Meatless Madison: Heirloom Bakery and Kitchen creates all-vegan treats

Find her sweets at Ledger Coffee Roasters and Black Locust Cafe or order them through social media.
pan of chocolate chip cookies
Courtesy of Heirloom
Heirloom's chocolate chip cookies are available at Black Locust Cafe on East Washington Ave.

Mickey Walker, founder of all-vegan Heirloom Bakery and Kitchen, grew up in a family of bakers.

When Walker was looking for a name for her Madison-based business, she was inspired by a family heirloom that hangs in her kitchen. “I have this beautiful rolling pin that was my great-great-grandfather’s [who was] a baker in Milwaukee in the 1940s and ’50s,” Walker says. “He was a baker in Germany [before immigrating to the United States.”] While gazing at the rolling pin one night, Walker says the word ‘heirloom’ suddenly came to her. “In the big scheme of things, [baking] seems like a lost craft. The art of baking, bringing a birthday cake to someone at work, baking something for your neighbor — it’s the way things used to be,” she says.

But that is only part of Heirloom’s story; Walker also grew up in West Bend, Wis. with a vegetarian mother who rehabilitated injured wildlife. “It was a small farm — a restored 1800s log home — and people in town would bring us raccoons and skunks,” Walker says. “Over the years it evolved and we took in horses, goats and sheep.” Walker says this experience was a big part of her childhood.

“A core principle in who I am and why I started Heirloom is that I grew up on an animal sanctuary,” she says. “My mom has strong compassionate views and that was instilled in me.” Walker became a vegetarian at 12 years old and has been vegan since she was 20. She also attended New York’s National Gourmet Institute, a primarily plant-based cooking school with a natural foods emphasis, at 20 years old and has been preparing and baking vegan food ever since.

After culinary school Walker moved to California where she ran her own businesses baking vegan wedding cakes and working as a personal chef before returning to Wisconsin eight years ago to be closer to family. “I wanted to get back to my roots,” Walker says.

Walker spent several years working in Madison’s food industry and baking for friends and family members before she founded Heirloom in 2019. For now Walker focuses on wholesale and custom orders (in addition to everything being vegan she can also make items gluten free). Heirloom’s scones are currently available at Ledger Coffee Roasters at Garver Feed Mill Monday through Wednesday and other treats, including chocolate chip cookies, are available at Black Locust Cafe.

People can order cakes and baked goods through her Instagram and Facebook pages. While Walker focuses on classics like lemon poppy seed with vegan buttercream, she does take special requests. “I just made a Chewbacca cake!” she says.

But Walker never compromises on using natural ingredients. “I try to use as many organic ingredients as possible, I don’t use processed things like fondants or artificial dyes,” Walker says. When Walker uses sprinkles or colors for decoration they are derived from vegetables or fruits. “We are in such a great time to get access to those things,” Walker says.

Walker says vegan baking in general is a lot easier now than when she first started. “Twenty years ago it felt like inventing the wheel,” she says. Walker now relies on the many choices for dairy-free milk and vegan margarine. “It’s a great time to be a vegan,” she says. While Walker has adapted her business to adapt to the pandemic — “I’ve never made so many 4-inch cakes in my life!” — she does have plans to open a shop at some point.

“It’s a tricky year,” Walker says. “It seems like a risky time to start a shop right now, but I think a vegan bakery would have a foothold in the restaurant industry. It’s gaining momentum.”Magazine footer that says "Like this article, get so much more by subscribing"