Life in the tent can get tense, fast. Which is what keeps fans of the Great British Baking Show coming back week after week. Whether you're rooting for a red velvet cake to come out a little dry or an undercooked soufflé to collapse just to watch the tears flow, or you're hoping things turn out stellar for the underdog racing against the clock to finish that frosting, you can't help but wonder, how can a vegan cream pie work? And would it be possible for plant-based, dairy-free delights to hold up to the scrutiny of the judges? Well, now we know.

The first-ever vegan baker, Freya Cox, showed that vegan baking without the benefit of dairy, butter, eggs, cream or other animal products can more than measure up to traditional methods and ingredients. Cox competed on the 12th season of The Great British Baking Show, joining the cast as one of the youngest contestants ever. Now the 20-year-old baker talks about what it meant to be able to prove that vegan baking deserves a spot on the all-time favorite baking show, known in the UK as The Great British Bake Off.

Despite only eating fully vegan for one year, Cox whipped up many mouthwatering vegan baked goods for the judges during her time on the show. Recently, the young baker discussed her time on the show with Insider, revealing how positively the cast responded to her vegan techniques. Feeling hopeful about her time on the show, Cox revealed that her new cookbook, Simply Vegan Baking, is slated to launch on September 27.

"I mean, the whole show was the best thing I've ever done. I wouldn't change it for anything, would go back and do it any day," Cox told Insider. "All the people were incredible."

During her interview, she noted that how supportive judges Paul Hollywood and Pure Leith were during the competition. The vegan baker faced extra challenges during the technical challenges where animal-based products were required.

"When I left, [Hollywood] was so great about it because the point we are at in life now, even if you're not vegan, people are understanding why people are doing it,” Cox told Insider.

More than anything, Cox hoped that her time in the major baking competition would inspire viewers to try plant-based options. Now, the vegan contestant aims to fuel this plant-based curiosity with her new cookbook.

"Loads of people that weren't fully vegan were just like, 'I think it's really inspiring. I think people also were thinking, 'Oh, we look like we're moving a step in the right direction for the future,'" Cox told Insider. "I still get messages now of people being like, 'I was so inspired to try being vegan or just bake something vegan after watching you on the show,' and that was all I ever really wanted to do."

Plant-Based Chefs Take the Stage

Chefs including Cox have carved a spot for plant-based bakers and cooks for some of the top food competition shows. Even chef Gordon Ramsay admitted that he actually "loves vegan food." This admission happened about a year after Ramsay turned the tables on his cooking competition show, Hell's Kitchen, by inviting two plant-based chefs to compete in the "Young Guns" season.

This July, vegan chef and Señoreata founder Evancie Holz won first place on the Food Network’s The Great Food Truck RaceDuring the "Hottest Season Ever," Holz and her team became the first vegan contestant to join the food truck-based competition. The Cuban food truck concept managed to earn the judges' favor, taking home the $50,000 prize over Maybe Cheese Born With It.

A New Era of Plant-Based Cooking Shows

Now that plant-based contestants have proven that their food matches up to traditional upscale cooking (even beating Bobby Flay in his own kitchen), several exclusively plant-based cooking competitions are set to air. On September 24, UnchainedTV aired one of the first fully plant-based cooking competitions, Peeled. The show invites four chefs to participate in several plant-based challenges, proving their cooking chops to highly esteemed vegan chefs including Chef Chris Tucker and Chef Josie Clemens –– the first vegan chef to compete in Hell's Kitchen. 

This August, the Food Network enlisted vegan TikTok star Tabitha Brown to help usher in the new era of vegan cooking competitions. It's CompliPlated marks the first time that the major food channel has hosted an exclusively vegan show in 28 years.

“From a taste of Southern hospitality using only plant-based ingredients and a comfort food gluten-free noodle dish to an Instagram-worthy dinner party without fruits or vegetables, these unique cooking battles showcase how to make delicious food under any circumstance,” The Food Network website’s series description states.

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