Viva la Vegan Cupcakes with The Urban Housewife!

By on Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

One simply cannot speak of vegan cupcakes without a solid reference to The Urban Housewife. Known as Melisser to her nearest and dearest, The Urban Housewife has been changing the way we think of vegan baked goods since 2007. With each post to her Veg Bloggy Award-winning site, thousands of fans tune in to see where she’s been and what she ate. From Berlin to New York to Stockholm, she’s been everywhere, eaten every vegan thing and lived to blog about it.

I asked Melisser to give our readers a sampling of some of her tastiest vegan cupcake adventures and she put together a list of 10 fab places to snag a vegan cupcake. The list, she stresses, is in no particular order.

Oh, and she was too humble to mention it, but one place you’re sure to find a delicious vegan treat is Melisser’s own commercial kitchen- Sugar Beat Sweets. If you’re in the San Francisco area be sure to hit her up for some Snickerdoodle cupcakes!

Ten places you might just spot Melisser eating vegan cupcakes:

1. Vegan Treats, Bethlehem, PA & throughout the East Coast
Known throughout the vegan land for their Peanut Butter Bombs, Vegan Treats also serves up a selection of other fine pastries. After years of wholesale throughout the East Coast, owner Danielle Konya opened a retail store where you can get your cupcake on.

2. Sweet Avenue Bake Shop, Rutherford, NJ

Cupcakes are the heart of this shop where you’ll find everything from Fleur de Sel Caramel cupcakes to Bacon Maple Walnut cupcakes, all vegan of course!

The Bleeding Heart Bakery, Chicago

The Bleeding Heart Bakery, Chicago

3. The Bleeding Heart Bakery, Chicago, IL

While not everything in the packed pastry cases is vegan, a hearty selection of cupcakes await you at this all organic, 100% punk rock bakery!

4. Cupcake, Berlin, Germany
If you find yourself in Berlin, don’t forget to stop in Germany’s 1st cupcake shop where you’ll be transported back to the 50’s in this retro shop where vegan options are available daily.
5. S’nice, Brooklyn & Manhattan, NY

Whether you’re looking for a cosy place to chill, a delicious sandwich, or a sweet treat, S’nice delivers with their cupcake, baked in house & available daily.

6. Babycakes, New York City, NY & West Hollywood, CA

Not your traditional cupcake, Babycakes spelt or gluten free cupcakes caters to those with allergies or looking for a wholesome cupcake.

7. Sticky Fingers Bakery, Washington DC

Sticky Fingers may be better known for their massive cinnamon rolls, but the cupcake selection won’t disappoint at this bakery churning out a full selection of cruelty free confections!

Cupcake, Berlin; Berlin

Cupcake, Berlin, Germany

8. Pattycake Bakery, Columbus, OH
Pattycake started out making cookies for a local co-op, but now has a full selection of vegan treats, including cupcakes, that you can snag from their storefront or the upcoming online ordering system!

9. Watercourse Bakery, Denver, CO
Not only Ho Ho Cupcakes should tempt you to try this all vegan bakery, as a full selection of sweets are available. For those with allergies, they specialize in gluten free options.

10. Golden Mean Vegan Cafe, Santa Monica, CA

The food may not blow you away at this vegan eatery with a LA hippie vibe, but the desserts are no crunchy granola & their decadence will definitely satisfy your sweet tooth!

Vegans Mean Business at The Bleeding Heart Bakery

By on Monday, April 13th, 2009

Chicago vegans know where to go when they need some sugar – take the Damen bus to Belmont and stop when you see the giant neon sign: The Bleeding Heart Bakery. Since 2005, owner and executive pastry chef Michelle Garcia, along with her husband Vinnie and a staff of punky young bakers have been baking up local, sustainable and organic treats for vegans and dairy-eaters alike. I asked Michelle about her experiences both as a former vegan and as a professional chef catering to vegan customers. Her answers proved a point I already knew was true in my heart- vegans are hungry, they have money, and they want to buy your delicious vegan treats. So bakery owners, listen up: get yourself a great vegan recipe book pronto.

Do you remember the first vegan dessert you ever tasted?
That would be the German chocolate cake from Chicago Diner.

