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Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012

Compassionate Cake’s Customized Vegan Treats

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Compassionate Cake owner Jessica Kelter-Weisnicht admits that vegan bakery has a bad rap. The problem as she sees it is not that most readily available vegan bakery isn’t good—on the contrary, she explains, a lot of it is quite tasty—but rather that so much of it is so plain.

“I’ve always been drawn to fancier kinds of treats with a lot of girly details, and there’s not a lot of that out there in the vegan world,” she says. “You can get a vegan cake that’s iced very plainly or decorated very simply, but not very much that’s festive, so I try to do a lot of stuff that’s unique or personalized, or that plays on pop culture.”

A graduate of Milwaukee Area Technical College’s culinary arts program, Kelter-Weisnicht launched her bakery last year on the belief that vegan bakery should be as decadent as traditional bakery. “I had a friend who summed it up for me really well, saying that every time people hear about vegan bakery, they assume that it must be healthy,” Kelter-Weisnicht says. “I don’t really believe it has to be. I don’t usually go the whole-wheat route. I do use organic ingredients and sustainable products from local companies, but I wouldn’t say it’s health food. Bakery is supposed to be indulgent.”

In addition to cakes and cupcakes, Compassionate Cake specializes in cookies, candies and vegan versions of retro snacks. “I love making lemon bars, or anything lemon or pumpkin,” Kelter-Weisnicht says. “I’ve always had an obsession with Rice Krispie squares, and I love making butter pecan blondies, without the butter, of course.”

After a brief stay at the Brewing Grounds for Change coffeehouse on the East Side, the business is currently between storefronts, and Kelter-Weisnicht says she’s realizing she might prefer to keep it that way. She now does most of her business online, selling her treats on Etsy, where she’s currently showcasing a number of ornate holiday gifts, and taking special requests through her website, compassionatecake.com. She’s realized that with the exception of a few egg-based desserts like meringues, there are very few treats she can’t make vegan.

“I’m kind of a restless person, and that’s why I’m really drawn to baking; it lets me do a little bit of everything,” she says. “Baking is really a blank canvas. You can use so many different substances, like fondant and white chocolate, and [there is] so much you can do with them that there really is not a limit on what you can do. They’re constantly inventing new vegan substances and techniques, so it’s always fun keeping up with it and learning how to make new treats and designs.”