Boneshaker’s homemade donuts are the most delicious (and Instagrammable) donuts in Paris. Little did you know, these plump, sweet pastries of every flavor that tickles baker Amanda Bankert’s fancy, are, in fact, vegan. Yes, VEGAN. Her donuts are prepared with no eggs or dairy products!
Amanda opened a tiny shop in 2016 in the 2nd arrondissement, where she combined her love for American donuts and cinnamon rolls with the skills she learned from the illustrious Cordon Bleu Pastry school in Paris. Within months, news about her fresh, decadent creations spread by word-of-mouth and social media. Parisians and visitors alike fell in love with Amanda’s donuts and business bloomed.
Soon, Boneshaker’s dessert choices grew to include French pastry Amanda-style. Then, the shop itself expanded with the opening of a brownie bar next door; the bakers’ dozen increased. Always remaining true to herself, Amanda created scrumptious plant-based desserts that people didn’t even realize were vegan.
And now, Voila Vegan!, Amanda Bankert’s first published cookbook, has arrived in bookstores and online. It features 85 of her best desserts with a bonus list of her favorite vegan cafés, bars and restaurants in Paris. INSPIRELLE caught up with Amanda to learn more about her passion for vegan baking and why she is ready to share her original recipes with everyone.
Amanda, INSPIRELLE has been savoring your donuts at Boneshaker since its inception. Have you always been serving us plant-based pastries with no eggs or dairy products?
Yes and no. We’ve had vegan options on the menu since I opened the brick-and-mortar location in 2016. But the majority of Boneshaker’s offerings used to be made using eggs, butter, and milk. In 2020, I sneakily turned the entire menu vegan.
What inspired you to create vegan pastries in a country that worships butter and cream?
I’d been intrigued by veganism for a long time, and, due to my love of animals, I had been a vegetarian on and off since I was about eight. As a pastry chef, my job literally revolved around eggs and dairy products, so going fully vegan seemed impossible. At the time, I didn’t fully understand the correlation between the meat industry and the dairy industry. I finally took the plunge in 2019, and felt amazing, both physically and mentally.
Once I eliminated animal products from my diet, the next step was to tackle the pastries at Boneshaker. I worked hard to create vegan recipes that were indistinguishable from Boneshaker’s classic recipes. I knew I’d succeeded when I’d replace a pastry with its vegan version in the bakery display case, and none of our clients noticed. It took about a year.
Vegan pastry sounds like an oxymoron, but le voilà you have created an array of scrumptious and popular sweets — from your signature donuts to cinnamon rolls and, now, French pastries such as macarons and profiteroles. Is this uncharted territory in baking?
There are so many innovations nowadays that vegan baking is nothing like it used to be (I’m looking at you, aquafaba and vegan cultured butter, for example). I discovered it’s a case of combining traditional techniques with new ingredients.
Tell us about your new recipe book, Voilà Vegan! and why you wanted to share it with everyone.
I started writing Voilà Vegan when almost none of our customers knew that they were enjoying plant-based pastry. I wanted to prove to people that vegan baking is just as decadent and satisfying as the traditional counterpart — no small feat in France!
There are 85 decadent desserts to discover and learn how to make! For the uninitiated in vegan diets, what are you substituting for eggs and dairy products that make your desserts even look and taste better?
It depends on the recipe. Eggs, in particular, have a few functions in traditional pastry: they bind and help dough to rise. So depending on what is needed, I use flax seed, aquafaba, baking powder, baking soda, banana, tofu … the list goes on. For dairy, I tend to use Oatly’s Barista blend because I find its texture perfectly mimics the creaminess of cow’s milk. There’s a section in the introduction of the book that breaks down the various plant-based replacements for eggs and dairy products and how to choose what to use.
You surprised us every day for years with a creative and customized selection of donuts from Champagne-laced ones to Eton Mess. Now your menu includes French pastry. Are you having fun in the ovens inventing your delicious creations?
Creating new treats is my favorite part of the job!! It gives me a chance to experiment. I think there’s a little bit of mad scientist in every pastry chef.
As an extra treat, you include a guide to your favorite vegan or almost-all-vegan restaurants, bars, cafés and bakeries in Paris. Is Paris on board for the plant-based lifestyle?
Plant-based options are exploding in Paris right now! The new wave of younger chefs is often open to creating vegan dishes for diners. A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable for a vegan to go to a local restaurant and eat something other than fries and a salad. Nowadays, we are spoiled for choice.
What’s a typical day like for you as a mother of two and owner of a thriving business who is now author of her first book?
I had my first son when I was 22. I was pregnant with him while studying at Le Cordon Bleu, which I talk about in the book! So I have juggled kitchen work and motherhood since the very beginning of my career, literally. I don’t know any different! Opening my own bakery and writing books were always goals of mine.
A typical day begins at 6 am, when my alarm goes off. I have the first (of many, many) coffees and then make breakfast for my youngest son. I check to make sure that my teenager is up and then wake up the youngest. After breakfast, he goes to school, and I go for a run, walk the dogs, and grab a coffee to go from The Dancing Goat before heading into Boneshaker around 9:30 or 10 am.
Depending on the day, I’m either in the kitchen, waiting on customers, or doing admin work. Usually, it’s a mix of all three. I’ll grab lunch at one of the restaurants in the quartier: maybe falafel at Maafim, or a lentil wrap from Riha Durum. If I’m lucky, I’m finished at Boneshaker in time to pick my youngest up from school; otherwise, it’s his dad who collects him and drops him back at my house later in the evening. Work typically finishes around 7 pm; I might grab a quick post-work cocktail at Abricot. Then I head home, make dinner, and hang out with my kiddos and dogs!
Do we dare ask you what’s next on your bucket list of things you want to do?
I have a lot of ideas!! I would LOVE to open a Boneshaker in the States, write more books, and do a vegan travel tv show. Those are the next big goals. Fingers crossed!