Baked goods that are also refreshing on a hot day?
June 23, 2013 3:58 PM   Subscribe

We're looking for inexpensive, "refreshing" baked goods that we can add to cupcakes at a farmers'-market vegan baking booth for the dog days of summer. Ideas?

My wife is working to make her vegan baking dreams a reality with a cupcake stand at the local farmer's market in our smallish Quebec city. We're finding sales sluggish; we've got a few hypotheses as to why.

At the market, it's been alternatingly rainy (and sales are bad for everyone) or hot and a bit muggy (when sales are good for the lemonade and iced tea people flanking her, but bad for her). We're working on a couple of hypotheses:

1. People aren't that into rich, flavourful baked goods when it's hot and muggy out;
2. Cupcakes are a little expensive as one-off treats ($2.50);
3. People here aren't really aware or interested in what vegan means/is.

#3 isn't that relevant -- the goods are delicious (and we get rave reviews from people that try them), and our main point of sale isn't "vegan!" as much as "delicious cupcakes (that happen to be free of common allergens)."

As regards #1 and #2, though, we're interested in adding things to the rota that might be a little more... well, refreshing.

Bear in mind that she was accepted to the market as a seller of vegan baked goods, and we can't get into the drinks business and don't have the infrastructure to get into the frozen goods business (plus, there's a gelato vendor already at the market). We're confined to vegan dessert-type baked goods as our accepted niche.

As an additional bonus, things that are "entry-level" in terms of cost to buy would be awesome; as would things that are easy for people to hold/carry as they walk around.

Thoughts, MeFites?
posted by Shepherd to Food & Drink (41 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Mango-stuffed mochi?
posted by wintersweet at 3:59 PM on June 23, 2013

Or fruit kolaches? Something with a cold fruit or jelly filling might do better than anything else.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:00 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd sell pies that can be taken home and eaten. Sell cupcakes in boxes of 6 or 12, rather than individually, because people won't want to eat 1 at the market, but will think about serving them as desserts. You could also take special orders, to be delivered away from the market or for people to pick up at the next market.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:02 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Citrus-based cookies. I love strongly-flavored lemon cake in summer, but cake's tricky at the farmer's market, and cookies can be eaten neatly without a fork or plate. They'd probably be more appealing as smaller cookies sold two or three at a time rather than one large cookie -- something you could pop in your mouth whole.
posted by asperity at 4:06 PM on June 23, 2013 [15 favorites]

No bake cookies. I just made some peanut butter chocolate chip cookie dough balls. You refrigerate them before forming into balls, and they're delicious.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 4:10 PM on June 23, 2013

Lemon squares. Fruit tarts/kolaches/popovers/things. Lemon anything. Coconut anything.
posted by cmoj at 4:11 PM on June 23, 2013 [17 favorites]

seconding the citrus cookies or bars - you want things that sound refreshing: pink lemonade cookies, lemon bars, orange cookies, etc. things that you want to drink!
posted by firei at 4:12 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Donuts? They're not particularly a hot-weather treat, but they don't seem as fussy or filling as cake/cupcakes. Also, there's a vegan donut place at the farmer's market near me, and they're good (and I'm not vegan). Also, you can eat them for breakfast or as an afternoon treat, so if it's a morning market, that won't stop anyone.
posted by pompelmo at 4:12 PM on June 23, 2013

Tea cake cookies glazed with a citrus frosting. Nthing lemon bars also
posted by girih knot at 4:14 PM on June 23, 2013

Also, have you considered candy? Maybe fruit gel candies, salt water taffy, gourmet lollipops, cotton candy?
posted by pompelmo at 4:15 PM on June 23, 2013

I agree that lemon stuff (lemon bars!) are good baked summer desserts, but my guess is that it really is a marketing issue with the vegan thing. As someone who eats meat and also has had delicious vegan desserts I'm still sometimes wary that they won't taste "right". I know it's wrong because I've tried them, but it's still a concern I have. If I feel this way, and I know better, you might be having some trouble luring in people who haven't even heard of veganity before.

I also think there's plenty you can do about this! Absolutely keep serving vegan cupcakes but instead of calling them vegan cupcakes could you put up a sign with something like "MRS. SHEPHERD'S MIRACLE CUPCAKES! Delicious cupcakes that contain NONE of these common allergens: dairy, honey, whatever...MUST BE TRIED TO BE BELIEVED!"? A sheet of posterboard and some markers and it becomes a fun gimmick instead of a scary new thing. I bet that if people actually eat the cupcakes they'll love them because yum, but for a lot of people, unfortunately, the word "vegan" is still just going to turn them away.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 4:15 PM on June 23, 2013 [9 favorites]

In addition to fruity things, I would look at minty items. I think both of those would have appeal in warm weather.
posted by Michele in California at 4:17 PM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Definitely fruit-oriented stuff, as seasonal as possible -- strawberry tarts, right now...

But I don't understand why you're discounting #3. I am a lifelong vegetarian and you'd hope I wouldn't be biased like this, but my reaction to "vegan baked goods (desserts)" is always "that will be overpriced, and it won't have butter or cream -- no thanks."

