saves money!
First things first: To bake Zero Waste, I recommend shopping all the ingredients unpacked too. This is where most of the waste is produced!
In the second part of my article, I’ll explain how you can avoid waste in your kitchen while baking. With these “Lifehacks” you are ready for Zero Waste baking!
- Zero Waste ingredients
- Where do I buy my ingredients for baking?
- Ingredients DIY – save money, save waste
- Zero Waste while baking
- Zero Food Waste while baking
Zero Waste ingredients
Generally, I buy most Zero Waste ingredients at the bulk/refill store (see here for Singapore options). Of course, there are many other possibilities to shop, if you do not have a refill store nearby – see here:
Zero Waste without refill store: 10 convenient alternatives
How do I buy my baking ingredients?
Flour – freshly milled in the organic food store if available in your country, white flour in the refill store. Opt for large packages (10 kg and more) if you bake a lot for your family or if you can share it!
Sugar – I hardly use any, but recommend the bulk/refill store. If you bake a lot or share with family and friends, buy a large pack!
Nuts, Vegetable oil (e.g. coconut) – bulk/refill store or oil mill
Salt, baking soda, vinegar – bulk/refill store
Vegetable milk – I make it myself and preferably use soy, coconut or rice milk. Find my favourite recipes here
Unsweetened cocoa powder – Bulk/refill store – one of my essentials! If you mix it with sugar in a blender, you can make a tasty and soo much healthier than “Milo” (cocoa drink).
Dried fruit/chocolate/yeast/nut flour/starch – Bulk/refill store
Xylitol – I share it with a friend who regularly orders bulk packs online (approx. 5 kg), but you can also find it at the bulk/refill store
Spices – Bulk/Refill store, sometimes at Indian stores too (they have soo many spices that you can put into your own container! Unfortunately, it is rarely organic)
=> As I enjoy going to the refill store and can store many ingredients for a very long time, I also buy many dry baking ingredients there. If that doesn’t work for you, just have a look at the articles above, here you will find good alternatives!
Find our favourite bulk/refill stores in Singapore here
You may have noticed that this list contains only a few selected ingredients. Where is the baking powder, vanilla sugar and co?
The following tips help me to save unnecessary effort, waste and expensive ingredients when baking. Many ingredients that are mentioned in recipe books can be easily replaced! This makes recipes more compatible for a simple Zero Waste kitchen shelf.
- Baking soda instead of baking powder: Baking powder is unnecessarily expensive and usually packed in tiny little sachets. Baking soda is the alternative of choice: Usually it is cheaper and has the same effect as baking powder. In general, baking soda is one of the most powerful tools for a Zero Waste home, replacing cleansing agents and as an ingredient in homemade cosmetics. For baking, just mix it well with flour and an acidifier (e.g. vinegar or lemon juice) so your cake gets super fluffy!
- Grind sugar instead of buying icing sugar: I first noticed this when baking cookies before Christmas. Icing sugar is always packed in smaller packages and is more expensive than normal sugar. We can do it easier: Grind your sugar yourself! With a powerful smoothie blender, it’s easy. Good blenders have a special extension where you can finely grind nuts, sugar, spices, etc.
- Your own sugar mixtures instead of vanilla sugar, – Vanilla or vanillin sugar is almost the same as baking powder. It is sold in tiny packets and is much too expensive especially if you want real bourbon vanilla sugar! I just prepare sugar mixtures myself when I need them. Vanilla sugar can be made with vanilla beans or vanilla powder – but these two products are scarce even in organic or refill stores. I freshly make orange and lemon sugar with dried peel (only from organic farming!) that I immerse in sugar & grind. So, the sugar has a fruity, real flavour!
- Dried yeast instead of fresh yeast: Some refill shops sell dried yeast. It is inexpensive, lasts very long and, if used correctly, works just as well as fresh yeast!
- Real oranges and lemons instead of orange and lemon zest from the pack. I see them quite often in organic stores: Tiny letters, even smaller than vanilla sugar or baking powder with about 5g of Orange and lemon zests, finely grated. You can easily save this money by using real peels of certified organic oranges and lemons and grating them finely for flavouring your pastries!
You can also easily make candied fruit yourself and save packaging and money. This also saves food waste, because you use peels that you would otherwise throw away!
