FOOD

An Office Is In Turmoil After Coworker Shares A Vegan Cake And Is Called ‘Unfair And Deceitful’

by Karen Belz
Karen Belz has written for sites such as Bustle, HelloGiggles, Romper, and So Yummy. She's the mom of a sassy toddler and drinks an alarming amount of Sugar-Free Red Bull in order to keep up with her.

Adopting the vegan lifestyle can be hard — but one of the hardest parts about it is trying to explain it to those you work with.

One of the best parts of working for an office is that there are always work treats around. But if you’re a vegan, a lot of them can be off-limits.

The good news is that vegans seem to know how to handle their own diets. Often, they bring their own food to eat if they know the host is cooking up an animal-based main dish. It’s in their nature to plan ahead. And that’s one of the reasons why this story from Reddit will really make you think.

Every so often, people try to “challenge” vegans or those with food allergies with an ingredient they wouldn’t — or shouldn’t — eat.

This practice can be dangerous for many. That’s why it’s important to be transparent with meals you’re feeding others. But it makes sense for this Redditor to be confused over what happened.

According to their story, they’ve been working at the same small company for roughly five years. Throughout that whole time, they’ve adopted a plant-based lifestyle. “Everyone knows each other really well, and some of us are actually family,” they wrote. “We often do potlucks or cake for special events. Because I am vegan, I often politely decline or bring my own vegan version to share. Sometimes, the person organizing whatever food event we’re having will make sure they’ve provided something vegan. So, everyone knows I’m vegan even though I’m very quiet and polite about it.”

“I recently accepted a position within management,” they said. “The group of managers has this birthday club where at the beginning of the year, we all draw names and get assigned another manager to bake a birthday cake for. The woman I got to bake for had her birthday today.” As it seems, it’s nice that the original poster (OP) was included in such a fun club. Even better, OP admitted that they were a fan of baking.

“She had requested a chocolate espresso cake with espresso frosting,” they continued. “My passion is baking, and I was really excited to make this. Without really thinking about it much, I obviously made it vegan. I’m not comfortable using animal ingredients, plus people have eaten my vegan cakes before at work.” Plus, truth be told, many people aren’t able to taste the difference. Vegan products have come a long way, and people who’ve adopted the lifestyle for so long are usually pretty confident in how to bake with them.

But the cake was so good that the employee who was celebrating her birthday didn’t even realize it was made with vegan ingredients. “Everyone loved the cake,” OP admitted. “Once everyone else had left her office, the birthday woman says ‘You know, I’m really flattered. You really went out of your way to make me feel special. You even put your thing aside and ate the cake with us, and that makes me feel really proud of you.’ It kinda took me a second to figure what she meant.”

But it turns out that the “thing” in question was veganism, which for many, is more of a lifestyle. Some people even choose to eat vegan based on their religious preferences. But regardless of the fact, OP just couldn’t believe this employee thought that their veganism wouldn’t have been factored in with their baking — especially since it’s been a known fact for five years.

That’s where things got dicey. The birthday girl was stunned, feeling uncomfortable. She felt duped, as if OP were pushing a lifestyle choice on her. “I told her that, of course, the cake was vegan,” they said. “She absolutely lost her [expletive] and started rambling about how ‘unfair and deceitful’ it was, and that I ‘tricked’ everyone. I left her office and went about my day, but eventually, my boss pulls me into her office. She says since being told the cakes was vegan, my coworkers are upset.”

Obviously, OP didn’t mean to upset anyone — or prove any sort of point. They just did what came naturally to them. But looking from the other side, it’s makes sense as to why their coworkers felt deceived. It’s never a good feeling to eat something and then later realize it wasn’t exactly what you thought it was.

“She asked me to pull out of the birthday club in the future, and said she was disappointed in me because she thought she could trust me,” OP said. “I’m really conflicted. On one hand, I wouldn’t want to feel tricked about what I was eating. But, I would’ve asked about ingredients if I had any concerns. Plus, everyone knows I’m vegan…it seems a little silly to assume I’d compromise my long-held values over a coworkers birthday.”

Looking back, the recipients should have known to question the ingredients before partaking — and tried it, if they didn’t have any sort of serious reaction or distrust of what was used. But obviously, that didn’t happen. As the cake likely looked great, it makes sense for her fellow employees not to really think about it before digging in.

“I thought people would know,” OP said. “Everything I’ve ever shared at work is vegan. But when I went home and told my partner, he said he would have been furious too. Talking with friends, it seems like most if them also think I should have explicitly mentioned the cake was vegan.” Since the cake was primarily made to celebrate someone else, it makes sense as to why this move might look a little selfish. But what did Reddit think?

A poster by the name of ZooterOne feels as if nobody should be offended by eating plant-based products — especially in the form of a dessert. “It’s bizarre that anyone would feel ‘tricked’ into eating vegan,” they wrote. “Especially since it’s a dessert – do they feel betrayed by Oreos? ‘I can’t believe I ate vegan!’ really is a dumb thing to be upset about. There’s not a single thing offensive about eating plant-based food, is there?”

Others, like BasilMaisel, pointed out how popular vegan desserts actually are. “At my wedding we had a few dessert options instead of a wedding cake (we did have a wedding cheesecake with a topper). By far the one everyone liked the most was the vegan, flourless chocolate cake we had to accommodate some guest allergies,” they said. “Some people just completely shut down at the word ‘vegan’ I guess.”

While most seemed to be on OP’s side, some tried to see the situation from the eyes of the coworkers. Redditor possiblyaqueen felt as if the anger was more about the “win” than the cake itself. “Your coworker is probably less mad about the cake and more mad that you took away her win,” they wrote. “By making her a non-vegan cake, you had proved that your veganism wasn’t a big deal AND that you knew that making something with animal products would make a better cake. You had to make the cake with animal products or it just wouldn’t have turned out! Then you pulled the rug out from under her right when she was making her point.”

And that’s a big part of it. The fact that the coworker made a point to thank her for bringing a standard cake in means that she felt as if she “won” over something that OP deems to be important. In her eyes, she was likely trying to prove a stereotype that vegan-based food isn’t good — and then she learned she was wrong. “She was making sure you realized that you had just proven your veganism wasn’t that big an issue for you and you should just go back to eating tasty animal food, then you made her look like an idiot by showing the opposite,” the Redditor continued.

No matter what, OP should be proud of the cake that was made — it was definitely a success. But next time, maybe they should just reiterate the fact that it’s vegan. Sure, maybe more people would be reluctant to try it, but for those who do, they may be amazed at how good the animal-free ingredients are. Veganism isn’t for everyone, but plenty of omnivores should at least admit that vegan substitutes aren’t a bad thing.