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Batter Chatter: Interview with Melisser of Sugar Beat Sweets

Batter Chatter with Sugar Beat Sweets
At Cakespy, we're constantly impressed with the leaps and bounds being made in the world of vegan baking. What was once a category of brick-dense, vaguely healthy-tasting fare has really come a long way, what with groundbreaking cookbooks and recipes by the likes of Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, Hannah Kaminsky, and inspiring sites like Have Cake Will Travel, Veggie Girl and Walking the Vegan Line. Whether going dairy-free for ethical or health reasons (or both), there's a stunning array of baked goods out there which will satisfy nonvegan appetites as well. And for residents of San Francisco, there's a huge reason to get excited about vegan baked goods: Melissa Elliott, who many of you know as Melisser from her blog, The Urban Housewife, has started a wholesale (check out retail locations here) and special order baking business called Sugar Beat Sweets, which focuses on providing locally sourced, organic, vegan baked goods. Swoon. Here's what she has to say about the new business:

Cakespy: First off, we hear that some refer to you as "San Francisco's Sexiest Vegan". (OK, by "some" we mean ourselves, though we, like, know everyone else is thinking it too). What is your response to this?
Sugar Beat Sweets: Ooh geez, well.. thank you? I can think of some damn sexy vegans out there (Morrissey, Joaquin Phoenix, Chrissie Hynde, my husband!), so I'm honored to even be considered in the ranks.

Photo c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy InterviewPhoto c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy Interview
CS: You've been active in the food community through your blog, The Urban Housewife for a while now--what made you want to take the step toward opening your own retail/wholesale business?
SBS: It's no secret, I love to bake. I've always taken pleasure in baking for others & I found myself disillusioned with my career, daydreaming about being in a kitchen instead. I started making custom cakes for people & a local cafe while I weighed my options, then decided to go for it. Additionally, I wasn't happy with the lack of vegan dessert options in San Francisco. I wanted to give local vegans more choices & show people in general that vegan baked goods can be high quality, artisan treats that anyone can enjoy.

Photo c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy InterviewPhoto c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy Interview 

CS: How did you decide on the name Sugar Beat Sweets?
SBS: It's so tough to name a bakery, I think I annoyed everyone I know with names! I like sugar, of course & I'm also inspired by music, so I came up with "beat", which can represent music & something you do in cake making, somehow it all came together & "Sugar Beat Sweets" was born.


CS: How has running a commercial bakery as opposed to baking from your own kitchen changed your attitude toward baking?
SBS: I'm not sure my attitude towards baking has changed. I still want to produce desserts that you'd never know were vegan with a focus on high quality, organic, & local ingredients. I just have to approach things a bit differently, as I'm now working in large scale with the recipes I've developed & I don't get to eat the results!

Photo c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy InterviewPhoto c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy Interview
CS: It looks like you're primarily offering cupcakes and cakes for the moment. Do you or will you be offering any other choices?
SBS: I'm considering expanding my offerings in the future. For festivals & events, I'll have whoopie pies & other goodies, but the main focus is cupcakes & cakes right now.

Photo c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy Interview
CS: In our experience, a lot of non-vegans approach vegan baked goods warily, or with the attitude that they won't like them because they're "different". Do you have any response to this?
SBS: There's definitely a stigma attached to vegan baked goods. People seem to think it's going to taste "healthy", be dry & flavorless, or have tofu & sprouts hidden in it. While the vegan baked goods of 10+ years ago may have left a bit to be desired, now there's plenty of sweets & treats that taste just like their dairy counterparts, but without the use of animal products! We've come a long way, baby! Just look at "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero, I know a lot of non- vegans who own & love the book. I see a lot of cupcake blogs singing its praises.

CS: On your site, your cakes are listed as being frosted with "buttercream". But it's all vegan--what is vegan buttercream?
SBS: Well, "butter-substitute-cream" doesn't sound so hot! I use a soybean oil based butter substitute that functions just like butter, so you have the same fluffy frosting that everyone else is making, without the cholesterol!

Photo c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy Interview
CS: Are there any developments or products you'd love to see in the world of vegan baking?
SBS: Easy to make marshmallows, meringue, & angel food cake would be nice. That being said, the vegan world has made leaps & bounds, especially in recent years, so I don't feel deprived in any way, shape, or form. There's amazing, motivated vegan chefs & foodies who are working to develop vegan versions of just about any treat you can think of, so I have faith that we'll have all those things shortly. In fact, I know of a few people on the verge of all three of those things!

CS: What sites, books, restaurants/cafes or people keep you inspired?
SBS: I read a lot of vegan blogs, there's so many great ones out there, people are really working to get veganism to the masses & they're making mouthwatering food, so it's always inspiring. I browse Flickr a bit & the typical cupcake compilation sites to see what's new & hot in the baking world. Cakespy is on my blog feed & is always teaching me about new pastries! (Cakespy Note: We did not bribe Melisser in any way to say that. Like, seriously.) I love Bake & Destroy, of course! Natalie is a dreamboat & her hoodie is in my daily wardrobe. Restaurants using local produce, organic ingredients, & vegan fine dining spots inspire me, like Millennium in San Francisco & Candle 79 in New York City. Basically, people who are passionate about what they are doing, especially those who are doing what's best for the animals & the world!