Zero waste while baking
These are the throwaway products you can – throw away! Switch to reusable alternatives for your Zero Waste home:
- Cling film
Drop it: cling film
Replace: with a bowl + lid or plate, firmly lockable box, oilcloths
Cling film consists of plastic, cannot be reused and costs money. A product which is unfortunately still used far too often in private and professional use. Even cookbooks still recommend covering the dough with cling film before rising, etc.
Fortunately, cling film is completely unnecessary for baking and cooking. Cover your dough safely and cleanly in an airtight box or simply with a bowl and plate. You can also use oilcloths for this, but in my opinion, it is not absolutely necessary to buy some.
- Aluminium foil
Drop it: Aluminium foil
Replace: Lid, boxes, oilcloth
Aluminium foil is not only an expensive disposable product but also harmful to health. If the material comes into contact with acidic or salty food, aluminium is released from the foil and passes into the food. This has backlashes on our health, e.g. favouring the development of dementia and cancer. Just ban aluminium foil from your kitchen, it is healthier!
To cover pastries in the oven, you can use the bottom of another springform pan instead, put another baking tray on top or vary the oven settings.
- Baking paper
Drop it: baking paper
Alternative: baking form, grease and flour, silicone baking mat
Baking paper is one of the utensils that generate the most waste during the baking process itself. You can easily find alternatives! For spicy dishes, I prefer to use baking tins, e.g. casseroles made of heat-resistant glass or enamel. This is how I bake my oven vegetables or a tray of super fudgy chocolate brownies, for example. Instead of lining a baking tray with baking paper, you can also simply brush it with oil and sprinkle it with any kind of flour. Only for very sensitive bakery products like macarons, a durable baking mat made of silicone makes sense.
- Paper inserts for muffins or small cakes
Drop it: Paper inserts
You can also bake muffins directly in the muffin tray without paper cups. If you grease or flour it well, it is no problem at all to get the muffins out of the tray afterwards and enjoy them without waste or costs!
- Candles and plastic decoration
Sparklers look impressive on a cake. Especially for birthday cakes, many people don’t want to do without them. But sparklers contain chemicals that are released during the burning process and end up on the cake. These include barium nitrate, which is difficult for the body to break down. Candles usually consist of paraffin – originating from petroleum. Candles made of vegetable wax or beeswax would be a conceivable alternative. However, I recommend to pay attention to the origin and to avoid candles made of palm wax.
Even cake toppers, which seem decorative at first sight, only cost money and end up in your waste as soon as the cake is eaten. Just go without it!
As an edible alternative, I suggest decorating the cake with marzipan decoration or sugar paste. However, this is only a good idea if one of your cake eaters fancies these decorative elements. In my family, for example, nobody likes marzipan or fondant, so we don’t use it. I prefer to decorate cakes with fresh, ripe fruits or chocolate!
Zero Food Waste while Baking
- Make your cake completely edible – without fondant or too much cream
The principle here is the same as above: Only use edible decorations if someone actually eats them. Cakes with fondant and lots of buttercream look beautiful. Huge cream patches on a Black Forest cherry are a feast for the eyes too. But if you just leave half of the cream or sugar paste on the plate, it’s such a waste of time and precious ingredients!
Consciously think about the decoration of your cake! Select “tasty” elements and opt for less decoration! From my experience, often half of the cream indicated in a recipe is enough. This way you avoid unnecessary food waste and save money. So-called “naked cakes” look beautiful and allow you to serve an impressive cake without fondant. And I’m pretty sure your children will not say no to a delicious chocolate glaze!
- Transport – use a cake tin or cookie jar
For transport, use reusable cake tins with lids or snack boxes for smaller pieces instead of throwaway packaging. By the way: Some types of cake can also be frozen without any problems – suitable, airtight boxes are a good choice here as well!
- Cake or cookie leftovers – make scrumptious desserts out of them
If you have leftovers from baking, just repurpose them in a creative way! Even if your cake or cookie leftovers are somewhat dry, you can still use them. Bring dry biscuits back to life if you make a no-bake cake base from them. Cake and biscuit crumbs are also suitable for tiramisu, as crumbles or as a cereal ingredient.
Happy baking – and look out for our
Part II – Plantbased baking – The best alternatives for eggs, milk & butter
Part III – Sustainable baking
…in the next few weeks!