If so, what did you think about it?
At the time, I was so excited to be able to have a birthday cake that I didn’t care about how it tasted, so I guess I don’t even remember.

If not, do you think it’s better that you don’t remember it?
*I’m pretty sure the answer is yes, definitely.

Your original location on Chicago Ave was a hit with vegans from day one- what made you decide to offer vegan treats right off the bat?
I had spent half of my life at that point as a vegan, and I knew that the type of bakery we were would attract a lot of vegans. Also, I know that a lot of children are born with egg and milk allergies; I wanted to be sure that all children could have an amazing birthday cake no matter what.

Have you ever had a vegan baker working in one of your shops?
I’ve had several vegan bakers. However, I feel as though most of them were inhibited by old school beliefs about baking vegan.

Did mainly work on your vegan goods, or were they OK with making your non-vegan stuff as well?
Most seemed to turn there noses up at non-vegan goods, which was really frustrating as I was vegan for so long and saw everything as education and knowledge whether I personally believed in it or not.

Would it be difficult for a vegan to properly prepare your other treats without tasting them?
Our basic recipes are very simple and east to follow, if you understand the basic principles behind baking techniques, you should be able to make anything. Also, no one at the bakery minds tasting anything, so there are no excuses.

What do you think the biggest misconception about vegan desserts is?
Most people automatically think vegan means dry, flavorless cardboard and granola-ish.

What do you do with your vegan yummies to de-bunk the misconceptions?
I believe our approach is much different than most. All vegan recipes start as conventional and get tweeked to be vegan. We try very hard not to use traditional flavorless substitutes. When we have to make a substitute, we want it to add something- like bananas.

Is it any more difficult to find vegan organic ingredients than it is to find non-vegan organic ingredients?
Honestly, now a days, it is much easier. But when we first started we had to buy everything retail.

What’s your most popular vegan dessert?
That would be between the banana fudge brownie and the Slash Cupcake. (Devils food cupcake, chocolate frosting and curly chocolate shavings)

Does it seem like the demand for vegan baked goods has increased over the years?
For sure, mostly with little children.

I always hear people say that vegan cakes are dry, what are people doing wrong when they bake?
They are using substitutes such as Ener-G that act as a drying agent. Any kind of starch will do that. Try using a banana or possibly just leaving out the substitutes all together! You could also substitute oil for margarine or Earth Balance.

If Joe Blow off the street were blindfolded and asked to taste two of your chocolate cupcakes- one vegan and one conventional, do you think he could tell the difference?
I know he wouldn’t. We’ve actually done this! The vegan cupcake won every time, so now that’s all we offer!

Do you find that non-vegans are open to trying vegan desserts, or are they scared?
Most seemed to be scared, but love them when they try them accidentally, that happens almost every day – especially with the cupcake.

Do you think it’s important for a modern bakery to offer at least one vegan option?
It’s incredibly important, why alienate people? Were always trying to offer product that spans the board for allergies, we just started offering vegan sugar free options and believe it is so important.

Have you thought about making vegan versions of any of your famous bacon-infused treats, with vegan bacon?
We tried; it’s just not the same. As a vegan I never enjoyed fake meat and I guess that just followed me.

What’s the hardest thing about baking without dairy?
Running out of soymilk! It happens all the time! Even when I double the order. I think we have little vegan gnomes drinking it all.

What about pastry- can you make a vegan croissant?
You can, but margarine gets soft really fast and all the fat leaks out. We did, however, just start making vegan brioche, which rocks!

Is it harder to make dairy-free pastry than it is to bake vegan cakes and cookies?
Not really harder physically- harder mentally, it requires a lot of thought.

Were you ever vegan?
Yes, 7 years straight ad a few others here and there.

What made you go vegan?
I was raised vegetarian for the most part and became an extremist at a very young age. I don’t believe in doing something half way.

Finally, how many vegan cupcakes do you think you sell in a week?
Well, we have recently counted this, it’s 800 I’m the shop and another 200-300 in special orders.

Photos by Bill Lambert

*For the record, Chicago Diner did used to have kind of a gnarly vegan bakery- it has since improved by leaps and bounds.