Not so long ago, a good vegan dessert was hard to find.
But with interest in veganism on the rise, bakers have stepped up their game, with fresh ingredients replacing processed animal substitutes at the center of sweets. The increase in options means a batch of new bakeries for vegans, too.
Rua Francis Oshana opened the region’s first vegan cheese and dessert place, Planthropie, in Birmingham in 2020, after she discovered her then-newborn son was allergic to dairy. Planthropie’s array of desserts and cheese also are gluten- and soy-free, and free of refined sugar. Oshana prepares the desserts, which are as attractive as they are delectable, with primarily raw ingredients that are organic and fair trade.
Christopher Pelak and pastry chef LaDawn Stuben followed suit with a vegan bakery, opening Sugarbuzz Bakery in Ferndale in April with cakes, cookies, donuts, cinnamon buns, and even paczki. SugarBuzz has sold more than 1,400 oatmeal cream pies since opening, making it by far, the bakery’s best-selling product.
In Detroit, several bakeries sell plant-based treats, but Chantele Jones will open the city’s first all-vegan bakery, Estella’s, in Grandmont-Rosedale this fall.
Jones, who’s been selling vegan meals and desserts at pop-ups and in markets since 2012, put herself on a plant-based diet after developing the chronic inflammatory skin condition hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) several years ago. An elimination plan showed that dairy products were the culprit for her pain, inflammation, lesions, and hair loss. Once she removed dairy products from her diet, her pain and inflammation disappeared, and doctors were no longer recommending surgery.
“With that, I had to learn how to cook for myself,” she says.
One of her first creations was a lemon pound cake. She also made salads, sandwiches, entrees, including “meatloaf,” which she packed for lunch at work, attracting the curiosity of her colleagues at the mortgage bank.
“My co-workers began to ask ‘Can I try this? Can I try that?’ I began to think, “Maybe I have something here.’” Demand for her culinary creations grew, which led Jones to launch a catering service with pop-ups at the Brightmoor Artisan Collective. She also wrote a cookbook for the vegan-curious and -transitioning. At the height of the pandemic, she added virtual cooking classes.
“I come from a long line of great cooks,” says Jones, whose grandmother and mother were caterers. It was grandmother, Estella, who first showed her how to cook, teaching her to make a cherry pie at 6 years old. Perhaps that’s why Jones’s desserts have been particularly popular items on the menu.
She’ll move into Grand River WorkPlace for a six-month popup on October 2, to get a feel for operating a bakery day to day. She’ll also sell baked goods at the Northwest Detroit Farmers’ Market. From there, she’s seeking a more permanent space in Grandmont Rosedale, East English Village, or Indian Village.
Lemon pound cake will be on the menu at Estella’s, as well as other flavors (turtle, sock-it-to-me, chocolate raspberry ganache), oatmeal blueberry bars, cheesecake, strawberry crunch cake, and items that Jones calls “southern with a twist,” based on seasonal produce available at the farmers’ market. “Vegans want the desserts too. We want our pound cakes moist and dense, and desserts that taste just as great as my mother’s or my grandmother’s.”
Where to Buy Vegan Treats
This Birmingham shop specializes in vegan, gluten-free, and soy-free desserts and cheeses. There’s seating for approximately 20. The pretty cheesecakes, truffles, and dessert-flavored lattes are made primarily from cashew cream. Cheeses come in such flavors as white truffle cashew and garlic noir, made with sweet black garlic. Cakes (think creative flavors like peanut butter and jelly, salted caramel, rose pistachio, hazelnut cacao, triple raspberry cacao) can be enjoyed by small parties or designed for a wedding. Start with the triple raspberry cacao, for a multitude of flavors in one bite.
135 Pierce Street, Birmingham, 248-839-5640, website
Oatmeal cream pies are the best-selling items at this vegan and gluten-free bakery that’s sold more than 1,400 of them to customers since opening in April 2021. Cakesicles and donuts come in an array of rotating menu flavors. There’s also daily apple fritters, chickpea snickerdoodle blondies, Faygo Redpop velvet cake, death by chocolate cake, and a key lime pie that’s nut-free with a graham cracker crust, for starters.
23131 Woodward, Ferndale, 248-268-1355, website
The self-proclaimed “Home of the Lemon Pound Cake,” Estella’s will also offer pound cake in turtle, sock-it-to-me, and chocolate raspberry ganache flavors. Oatmeal blueberry bars, cheesecake, strawberry crunch cake, and seasonal desserts will be on the menu.
A limited number of Paradise Natural Foods’ vegan treats are available at Sweet Potato Sensations in Old Redford. Peach mango cobbler, chocolate avocado mousse, and oatmeal cookies will be available at a weekly pop-up, which will move to Detroit Sip on Friday, July 30. Nezaa Bandele is working on a brick-and-mortar in Core City at the Allied Media Love Building campus, which is under development and set to open in spring 2022. Until development is complete, Paradise will be among the lineup at Farmacy Food on Marygrove’s campus.
The goodies at this Avenue of Fashion bakery aren’t solely plant-based, but the signature vegan chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are stars here. The vegan carrot cake, lemon pound cake, gooey cinnamon rolls, red velvet and strawberry crunch cupcakes are tasty, too. They offer shipping nationwide.
19363 Livernois, Detroit, 313-468-9915. website
This adorable Brush Park shop offers a vegan cake flavor daily, as well as gluten-free and vegan chocolate chunk cookies; colorful macarons; made-to-order cakes in flavors like strawberry shortcake, knafeh, and banana; and ice cream by the pint or scoop.
100 Erskine St., Detroit, 313-788-7111, website