Dairy free? Is it really a problem?

Why is dairy free food even necessary? Who needs it?

Here’s an interview which looked straight-forward on paper. Cakes and baking – that was the angle.

Then I met Vicky …

Unluckily for some, cakes are off the menu if they suffer from food intolerance. They can go into anaphylactic shock if exposed to a ‘trigger’ food. The trigger can be wheat gluten, milk, eggs, peanuts, shellfish or tree nuts (such as brazils, almonds or walnuts) amongst others.

The symptoms are frightening enough that sufferers (and their families) have had to come up with some ingenious solutions …

Vicky Ramskill, owner and head chef at VictoriaBakes is one of them.

I caught up with her recently to find out how and why she launched her business. Having seen her at many business events in the Selby area, I was keen to find out how VictoriaBakes came about.

“When my son was born, he soon started having awful stomach aches and, after visits to the GP and a dietician in Leeds, was diagnosed as lactose intolerant.
I looked at what was available in the shops and was really frustrated by the lack of choice – if he’d been coeliac, I could’ve bought something from the gluten-free range in many supermarkets. Lactose intolerance, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be catered for – there’s nothing out there.
So, unless I took a backpack of food with me into a café, pub or restaurant when we ate out as a family, he couldn’t have anything to eat. We were often told, “we don’t really cater for ..” and “we don’t really get asked for it (dairy free food)”.
Eventually, I’d had enough, we weren’t getting any help from the NHS, and my son, meanwhile was growing up and needed food that he could tolerate.”

How did your baking evolve from helping your son with his dairy intolerance, to helping others with a range of food intolerances?

“I started my business to cater for children and adults (many adults aren’t diagnosed ’til later in life), who would like to enjoy, for example, a birthday celebration – just like everyone else.
Milk and eggs are the most common allergies in children, and it seemed so much easier just to be vegan. Also, if a person can master (how to make) a couple of good, solid cakes – especially for larger functions, café environments and restaurants – it ticks all the boxes (for the customer). For example, my Apple & Raisin cake goes down really well with the older generation, and recently I did a cooking demonstration at a local school, making Snickerdoodles.”

Tell me your Unique Selling Point.

“I bake cakes with no additives or preservatives in them, and I don’t mass-produce: my cakes are bespoke – they’re baked with an individual or party in mind. I don’t churn out cakes and stick them in a freezer; they are made for a (specific) day, (specific) time, for a (specific) individual.
I also have regular weekly orders, such as The Tea Rooms in Cawood, (for which I bake Apple & Raisin Vegan cake), that has a lot of Bramley apples and spices in it … it keeps well in the chiller cabinet for about five or six days.”

As your baking is dairy-free; what changes have you made so that your cakes aren’t too dry?

“I’ve always made (normal) muffins, just with sunflower oil and you can keep a fruit element in there, rather than rely on the flour and sugar for bulk – but don’t overcook it.
Also, a bit of dairy-free chocolate, when incorporated well with the oils, will hold it’s shape fantastically to provide café-style muffin tops.
Just keep out (of the freezer) what you need and leave it in the fridge overnight.”

Vicky also attends many local networking events and business fairs which help to advertise Victoria Bakes and, like most business owners, constantly works on new products and ideas which cater for lactose-intolerant, coeliac, diabetic and vegan customers – children and adult alike.

She tells me that her focus has always been on children , families, birthday parties and cakes – although she seems too modest to say it herself, she obviously caters for much  more.

She has also recently extended her kitchen, increasing her baking capacity.

To contact Vicky for a bespoke cake, or set up regular orders – her website is at http://www.vicbakes.wordpress.com/about

Interviews in the Food & Drink series.