The Bicycle Bakery, a Vegan Alternative for Everyone

Gluten-free Vegan Cranberry Oatmeal Bars.  Yum.  I double-checked the ingredient list because these were almost too good of an afternoon snack to be taken seriously.  Yep, they were in fact all they said.

It was a bite of the Chocolate Brownie Cake with Cacao Frosting that did me in.  I brought one home for the hubby and put it in front of him after dinner.  He moaned with delight saying this was you-know-what-ing good.  They’ve been a dessert in our house ever since.

Shannon Jewel, tall and slim with a kindly smile invited me into her very own Bicycle Bakery development kitchen.  Located on Del Paso Boulevard in Sacramento, Bako Products is a co-manufacturing facility that does full-scale commercial, custom and specialty item baking.  She recently relocated for increased space and assistance with production and distribution.  The move has also afforded this self-taught, independent businesswoman time to focus on marketing and developing new items.

Cooking and baking came naturally for Jewel who began veganizing recipes when her three kids eliminated animal products from their diet in 1989.  Years ago her grandmother made what we know of as “V8” using a recipe passed down from the 1800’s, while her grandfather minded his kiwi farm in California’s central valley.  From Jewels listening to the oral history of her family, who’ve been in the Sacramento area since the 1890’s, she learned that fresh, wholesome food was always an important part of their lives.

Pineapple Walnut Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

“Early on in my vegan baking, I started experimenting with things like how vinegar reacts with soda, mixing tapioca and other flours, how to make a batter rise, things like that,” said Jewel.  “Chocolate cake was my first success but I needed to figure out how to make frosting silky and smooth.”

The beginning included lots of trial and error resulting in wonderfully tasting vegan birthday and holiday cakes for the family.  Her reach expanded when Jewel’s daughters started a vegetarian club in high school.

“The club was a natural outlet for my items,” said Jewel, which led to her supplying baked goods on a regular basis, as well as baking special request cakes and such.

Jewel moved to Berkeley to pursue an Anthropology and Fine Arts degree after her kids graduated.  Being a sculptor, she was connected to the art scene and shared baked goods at gallery openings.  Requests for her items flowed in from people wanting more so she made more, but began selling them versus giving things away.  When Jewel returned to Sacramento word of her creations spread.  Continual encouragement from family and friends resulted in the 2008 opening of The Bicycle Bakery.

Oatmeal Bar (top left), Pumpkin Spice Cake (center left) Chocolate and Carrot Cupcakes

“It’s hard work, but it works.  It’s not about what you can’t do; it’s about what you can do and believing in yourself.  I’m meeting a previously unmet need in the area,” Jewel shared when I asked her how it was starting a company.

She hit the pavement to find outlets and accounts for her product line, which are successful and selling, even with the economic downturn.  When I asked her about this, she replied “it’s especially important in this economy to spend your food dollars wisely…good food equals good health and lower medical costs.”

“My baking has always been “one-batch-at-a-time” but, as you can see, I’ve gone to the next level in order to supply tasty alternatives to a greater number of vegans (and non-vegans!).”

Upon leaving, Jewel said “You didn’t ask me the one thing everyone usually does.”

Being a cyclist, I didn’t think twice about the name or logo, just that it was very cool.  Jewel’s logo represents her vision: blue for the sky filled with clean, fresh air, green for the planet that sustains us, and a bicycle representing a simple human powered machine for getting around.

Keep a look out for soon to come items: vegan biscotti, vegan chocolate walnut brownies, vegan pumpkin spice cake, a variety of bundt cakes, and oat bars that can kick start your morning.  You can find Bicycle Bakery items at Mariposa Market in Willits and Whole Foods Market in Sacramento and Roseville.  A complete list of stores and bakery information is available on The Bicycle Bakery’s website.

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