Black Squirrel Bake Shop specializes in 100% vegan treats, cakes
Alyssa Rice started her business in Kansas, but moved it north in November 2020.
Alyssa Rice, owner of Black Squirrel Bake Shop, launched her baking business in 2017 after years of making vegan sweets for fun that was sparked by her wedding cake baker canceling two months before the event.
Rice became vegan several months before her October 2014 wedding. When her wedding cake baker canceled and she was unable to find a vegan baker in her Wisconsin hometown, Rice had to get creative.
“I decided to make something myself,” she says. Rice started recipe testing and landed on two flavors of cupcakes, chocolate and pumpkin spice. With the help of her mom, grandma, aunt and soon-to-be husband, Rice baked 150 vegan cupcakes for the event.
Rice turned her hobby into a business in 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas, where she was living at the time. Calling her new venture Black Squirrel Bake Shop, Rice started taking orders for custom cakes and also set up a stall at the farmers’ market where she sold cupcakes and cinnamon rolls. Rice says the name has no real significance except that she always thought it should be the name of a business. “Years and years ago I was talking to someone and said ‘black squirrel’ would be a really cute name for a restaurant or something so when I started the bakery I called it Black Squirrel Bake Shop,” she says.
When Rice moved to Madison in November 2020 she decided to keep the business going. Black Squirrel does custom cakes and can be found at the Eastside Farmers’ Market on Tuesdays.
Rice says it’s easy to find vegan recipes that rely on plant-based ingredients, like Earth Balance butter and sugar processed without bone char, but that you have to pay attention to the details. “The sprinkles [I use] don’t have beeswax or carmine, which is bug-based,” she says.
For her custom cakes, Rice says she generally sticks to traditional flavors like chocolate, vanilla and confetti, which is her most popular. She also offers peanut butter chocolate, carrot, and lemon rosemary, topped with candied lemon slices. With her cupcakes Rice gets more creative. “I have this whole list of flavors that are fun and weird that I don’t think anyone would order a cake in so I do them in cupcakes to sell at farmers’ markets,” she says.
One example is her blueberry waffle cupcake which consists of a blueberry cake topped with maple frosting and a waffle square. She also makes a cookie dough-stuffed cookie (which is available as a chocolate chip cookie dough cake) which requires her to make “edible cookie dough,” she says. “It’s almost the same as regular cookie dough, but I bake the flour so that it isn’t raw (raw flour can make people sick) and I leave out the leaveners, but it’s still that brown sugary, gritty cookie dough we all stole from the mixing bowl when we were kids. I break it up and fold it into a little bit of vanilla buttercream and stuff it between some cookies (or cake layers.)”
In addition to making sure all of the ingredients she uses are 100% vegan, Rice only uses fair trade cocoa and avoids shopping from larger companies like Amazon. “We try to buy as much as we can from local businesses or small businesses,” she says. And she is looking forward to using local produce this summer. “I’m excited to see what I can find,” she says.
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