When someone says that they run a custom-order baking business, my general reaction is a gleeful whoop of joy. But when they specify that they specialize in gluten-free, vegan baked goods? Well, my eyes may slightly narrow in a "prove it" sort of way. But Christa of Bake Sale, a Courtenay, Canada-based operation, has an enthusiasm for baking which simply can't be denied--devoid of gluten and dairy as they may be, the committment to deliciousness cannot be denied! Curious? Here's more:
CakeSpy: First off--what's the last baked good or sweet you ate?
Christa / Bake Sale: A gluten-free vegan chocolate chip cookie, leftover from one of yesterday’s orders.
CS: What made you decide to take your baking interest to the next level--by starting a custom order business?
CBS: It’s really been a long time coming. For years I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a baking business, but something always seemed to get in the way of making it a reality. When we moved to a small town (Courtenay, BC) in 2007 and I started learning to bake specialty vegan and allergy-sensitive goods for friends, I began feeling like I was in a place where there was a niche to be filled. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for the last 4.5 years, and it also felt like it was time for me to have something going on for me again, apart from raising my son.
CS: What are some of your goals with your business?
CBS: I have no plans for world domination. I would love to venture into more elaborate catering to large events, and weddings in particular. Many people are urging to me get into a storefront, but I love being able to work in small batches.
CS: A lot of people hear "gluten free" or "vegan" baked goods and immediately think of hockey-puck type cakes. How do you respond to this dismissive type of reaction?
CBS: I think that these words sometimes scare people off a little. If they’ve never tried any vegan baking, they might be skeptical. The common perception is that butter, wheat and dairy are what make everything delicious, but this is not always the case. Vegan baking is relatively simple. There are many suitable substitutions for animal products, it’s all about finding the right ones to work with your favorite non-vegan recipes. Gluten-free flours, on the other hand, can be tricky to work with. It’s easy to get discouraged when you try to replace all purpose flour with rice flour, and wind up with rock hard cookies or cakes. There’s a bit more trickery in baking gluten-free. There almost always needs to be a combination of flours, and what works for one item will fail miserably with another. It can be very frustrating, and the ingredients are expensive. Many of us have had a bad experience with disappointing gluten-free items we’ve encountered, and thus gluten-free baking has earned a bad reputation. But there is hope! Alternative baking can be quite delicious, and pleasing to those who routinely eat its wheat, butter and egg-laden counterparts.
CS: Which is the hardest baked good to make with dietary restrictions?
CBS: Pastries. I’ve made numerous attempts at gluten-free vegan hand pies, and have yet to find the perfect pastry that is relatively easy to handle, and produces a truly great result.
CS: What's your most popular item?
CBS: Mini Cupcakes. People really love the cuteness of them, and usually order more than one variety. They are especially popular for children’s birthday parties, being that they are the perfect size for little hands.
CS: I feel like date squares are a bit of a throwback recipe, something you don't see often -- tell me about how they got on your menu?
CBS: They are a coffee shop staple here in Canada, actually. They are sometimes called “matrimonial cakes”, and made with various fillings. My husband and I made two large matrimonial cakes, in place of traditional cake, for our wedding, so I guess I have a soft spot for these oat & brown sugar-laden squares.
CS: What baked good do you think will be the next big thing (or which one do you wish would be)?
CBS: I’ve been really into different takes on pie. Smitten Kitchen featured a slab pie over the Summer that blew my mind. Hand pies and galettes are also awesome variations. I would be excited to see pie shops pop up in the same way that cupcake shops have in recent years.
CS: If there were a made-for-tv movie made out of your life, what would be the title?
CBS: I was really stumped by this question, so I asked a few friends for help with it. My friend Aaron said it would simply be called “Rad”, but it’s not so catchy, is it?
CS: So what's next for Bake Sale?
CBS: I would like to see Bake Sale accepted into our fantastic local farmer's market this spring, and establish a reputation among locals as the go-to spot for delicious baking that happens to be vegan and wheat/gluten free.