CS: You're based in San Francisco, and you know how we're interested in regional specialties. What are some of the best in your area--i.e, the things you can only find there, or that you miss when you're away?
SBS: Sourdough bread! I love a good loaf of freshly baked bread with a crusty exterior & tender center. In all my travels, I buy the local bread & I'm always wishing I was eating San Francisco Sourdough instead!

Photo c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy InterviewPhoto c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy Interview
CS: What's next?
SBS: Well, one never knows, but my current plan is to keep blogging at theUrbanHousewife.com, churning out Sugar Beat Sweets artisan cupcakes & cakes for the people of the San Francisco Bay Area, & maybe doing some more video segments, like the one I did for Everyday Dish! I feel very blessed to have a fun & ever changing life, so I'm willing to see where it takes me!

Are you in the San Francisco area? Place your order today (do it!) at sugarbeatsweets.com.


Or, find them at these retail locations:

Rainbow Grocery- 1745 Folsom @ 14th Street / Other Avenues- 3930 Judah Street @ 44th Avenue / Real Food Co.- 2140 Polk @ Broadway / Urban Bread- 3901 18th St @ Sanchez / Mojo Bicycle Cafe- 639-A Divisadero St @ Hayes / Harvest Urban Market- 191 8th St @ Howard

Even if you're not in the area, enjoy the photos here and keep up with Melisser's adventures via theurbanhousewife.com!




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Reader Comments (17)

I totally love the look of that skull and cross bones cake! Infact, I'm having an insane chocolate craving right now and could DEVOUR it!

If only I were in the SF area!

September 23 | Unregistered CommenterDana McCauley

Having spent an entire weekend with Melisser I can honestly say:
-she is just as funny and sweet in person
-she is tall, thin and beautiful and yet, I still like her
-the girl knows her way around a bakery.

All hail Melisser, ambassador of veganism!

September 23 | Unregistered Commenternataliecakes

I think I would have to agree with you that Melisser is the sexiest San Francisco vegan... and she's is a sweetheart too! So proud of her accomplishments :-) And glad you highlighted her on your blog Jessie!

September 24 | Unregistered CommenterVegan_Noodle

I'm heading to San Francisco in a couple of weeks...looks like I'll have to check this place out!

September 24 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Melisser was kind enough to let my boyfriend & I stay with her (and her husband) when we visited San Francisco a few months ago. Because of this, we had the good fortune of a) Enjoying her company, and b) Eating several of her AMAZING desserts. Seriously, I cannot express in words how great her food is.

Plus, she is funny, beautiful, and smart! What's not to like???

If you ever get the opportunity, EAT HER DESSERTS. And if you don't just happen to get the chance, go out of your way to eat an SBS dessert. You won't be sorry.

i've never tried melisser's baked goods but i do enjoy her blog and have bookmarked some recipes. what i really love about the cakes pictures above is how clean and classic they look. a lot of bakery and restaurant cakes lately are kind of overdecorated and cheap looking, these all look so lovely and it really makes me want to drive to SF just to track one down. nicely done melisser! good luck.

September 24 | Unregistered Commenterren

Melisser made my (post)wedding cake! She is a lovely person and a monster baker. Thanks for this interview, and I'll be picking up some SBS cupcakes next time I'm in SF!

September 24 | Unregistered Commenterjordanpattern

I would have thought the name was a play on sugar beets. Nice interview and beautiful treats!

September 24 | Unregistered CommenterOwl Chick

The cupcakes look insanely delicious!

hip, hip hooray for Melisser! can't wait to have a go at her cakes.

September 24 | Unregistered CommenterCeline


September 25 | Unregistered CommenterVeggieGirl

Thank you so much for interviewing me. I love Cakespy!

I echo VeggieGirl's sentiment of "HELL YES FOR MELISSER!". Though I have never met her in person, and old commercial comes to mind "I never met you but I love you". We can all look out for many great things ahead for her and for Sugar Beat Sweets, I'm sure!

September 25 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

Hi first time here ...great blog. Delicious

September 25 | Unregistered Commentervandana rajesh

Great interview!

September 26 | Unregistered Commenterpixiepine

i've had great luck baking vegan cakes and cupcakes using coconut milk instead of soy milk. it's very thick and rich, and gives a nice body to a cupcake! just a little tip for anyone who didn't know this trick!

September 29 | Unregistered Commenterlyndsay

Thanks so much for promoting delicious vegan baked goods on your blog. Melisser is the perfect vegan ambassador, and she's just as sweet as that buttercream she whips up for the masses.


October 4 | Unregistered Commenterkittee
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