Melanie is the proud mother of two little boys, Luke and Bradley. When Bradley was nine months old, he was diagnosed with severe food allergies including wheat, gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, and several fruits and vegetables. Through trial and error we developed a rather limited diet for Bradley, which didn’t include any sweets, including his first birthday cake. Since Melanie wanted both her kids to have the full, childhood experience, she started developing her own gluten, dairy and nut-free desserts for Bradley. Soon, she expanded her idea and opened Sensitive Sweets Bakery, a place where kids (and adults) with food allergies can have safe treats. She also has an online store, where you can order mixes and ready made cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and more.
1. What made you open Sensitive Sweets bakery?
My youngest son Bradley. He is anaphylactic (he suffocates) to dairy, eggs, tree nuts, and peanuts. He also has an allergy to gluten (wheat) and soy. I worked obsessively to create delicious goodies for him, and I wanted to share that with other families.
2. Can you tell us more about what it means to be gluten-free?
Gluten is the protein in wheat, barley and rye. A gluten-free diet means avoiding traditional foods made with flour (pizza, bread, crackers, cupcakes, cookies, cereals). At Sensitive Sweets we use gluten-free flours including millet, sorghum, tapioca, and rice to bake our breads, cookies, cupcakes, pizza crusts, and cakes. Our products are delicious and a healthy alternative.
3. Were you always a baker? Since it’s a little more challenging to find ways to bake gluten-free, how did you get started? A specific cookbook or website or just hands on kitchen experimentation?
I have been an avid baker since I was 5 years old. However I worked as a licensed Civil Engineer for almost 15 years. Once my son became sick, all of my attention was shifted to his diet. I created all of the products from scratch by trial and error. It took me years to perfect.
I think it’s important to spoil yourself and your family with healthy options. My boys are both on strict diets, but they are not missing out on anything. I make sure that they always get a terrific treat.
4. How do you come up with ideas for new recipes?
I dream about them. Seriously, most of the ideas come in my sleep. I also have terrific employees that come up with fun ideas.
5. Can you share a simple gluten/dairy/nut-free recipe with us that parents and kids can make?
A terrific and fun recipe to make with kids is Marshmallow Fondant covered cupcakes. It’s messy, but fun to make. Melt 4 cups of marshmallows and 2 Tablespoons of water in a double broiler. Pour melted marshmallows into 3 cups of powdered sugar on a stone counter or metal surface. Knead until it turns into soft, smooth dough. Using a rolling pin, roll until ¼” thick and use cookie cutters to cut out circles or large flowers. Bake cupcakes with our Chocolate or Basic cake mix. When cooled, frost these with our Ready-made frosting and place fondant cutouts on top.
6. Are your kids into helping you bake? If so, how do you involve them in the process?
My two boys have more interest in playing with sugar fondant. My niece Ella loves to bake and wants to work at our bakery when she is older. I can’t wait to have her help us.
7. Is it difficult to balance the demands of owning your own business and parenting? Any advice or tricks you can share with other parents in similar situations?
It is tough to balance, because my kids are first priority and my business is second. That is why we are closed on Sundays and Mondays. Our bakery is less than 10 minutes from home, which allows me to have every meal with my kids.
8. What’s the best thing that has come out of the experience of starting Sensitive Sweets?
The best thing about having Sensitive Sweets is putting BIG smiles on children’s faces.
9. What are your plans for the business going forward?
I want to continue the balance between work and home. I want Sensitive Sweets to always be a fun place where kids with food allergies or dietary restrictions can come and be spoiled.
10. For parents of children with gluten/soy/nut/diary allergies, do you have any recommendations of cookbooks or food websites you find helpful?
I would recommend our website’s blog for recipes I have very simple recipes that I make for my family. I would also recommend our mixes and frosting, which make it easy to create a beautiful cake or cupcakes at home.