Some would say that life isn’t worth living without the occasional sweet treat. But for the approximately 15 million Americans with food allergies, finding a safe and tasty option can be a challenge. Enter Let Them Eat Cake, an allergen-free, home bakery that delivers mouth-watering bundlettes (mini bundt cakes), ganache-filled and classic cupcakes, toasted coconut chocolate pie, banana breakfast cake, cinnamon rolls (our favorite), and other custom sweets to customer’s doors along the Front Range’s urban corridor. LTEC never uses wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, seeds, potato, corn, or yeast in its baked goods—and miraculously, they’re just as delicious and satisfying as the real deal.
The founders of the Denver-based company, husband-and-wife Steve and Angie Keenan, began making the alt-baked goodies after their son was diagnosed with myriad food allergies. We sat down with Angie to find out how they were able to create allergen-conscious, crave-worthy treats.
5280: What inspired you to start baking allergen-free goods?
AK: My husband, my older son, and I had been living with food allergies, but just one or two allergies each. It was easy to avoid them, they were clearly labeled for, and there were a lot of options. What changed our lives was my youngest son being diagnosed with a seed allergy, along with some regular top 8 allergies and allergies outside of the top 8. The doctor said to avoid all seeds. He was only 10, and we didn’t want him to go without things like cookies and cakes, so it was a turning point for us. I wasn’t seeing much on the market that was free of more than one or two things—I would find a type of cereal that was nut-free but it might have dairy in it. With all of us having different things we needed to avoid, that was a turning point for us.
Food allergies are so prevalent right now, more people are getting diagnosed with them. If you’re throwing a wedding or if your child is going to a birthday party, chances are that there’s going to be someone there that can’t eat the cake. We want everybody to be able to eat the same cake at a party—it excites us that we can meet the needs of people with and without food allergies. We really believe in inclusion.
What makes LTEC different from other allergy-free food companies?
Most allergy-free companies are focused on what American law calls the top eight food allergens [milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat] because it’s all that the FDA requires as being clearly labeled. Most companies stop there. We go past that because our family has allergens outside the top eight and we can’t find any other products that go beyond them.
How are you able to mimic the taste and texture of regular baked goods?
Honestly, we throw things in the trash all the time. The hard thing about experimental baking without food allergens is that the base ingredients [such as coconut flour, arrowroot powder, and dehydrated beets] cost a lot. The cinnamon roll took us years [to create], and we only really nailed it about six months ago. My husband, Steve, is a scientist, so he’s got that whole form down of creating a hypothesis and testing it. We start from our knowledge of ratios and food chemistry. We throw something together, we take notes on how terrible or good it was, and then rewrite the recipe and try it again, again, and again. It really is just trial and error. There aren’t any cookbooks that can help.
How did you go about deciding which baked goods to offer?
We tried to start with replacing things that we needed the most of—every year we needed a birthday cake, so we got really good with cake really fast. Cinnamon rolls were something we had been making from scratch and we wanted to hack that recipe. When we first started the business, we were originally going to just do cake, but what’s happened is people order cake and then when we deliver they ask for another product or we will get emails of requests. Our consumers drive us.
What’s the oddest dessert request you’ve gotten?
We had a customer who really needed a king cake. King cake was new for us!
What’s next for Let Them Eat Cake?
Our initial idea was to open a bakery, but then we decided to test the waters a little and that was about 8 months ago. Now we’re in the process of working towards opening the bakery.