Jul 112012

I confess that for most of my life I thought gluten-free and vegan food tasted terrible. I felt so bad for people who were allergic to gluten, and couldn’t imagine becoming a vegan myself. I liked my breads and cheeses and desserts way too much! But earlier this year, my doctor told me I had to cut gluten out of my diet. I’ve spent these last few months educating myself on gluten substitutes, and even decided I was ready to eliminate a lot of dairy from my diet.

I’ve grown to love the way I eat now, and I’m realizing that my lifelong dislike for these foods was mostly due to my own lack of knowledge and experience! Prepared the right way, gluten-free, vegan, or both can be delicious. When I tasted a gluten-free, vegan wedding cake from Lael Cakes at a bridal event in New York City last month, I was in heaven!

The mastermind behind Lael Cakes is Emily Lael Aumiller, a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute.  She studied art in college, and when she discovered chocolate sculpting in culinary school, she felt right at home. Emily worked with industry veterans including Sylvia Weinstock and Eric Bedoucha before launching Lael Cakes.

I spoke with Emily yesterday….

When did you come up with the idea for Lael Cakes?

It’s been a work in progress for a good five years, but it’s always been on the back burner. Two years ago I officially launched the Website.

Why gluten-free and vegan?

I struggled with my own allergies a lot. Working in bakeries, I was always surrounded by so many allergens, and eventually I discovered that gluten was a big problem for me. I wanted to help other people through it as well. I try to use only natural ingredients, so I make a lot of my dyes and oils from scratch. I’m completely self-taught; everything I know about this came from experimenting. I create my own recipes.

What do you use instead of wheat flour?

There are incredible companies that offer alternative flour options. I really like the consistency of millet flour, and I also use tapioca and brown rice flour. Sometimes I use potato flour as a starch substitute. I like to create mixtures.

Making your own dyes must be really time consuming, isn’t it?

It’s been a journey. That was the first wall that I hit, because it did take so long. Now I’ve discovered what I like to use. For my red velvet cake I use a beet dye, it’s delicious. In my carrot cake, I use fresh carrot juice.

Do you have any customers who aren’t gluten-free or vegan?

I’ve had a handful of clients who called me because they liked my designs. I always tell them to come in and sample it. I think it’s really incredible to spread the word that gluten-free can be really tasty if it’s made right.

Until recently I was one of those people who thought it tasted really bad. Do you think the reputation of gluten-free and vegan is changing?

It’s a process and it’s going in that direction. But it’s pretty new still to have these foods that are delicious. A lot of companies out there are still making food that doesn’t taste the best. I hope I’ve started a new wave. There are great products out there, but there are also products that give people the notion that all of it tastes like cardboard.


How do wedding guests react to a gluten-free, vegan cake?

A lot of clients have told me that their guests said it was the most delicious cake they’d ever had. They couldn’t even tell it was gluten-free and vegan.

What’s your favorite part of the process?

I’m really passionate about sculpting. I could sculpt sugar for the rest of my life and be completely satisfied. I like to be hands-on and involved in the artistic aspects of each cake. I also love experimenting. I’m constantly changing my recipes to make them healthier and more exciting.

What’s your favorite cake?

I really love my carrot cake. I use orange, ginger, nuts, and fresh carrot juice. My strawberry-basil frosting is my clients’ favorite.

Is the cupcake fever still with us?

The trend is moving away from cupcakes. Dessert tables have taken over. That’s a great option.

What’s next for Lael Cakes?

We might start offering cakes that are vegan but not gluten-free. And eventually I’d love to have a storefront.

Are you vegan?

Mostly. I do eat fish occasionally.

When did you start baking?

I grew up in a gigantic family, so food culture has always been around me. My mom taught me a lot, and both of my grandmothers did too. When I was around 18 I was working in a seafood restaurant, and they put me to work in the kitchen.

Interview by Denise Oliveira of Prequels.net

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