Initially I found Cake In A Crate on Instagram, as I was admiring the cake photos. It took me a while to realize the name, which I though was cute, was actually describing the concept – think meal delivery service like Purple Carrot, but for cake. All the ingredients that are needed to make a particular recipe are in the cute box that arrives, along with the recipe and a list of what you equipment you’ll need. As my focus is on teaching people how to make desserts from scratch, I was curious about this concept. My Cake in a Crate had me from the moment the box showed up. The packaging is attractive and inviting. When I opened the recipe cards saw the parchment circle in it, I was impressed. The ingredients used are top quality, from companies I support. All the cakes are vegan and gluten free and from top bloggers and recipe developers. My cake was easy to make, and well, me being me, I took a little detour from the suggested topping and made the cake my own, but that is part of the fun. After talking with founder, Asha Carrol, I understand the why. If someone doesn’t bake, or think they can, they won’t have a baker’s pantry. Going the Cake in a Crate route is a good way to try your hand at making a cake. I asked Asha to be my guest blogger for September, as part of my Interesting Women in Food series. I’m sure you will enjoy learning about her journey from opera singer to business owner. Asha has a Cake in A Crate for one lucky winner so remember to enter the giveaway!
Imagine this. It’s a weeknight, you’ve got company coming over, and you don’t know what to serve for dessert. One of your guests is gluten-free, another Paleo, and you’re vegan, of course. You’d like to show off with something homemade, something indulgent but secretly wholesome. You spent the day browsing Pinterest, trying to find a dessert that’s appropriate only to realize that all the enviable recipes call for almond flour, coconut oil, chia seeds, tahini. An Amazon search reveals that these ingredients, which you don’t have on hand, are going to set you back about $40. You live 45 minutes from the nearest Whole Foods, anyway, and there’s no time for that after work. You whip together a “raw vegan carrot cake” from a random Google search and call it a day. An hour later, the finished cake looks awful, tastes barely better, and you’re exhausted from trying to please everyone, mostly your admittedly perfectionistic self. You wish there were an easier way.
This isn’t an imaginary scenario. In fact, it’s the exact one I found myself in just over two years ago, when I first conceptualized Cake in a Crate. Exhausted from my New York City day job and hungering for chocolate, I dreamed of a world where plant-based dessert was as simple as pulling a box from my pantry, following clear directions (with pictures), and crafting dessert without a trip to the store. The meal kit market made it look so simple, and yet, no one was doing it for dessert. Blame conventional baking and its eggs, milk, butter. The vegan baking I knew used shelf stable ingredients like maple syrup and applesauce, peanut butter and coconut milk. I had a feeling it was the perfect fit, the something that was missing from the baking aisle. The almost homemade, the modern, healthier version of a baking mix. The anti-Pinterest fail, if you will.
If you asked me five years ago what I would be doing with my life, I probably would have said singing high notes. I was an opera singer looking for more until I fell madly in love with baking, which started as a hobby to defray from the stress of my job, that is, until I’d made plans to launch the company. At that point it was a total takeover. I’d run home and bake at night, sometimes until one, two, three in the morning as I began to develop recipes for Cake in a Crate, starting by adapting my grandma’s recipes from the 50’s and working my way through vegan baking bibles like Fran’s until I was able to whip up, convert, develop almost anything. (Vanilla frosting still evades me).
All that said, becoming a vegan entrepreneur didn’t happen overnight. I had loads of research to do, other business owners to meet, advisors, numbers, pitch decks, start-up competitions, all of which I’d never done. I bought a camera and taught myself photography. I took my handwritten notes and broke them down into blog posts and recipes. I set up our first production facility in Brooklyn and all the systems to go with it. Next I set to work making connections with good food brands, brands like Bob’s Red Mill, Justin’s Nut Butters, Soom Tahini. I connected with a blogger friend of my fiancé’s, who just so happened to win last year’s Saveur awards, and she pitched the idea of a blogger crate. I liked her brand and her chutzpah, so we brought her on board. It was slow to start, but it caught up fast with one realization: if we let our bloggers sell a piece of themselves to their readers, it would give them a new way to engage their audience beyond the website, beyond the cookbook, even. Once they tried Cake in a Crate, they kept coming back, not just for more dessert, but for more personalities. And so it went, which has led to the state of things today: nine bloggers, a dozen major brands, and a dedicated team of administrators, producers, and a network of 30+ gifted test bakers to make sure everything runs smoothly and produces the best dessert possible, from our beautifully photographed recipe cards to our perfectly measured ingredients to the droolworthy Instagram photos our customers share. Hint: the key to running a successful vegan business lies largely in customer satisfaction. If it tastes great and looks great, they will come!
Cake in a Crate’s most recent baking kit is a collaboration with Heartbeet Kitchen, a vegetable-forward gluten-free blog from my native Minnesota, on a tried-and-true Midwest dessert: Scotcheroos, better described as peanut butter caramel Rice Krispie treats topped in chocolate.. The traditional recipe calls for corn syrup, sugary cereal, and white sugar. Ours uses dates, brown rice syrup, brown rice crisps, and dark chocolate to achieve even better results, topped with a sprinkling of Maldon salt. You’ve got to try this one. Trust me on this.
Asha is giving away a Salty Date Caramel Scotcheroos Cake in a Crate baking kit for one lucky reader. Each Cake in a Crate includes a four-page step-by-step recipe card and every single ingredient, perfectly measured, to create the vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free dessert of your dreams. Follow the instructions below to enter for a chance to win a Cake in a Crate. Good luck!
Asha Carroll is the creator of Cake in a Crate and the author of the blog The Plant-Based Baker. An award-winning baker, her recipe development, photography, and collaborations with food bloggers have earned Cake in a Crate mentions in Food & Wine, Real Simple, The Kitchn, and on numerous podcasts, radio, and television interviews. Asha divides her time between Vermont and New York City. In her former life, she was an opera singer.