The name Cody Vasquez might sound familiar—that’s because, in 2015, the Gilbert teen (then a pre-teen) competed on the Food Network’s popular “Kids Baking Championship” with his famous Razzleberry Pie. Now, five years later, the 17-year-old junior at Campo Verde High School has continued his culinary adventures with a fun, healthy twist.
“The best compliment I can get is when someone says that they didn’t realize one of my dishes is vegan,” Vasquez shares.
About five years ago, the teen chef—who has been cooking since he was 7 and baking since age 4—decided to become vegetarian. He says he was motivated by his own convictions about not eating animals. After awhile, his vegetarian diet became vegan and he entered what he calls “an entirely different cooking environment.”
“I definitely had to re-learn some of my most popular and common recipes,” Vasquez says. “One of the easiest things to begin replacing in recipes was butter.”
Other common replacement ingredients, he shares, are egg replacements (there are many types, he notes) and aquafaba (cooking water from cooking legumes such as chickpeas), which he uses to whip into meringues.
“Learning to cook and bake vegan dishes has been so cool,” Vasquez shares. “I either create new food to try or re-create dishes that I am familiar with new ingredients.”
As a growing and busy teen, he shares that he does track what he eats to make sure he is getting the right amount of nutrients. “Because I’m still growing and am so active, I am most cautious about tracking my calcium and iron,” he shares.
To maintain his vegan diet, he makes and brings his own lunches to school daily—and when it comes to family dinners and occasions—he often makes his own vegan dishes for himself and to share.
“My mom’s side dishes are often full of vegetables, so it’s usually not too hard to eat dinner with family,” he shares. Cooking and sharing meals runs in his family as they are the owners of the popular Someburros chain of restaurants. Some of his favorite memories are Sunday dinners—cooking with his grandpa, and his grandma’s weekly desserts.
In addition to keeping busy in the kitchen, Vasquez is involved in his school and community as well. He began student council in the third grade, he shares, and now, is involved in 10 clubs.
“I’m in student council, Key Club, and Radiate Club, where we teach monthly lessons on a variety of topics to freshmen,” Vasquez shares. “For college, I’m thinking Georgetown or somewhere in California. I would like to continue my community work and possibly look into politics or government work, too.”
He adds that there’s a tangible correlation between cooking and his leadership style.
“One time, when I was just starting out baking, I kept making mistakes and having to re-do chocolate chip cookies—a recipe that I’m probably best known for and still make to this day,” Vasquez says. “I just kept at it, learning from my mistakes along the way. My leadership style is definitely inspired by cooking; I keep trying and I learn from my mistakes and strive to do better. There’s a real connection between the kitchen and leadership.”
For the featured cake recipe, Vasquez says he chose it because those who follow it can tailor it depending on their needs.
“I chose this chocolate cake because you can make it into so many variations,” he says. “For example, you can add coconuts, and make it a German Chocolate Cake. You can add specific toppings and icings to tailor it for a special occasion. I encourage people to take the recipe and customize it.”
The Great Cake Swap
For the cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups unbleached sugar
6 heaping tablespoons cacao powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/4 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup brewed coffee
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 1/4 cups maple syrup
1 1/2 cups cacao powder
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons coconut oil
Make the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cacao powder, baking soda, and salt. Make three wells in the mixture and pour coconut oil into one, vinegar into another, and vanilla into the third. Pour coffee and water over everything and mix until just combined.
3. Divide the batter between prepared cake pans and bake in oven until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pan.
Frosting and Decorations
1. When cakes feel cool to the touch, scoop out the flesh of the avocados and place them in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until creamy, then add maple syrup, cacao, vanilla, salt and coconut oil. Process until well combined.
2. Remove the cooled cakes from their tins and place one of the layers, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake stand. Front the top layer with a knife or offset spatula. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake.