Better, not butter
New bakery’s treats as good if not better than non-vegan options
Chico, CA 95928
One of the nicest things about writing stories about food is getting to taste it. That’s how I got to know how insanely delicious Chico Baking Company’s desserts are. And after wolfing down big, sticky-sweet bites of the new bakery’s Crazy for Coconut Bar and frosted Vanilla Bean Spice Cupcake recently, it occurred to me that there is no way that a person would guess these desserts are vegan.
As a matter of fact, all of Chico Baking Company’s desserts are vegan—they contain no animal products, such as butter, eggs or milk. And, contrary to the preconceptions some people may have about bakery items made with alternative ingredients, there is nothing even remotely bland, dense or grainy about them. They are pure scrumptiousness of the highest order and would stand up to any traditionally prepared baked goods.
The brainchild of vegan co-masterminds Emily Camaren and Megan Forrest (who happens to hold a master’s degree in business administration from Chico State), Chico Baking Company has been in existence only since the beginning of July, but already has generated so much interest that the duo are on the verge of hiring an employee to help keep up with demand.
The bakery—which does not have a storefront, but runs a robust pickup and delivery service out of its commercial kitchen in south Chico—recently began offering its wares for sale at the Chico Natural Foods Cooperative. Ninety percent of its cookies, cupcakes, coconut bars and sweet-potato cinnamon rolls sold out on the first day, said Forrest. One woman, she added, was already at the store waiting for her on the next delivery day. (Chico Baking Company’s sweets are stocked at Chico Natural Foods on Fridays and Mondays.)
In addition to the bestselling Crazy for Coconut Bar, the vegan cheesecakes—plain, cherry, blackberry or blueberry—are also wildly popular with customers, as are the Mocha Almond Fudge cupcakes, which Camaren described as a “chocolate cupcake with mocha frosting, chocolate-ganache drizzle and toasted almonds.”
“I’ve always loved baking,” said Camaren, a vibrant 34-year-old who is the mother of a 3-year-old son. “And we don’t have many vegan [baked-goods] options in town—especially good vegan options,” hence the creation of Chico Baking Company.
“Vegan baking is not that different from normal baking,” Forrest offered. “It’s not as difficult as it would seem to be. Butter, eggs and milk are the main things omitted, but there are so many milk alternatives out there.”
“We bake with Earth Balance [vegan butter-like spread],” added Camaren. “It has a good buttery taste—there’s no real difference [between it and butter] except you’re just losing out on the cholesterol.”
In addition to being vegan, many of the new bakery’s offerings are also gluten-free, like the Crazy for Coconut Bar, which incorporates gluten-free graham crackers made by Camaren and Forrest. “That’s how we make [the bars] gluten-free,” explained Forrest of the coconut bars, “‘cause there’s not a gluten-free, vegan graham cracker out there. So we make them ourselves.”
Chico Baking Company has also fulfilled orders for “a lot of gluten-free kids’ birthday cakes,” Forrest said, “because so many kids are being taken off gluten, due to allergies.” Their cakes come in a variety of flavors, from vanilla with chocolate-buttercream frosting, to carrot cake with cream-cheese frosting, to the Mounds cake—chocolate-and-coconut cake with coconut icing.
“We have quite a big clientele that’s not vegan,” Camaren noted.
“Half, at least,” chimed in Forrest.
No surprise there. As Camaren pointed out, “You’re not losing a decadent dessert by going vegan. You’re still indulging.”