America's Hottest Vegan Baker On Her Career, Self-Care & What She Eats For Lunch
Erin McKenna was at the forefront of the cupcake craze in the early aughts. She won best cupcake in New York in 2006 and has since expanded her eponymous bakery empire to Los Angeles and Orlando.
The coolest thing about Erin's baked goodies (besides being outrageously delicious) is that everything she makes is dairy-free, gluten-free, and soy-free.
Erin McKenna's Bakery (previously named Baby Cakes) was a pioneer in vegan and gluten-free baking, taking the trend from dubious hippie food to crave-worthy phenomenon. With a lot of trial, error, and motivation, Erin took a chance on herself to create a business that many people dream of starting.
I had the chance to chat with Erin about the role of self-care and meditation in creating a successful and fulfilling business.
Life is hard, but taking chances is what we're here for.
Creating Your Own Path
"After a brief career in fashion In my 20s, I realized it wasn't for me. All I knew was my goal was to feel fulfillment and help people.
"At the same time, I was discovering food sensitivities and was really concerned about nutrition. I found that all the products that were gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free. and egg-free were filled with preservatives. So I started creating my own sweets with a health focus."
Meditation creates the emptiness that allows inspiration to swoop in.
Meditation Is Key
"Focusing on meditation really opened me up to my purpose. I started meditating and wondering, 'What can I do with my life?'
"When I had the courage to take that leap and quit my job in fashion, I went back to waitressing. Once I was working in food again, I had that aha moment of, 'This is what I'm supposed to do.'
"A lot of people say they're going to 'meditate on something,' but what they mean is they're going to think about it a lot. The goal of meditation is actually to create emptiness and space in the mind.
"I use it to clear away the resistant thoughts that come up all day. Those thoughts you play in your head over and over again — those are the ones we want to clear out. That creates the emptiness that allows inspiration to swoop in.
"Meditation can give you the clarity to open up to taking those changes and go with your gut.
"Those negative and resistant thoughts are what keep us from taking those chances to do what we want to do. Life is hard, but taking chances is what we're here for."
Do All Things With Love
"I knew I wanted to help people and thought that just meant volunteering for the rest of my life, but then I realized that a bakery could help people too. I knew there were people who couldn't eat traditional bakery stuff and I wanted to create a fun, cool space for them that served good food. I wanted those people to feel normal, happy, and satisfied.
"There's really nothing like the feeling of joy and fulfillment that I get from what I do. Like at Disney World (the Orlando location of Erin McKenna's Bakery opened in February 2015), when a 5-year-old with food allergies comes in and gets to choose anything they want, they're so happy."
Baby Steps Are the Path to Success
"Do something every day that moves you toward your goal. Even if it's just for 15 minutes each day. I made myself do one thing, whether it was make a call or work on a recipe, that moved me closer to my goal.
"Chipping away at it every day keeps it moving. When you're in that space it leads to other ideas and keeps the dream alive. It's like an object on your shelf, if you don't grab it and use it, it collects dust and eventually you resent it.
"You want to see a goal as a living thing and feed it. It has energy, and if you don't nurture that energy, it turns into fear, which will make it harder to accomplish."
Self-Care Is a Priority
"I exercise every morning. I love to run outside or do Ballet Beautiful classes. I drink lots of water and yerba mate tea, and I eat mostly greens and grains.
"I think any meditation practice you can do is great; the goal is just to create space. Yes, occasionally you'll get those great bursts of love and inspiration, but it's not really about those bigger things — just being quiet is good."
Everyday Eats and Treats
"My favorite bakery recipes are my brownies and chocolate chip cookies. But my quick, go-to meal is kind of weird. I make a salad dressing out of my son's baby food. I give him puréed spinach and then I take the leftovers and mix them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and miso to make this green dressing to pour over whatever salad stuff I have around."