If you have a sweet tooth like me you certainly aren't being deprived of regular "suga slams" due to the recent influx of sweet confection based businesses in Orlando. But what if you are Vegan? Where oh where can you find treats that compete on the same level of other non-vegan baked goods? Never fear, Valhalla Bakery has got you covered so you can have a vegan friendly "treat yo self" moment whenever the mood strikes you.
Truth be told, you don't need to be Vegan to enjoy these creations, because they are honestly better than a lot of sweets I've stumbled upon in O-town.
Yes, Celine, owner of Valhalla Bakery is so skilled in her craft, that if no one told you her baked goods were Vegan, you wouldn't have a clue. In my humble opinion her cupcakes are better than the now no longer in motion Yum Yum Cupcake truck as well as Gigi's and Jillycakes. I recently purchased one of her pretzel brownies and was blown away by the richness. As you become addicted to her Instagam feed you anticipate her latest flavor combinations, and as your eyes read concoctions like "Earl Grey Lavender"and "Chocolate Ancho Chili Mocha" your lips start to quiver, your stomach aches and clicking the like button just isn't enough.
I've even had the pleasure of having her cupcakes delivered to my doorstep one night via bike delivery when I was too lazy to go out in the rain. Doorstep delivery of hand crafted baked goods doesn't get much better until you taste the Pistachio Rosewater cupcake! Are you drooling yet?
As I visited with Celine, she was working away on a beautiful custom made lemon cake with raspberry filling, lemon zest butter cream, and a pretty rocking edible skull she hand painted. It was immediately clear to see she is more than a baker, but an artist. As we spoke in more detail about her background she actually is one, having worked as a makeup artist on television sets in her hometown of Vancouver, Canada. Of course I had to side bar my questions with my own confession of a teenage obsession with Vancouver. I had big dreams to visit and find the love of my young life, David Duchovny, since X-Files was filmed there. She casually mentioned David was around all the time, and I had a brief internal moment of rage jealousy; but the smell of butter cream and the 90's Pandora station on in the background calmed me down. She went on to explain that the skills of a makeup artist easily translate when you are trained to have an eye for detail; which is a quality easily seen in her work.
It was in Vancouver at a young age that she learned how to develop a good flavor palate from necessities sake. We both agreed from experience that when you are raised in a home with a limited income you learn to become creative with what is available in your pantry when meal time comes around. That certainly explained my favorite after school treat - white bread toasted with butter and cinnamon. Ah, the staples never failed me.
That became the basis for her joy of experimentation and finding combinations that worked well together, that she may have otherwise never dared to try. Necessity truly is the mother of tasty inventions.
She moved to Florida a little later in her still young life and worked for what many would agree is a prominent player in the heavenly baked goods game – Publix. She worked her way up as a Bakery Manager, continuing to hone her craft. To look at her, you wouldn't think she would necessarily fit in a corporate setting, with her many colorful tattoos popping out from her baker’s attire, and in truth she didn't. She expressed appreciation for some things that corporate life is good for, but keeping in touch with your individuality was not one of them.
When she moved to Orlando to be with her now husband, another business owner in the Milk District, it was time to set off on her own culinary journey where she could be her own boss.
Since then she has established Valhalla Bakery which specializes in traditional and vegan desserts and cakes. Why both? She explained when she started out, traditional baked goods was what got her business off the ground, but eventually the demand for Vegan delights exploded and is now about 99% of her business. Her desire and sense of loyalty to those that supported her when she started her business encourages her to keep the option for traditional sweets on the table, so you can continue to serve them on yours.
I had to inquire about the name "Valhalla", and once she explained to me her soft spot for all things Viking, the logo of the cupcake adorned with a Viking helmet made perfect sense. Celine confessed that when she and her husband got married in Vegas, it was a full Viking themed affair. The Vikings believed in the incredible Valhalla, Fortress of Odin, and the final resting place of the bravest Vikings. The theme carries into the family as one of their two pit bulls is named Odin. All of the sudden I was overcome with anticipation to sit in her new business and slam a mason jar once filled with a double down on the ground and yell in my best Thor like growl "Another!"
As hungry Orlandoans keep Celine busy with custom orders and visiting her at the Audubon Park Farmers Market as well as Tasty Tuesday’s in the Milk District, she is about to embark on a new and exciting venture to expand her business. We sat in what will soon be Market On South. The café will offer Vegan food from Dixie Dharma, Kombucha tea from Humble Bumble and her delectable treats from Valhalla. Celine hopes for it to be another spot for locals go gather and enjoy Orlando made goods.
I could tell while talking to her about the community in the Milk District, as a resident and soon to-be-business owner, she was filled with passion and excitement about the future. She sees it as an upcoming area that will soon attribute to Orlando being able to compete with larger cities. She went on to explain why opening her own business despite the risks is so important.
“The prior generation really got away from entrepreneurship. That is why you see big box chains everywhere. But the generation before that was all about local mom and pop businesses and working within the community. We have to get back to that place.”
So despite this being an entirely new venture for her, she presses on because the importance of local businesses growing in her community trumps all else. That is where the importance of community based patronage is so vital.
“When you support local businesses you are supporting your neighbors and their families. So many people want to make the change to see more local businesses, so we support each other.”
As we chatted and laughed at the 90's jams Pandora played for us in the background, Celine continually worked on the aforementioned custom order cake, tweaking the frosting, taking her time with the placement of the sugary skull and hemming and hawing over additional decorative detail. You could see each cake needed to leave her hands in perfect condition, no matter how long it took to get it just right.
In her down time Celine is a self-proclaimed gym rat, but also enjoys time with her husband and dogs. She expressed that Orlando really is a beautiful city, and they take advantage of that with family walks around the lakes and parks. Her passion for the kitchen is not left behind for too long, as she continues to experiment, working on free form hand pies, and currently a vegan meringue.
“I want people to be able to choose whatever they like when they want something custom ordered. If you have a super weird ingredient I will track it down and do it for you."
With consumers having more picky palates than ever before she knows it's important to let them choose what they want while she tries her best to keep the prices the same across the board.
So we wait patiently for the Market on South to open as Celine continues to supply us with her goods around Orlando and continues on in her struggle with perfecting edible fondant. We can't wait to see what she does with that!
Until Market On South is officially open, visit Valhalla on Monday nights at the Audubon Farmer’s Market at Stardust, or on Tuesday’s at Tasty Tuesdays in the Milk District (off Robinson), or email her for a custom order at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I dare you to follow her instagram feed @ValhallaBakery and not plan a trip for these goods immediately!
Visit her site here.