For Chef Cynthia Louise, cooking is more than just a passion. It’s about eliciting a reaction, revisiting childhood memories of a dish, and veganizing classics to evoke the same warm feeling.
These ideas are distilled into her recent launch, a third cookbook titled “Celebrate Your Sweet Tooth”. She describes her latest work – dedicated to vegan desserts – as a means to enjoy sweet treats with whole, plant-based ingredients and none of the recipes contain any white sugar.
Chef Cynthia takes some time from her busy cooking and teaching schedule to chat with abillion about her third cookbook, the romance of an actual book in the age of the internet and the magic needed to veganize classic desserts.
How did your passion for cooking come about?
I grew up surrounded by incredible home cooks. I assisted several of these cooks with peeling vegetables and cooking rice in a pot. Slowly, I discovered that food is a right, not a privilege. I recognized food was more than just a source of energy or a recipe.
Who inspired you to become a chef?
It wasn't until I was 34 that I went to a chef school in Australia and completed my chef apprenticeship. I knew I could cook and handle food, but the one thing that motivated me was the numerous women who taught me the basics of cooking when I was a little girl; it was them who inspired me the most to become the chef that I am today. Humble, strong, and forever teaching and learning.
You have written two other books on plant-based cuisine. Why did you decide to write a separate book just for desserts?
Fantastic question! Common deserts have such a bad rap. By common, I mean desserts that are made using ingredients that are called “refined” sugars or highly processed ingredients that turn something into sweet.
My dessert cookbook called “Celebrate Your Sweet Tooth Naturally” is the exact opposite of. When I was creating this EPIC plant-based cookbook only for desserts, my entire vision was funded and fueled with celebration. Celebrating you and your body’s 78 organs it houses, using sweet ingredients that are as close to how nature intended it to be, with low human interference.
Photo: Strawberry Coconut Cream Pie
What’s your favorite dessert recipe from your cookbook?
There is one dessert recipe that has always had my heart and has stood the test of time since I created it in the early 2000s. My son Jayman was around 14 or 15 years old. It is heartfully called “Jaymans Cake” on page 196.
What a journey that recipe was to make. Jayman had a massive sugar addiction at the time, and any money found in my handbag was spent buying crappy sweets from our local corner store. And of course, I would find the empty wrappers under his bed. At that time in my career, I was working as a chef in one of Australia's top health retreats. I was around great doctors, naturopaths, biochemists, botanists and health healers. Basically I was in food heaven with the best of the best guiding me on creating great menus that served one's health.
I would come home with my sweet ideas and make desserts for my family hoping they would love them as much as the guests at the retreat. But my family didn't love them at all. They hated every recipe I tried.
Instead of giving up, I decided to pay more attention to the sweet food that my son loved. It was then I began creating his favorite cake; Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Cake, loaded with big amounts of chocolate, raspberry goodness, and finished with more chocolate on top.
The kid hated each test I made, and stated very clearly “this tastes like avocado and tahini mum”! After weeks of testing, one day he took a spoonful of Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Cake, looked at me and said “you nailed it, mum! Can I have more?” This is why it's one of my favorite recipes in the entire book.
Desserts aren't just sweet food that make us feel good, they are a connection to childhood memories. My job is to recreate those dessert recipes like The Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Cake that is filled with whole ingredients that celebrates your sweet tooth, naturally.
Photo: Very Vegan Berry Cheesecake