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Recipe: 16-year-old wanted 'yummy' vegan desserts, so she started Clara Cakes

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Clara Polito holds a slice of homemade cake in her dining room.
Clara Polito holds a slice of homemade cake in her dining room.

Clara Polito might only be 16, but she runs her own vegan baking company and has dreams of opening up a bakery before she turns 20.

When she couldn’t find "yummy" vegan baked goods, 12 year old Clara Polito took matters into her own hands and started baking her own. Now, at 16, Polito has her own baking company called Clara Cakes.

In the kitchen in her Atwater Village home, Clara Polito pulls out ingredients to bake chocolate cupcakes, one of the first recipes she wrote. Soy milk, cocoa powder, and flour sit on the counter waiting to be poured into metal mixing bowls.  "I basically started baking when I became vegan because I wanted to have yummy tasting vegan baked goods, because I couldn't really find any otherwise. So I kind of created a vegan bakery in my kitchen, which was fun," says Polito about her start.

As she bakes, Beastie Boys blast in the background. There are iPod speakers on the dining room table. Concert posters cover her bedroom walls. Music plays a big role in Polito’s life. She started selling baked goods in 2010 at The Smell, an all ages venue in downtown L.A.  It was a record release show for the band No Age. Her mom has supported her since the start, driving her to bake sales and concerts.

In her all white 50s inspired kitchen, Polito taught herself through trial and error. She read dessert cookbooks and watched vegan cooking tutorials online.

"I remember making cakes that would constantly taste like bananas because bananas are a common egg replacer, and so that always bummed me out,'" says Polito. "It definitely took a lot of practice to finally get everything tasting how it needs to taste."

Now, Polito has perfected her trade and has a range of original recipes that will make your mouth water. She plays on Girl Scout cookies with her “Not So Thin Mint” cupcakes, makes S’mores Bars, Lemon Pows, and her most popular dessert - The Inception Cookie, an Oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookie.

Clara Cakes does custom orders, pop-up shops, and now has desserts sold at Pizzanista in downtown L.A. Polito dreams of opening up a bakery. She says,"It’d be cool to open a bakery before I’m 20. I definitely want to be a teen. I want the timing to be right."

Chocolate Cupcake Recipe
Ingredients (makes 1 dozen cupcakes):
1 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon
baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon chocolate extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with cupcake liners. Pour 1 cup of soy milk in a large bowl and whisk in vinegar. Let it curdle (it’ll take a few minutes and eventually will look like cottage cheese). While waiting for soy milk mixture to curdle, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add sugar, oil and extracts to the soy milk mixture and whisk until foamy. Add the flour in two batches. Beat until just smooth. Spoon the batter into the liners. Bake for 20 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean). Place on cooling rack until cool, then frost. 
Vanilla Frosting
1/2 cup vegan butter or margarine
1/2 cup shortening
2-2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons soy milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine ingredients and beat on medium speed until fluffy.

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