Sugar Skull strives to find its legs
The American Dream as we knew it might be long dead, but Rachel Alves is determined to give life to Sugar Skull Bakery. Currently, Alves – along with friends Heather Mayer Padilla, Mel Nugent and Joshua Marx – are catering parties and events for friends and family but they hope to soon open a vegan bakery in an affordable space in the Riverwest neighborhood.
"Right now, Sugar Skull Bakery is a work in progress. We would love to eventually open a storefront in Riverwest and we are currently looking for kitchen space to rent," says Alves. "We are also looking into working with local farmers' markets."
Ideally, Alves would like to find a space with an open floor plan and large windows. The concept behind Sugar Skull Bakery is to provide fresh, vegan bakery made from local and organic ingredients. Alves specializes in what she calls "the ever-so-popular cupcake," along with cakes, doughnuts, breads and more.
"Being vegan there are not a lot of options when it comes to finding vegan baked goods in Milwaukee, one reason I want to open an all vegan bakery," she says.
Chocolate cupcakes, however, are her favorite, and Alves says she thinks she invented a dark chocolate almond and sea salt cupcake. She attributes the recent popularity of the cupcake to the fact it is a convenient, grab-and-go sweet. Also, because it cleans up easily and it's just plain cute.
"I love making chocolate cupcakes. You can pair them with a lot of interesting spices and flavors. Chocolate works with almost everything," she says.
Alves studied cake decorating at Milwaukee Area Technical College but really developed a fondness for food during her childhood when she spent time at her mother's family's now-defunct diner in Iron Ridge, Wis.
"I loved visiting the diner and being able to connect with family through food. This is one reason why I want to open a bakery. I want something to not only fulfill a dream of mine but to be able to pass on to future family and friends," she says.
Milwaukee has many family owned-and-operated bakeries, including Grebe's Bakery, 5132 W. Lincoln Ave., which is currently run by fourth-generation family members. Aside from the West Allis store, Grebe's has more than 300 accounts in Wisconsin and Illinois.
Sciortino's Bakery, 1101 E. Brady St., has been family owned and operated for almost 70 years. And Lopez bakeries, located on Milwaukee's South Side, have dominated the Latin bakery scene since 1977.
Alves was born in California, but grew up in Hartford, and says she spent a lot of time in the kitchen helping her grandmother cook dinner or her mother bake cookies or her dad bake a cake. "Watching my family make food was definitely an inspiration," she says.
Currently, Alves works at Outpost Natural Foods, and although she would like to make baking her livelihood, she says most importantly baking gives her a sense of personal satisfaction and relaxation.
"I like to bake just to bake. Baking is a comfort and just something I feel comfortable doing. It's almost Zen-like. I love to create," she says.
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