It is a warning, not an enticement, for the majority of the population. The only way I can think of to combat that here would be free samples.

Something I would buy at a farmer's market even if it was vegan and non-cheap would be a treat for my kid that was not totally junk food and which would not be too messy to eat while walking around in the sun. An imitation Larabar-type thing? A hand-held mini fruit pie?

(+1 the take-home thoughts)
posted by kmennie at 4:20 PM on June 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

Michele in California beat me to it! I was thinking something mint-flavored would be refreshing. Also, lace cookies are thin and crispy and might be more appealing than something that looks heavy and overly sweet. And maybe a thin ginger cookie with a little lemon icing? Dang. Now I need cookies!
posted by Beti at 4:21 PM on June 23, 2013

Frosted lemon cookies, other light "snap" type cookies (this sort of thing?), or even some little shortbread dots in various mint/herb/citrus flavors. They're easy to make, vegan ones would be terrific (I know very little about vegan shortbreads) and you can have a little container of shortbread "buttons" that you can sell cheaply and yet still make money off of. Top with icing and/or little herb sprigs.
posted by jessamyn at 4:22 PM on June 23, 2013

I agree with kmennie about the mini-pies as well, for a few reason:

1. People love miniature foods; I don't know why but we are all over that shit.
2. It's not going to feel like there should be as much dairy in pie, as opposed to something with, say, buttercream frosting, two things that would not be in vegan cupcakes.
3. It will make you seem different and special; people might think "I could just make cupcakes at home" whereas for whatever reason pie seems a lot more intimidating I think.
4. With a few simple changes pies will probably transition well into the fall so nice continuity for her booth.
5. Mostly because they would be delicious and probably not THAT hard to make and I think they would do super well and be great.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 4:25 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm a vegetarian (former vegan) and I agree with Mrs. Pteradactyl about marketing. Most people's experience with vegan baked goods has best. Also: yes, lemon or line bars, something fruity, maybe a hand pie or tart?
posted by charmedimsure at 4:30 PM on June 23, 2013

Fried pies are naturally vegan and delicious, plus they're a U.S. southern-states regional specialty that might have exotic appeal.
posted by Wordwoman at 4:34 PM on June 23, 2013

You say you can't get into frozen goods generally, but what about frozen variations on baked goods? Can you come up with a vegan variation on the classic frozen Snickers bar? (I realize Snickers bars are more in the category of "candy" rather than "baked goods" but it doesn't seem like too much of a stretch.) Can you sell "ice cream sandwiches" made with a bit of store-bought vegan sorbet or non-dairy dessert between two home-baked vegan cookies? These could either be assembled on the spot or assembled at home and deep frozen for transport to the market in a big cooler. Personally, I like eating frozen cookies straight out of the freezer, no ice cream necessary, though I don't know if the habit would catch on with other people. You might be able to sell people on the idea of eating frozen cake pops, since they're already popsicle-like in form.

Another marketing angle (apart from the idea of selling frozen stuff) would be to buy local fruit and herbs, incorporate them into the baked goods, and really play up the local angle, possibly even cross-marketing with the farm that the ingredients came from. ("Farm_Name Strawberry Cupcakes," etc.)
posted by Orinda at 4:39 PM on June 23, 2013

Doggie treats.
"Sushi" pastries
posted by Sophont at 4:45 PM on June 23, 2013

Can you make individual sized servings of fruit cobbler?
posted by dilettante at 4:45 PM on June 23, 2013

Agreeing with what everyone above has said about vegan being something to avoid, not something to embrace. Promote yourself as allergen-free, maybe, or just OMG DELICIOUS BAKED GOODS (vegan and allergen-free options available!)

Free samples and take-home boxes might help a lot. I've never bought something to eat at the farmer's market, but I often buy treats to take home for later. And the samples could get people over the initial "Ugh, I'm not spending two fifty for a cupcake."

Drinks-themed (margarita, pina colada, mojito, etc) cupcakes might be a nice change. Or maybe creamsicle cupcakes, or fudgsicle ones? They might not be all that far off of the flavors you have right now, but orange cream popsicle cupcake and fudge ice pop cupcake sound a lot more summery and refreshing than orange-vanilla cupcake and chocolate fudge cupcake.

Individual-sized strawberry shortcakes might go well. Or pocket/hand pies, which are sort of on par with the mini pies, above, but might be less work to make...and are a lot more portable.

Cheesecake might go well, though you'd have to keep it in a cooler. Or cheesecake pops--like cake pops (which might also go over well, and could definitely retail at least than $2.50) but with cheesecake in them. I'd buy half a dozen of those in a heartbeat.
posted by MeghanC at 4:54 PM on June 23, 2013

How about vegan baked goods that *visually* resemble ice-creams? They might be enticing on a hot summer's day.

For example
. (Recipe.)

Another example.

Or how about a vegan cake pop in an ice-cream cone?
posted by dontjumplarry at 5:06 PM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

My sweetie makes a peach cake in the summers that's pretty amazing. Also a blueberry buckle. And today a friend brought us a strawberry cake made with half barley flour. It was moist, complex, fruity, and delicious. So I'd say, slices of fruit-themed cake are a good summer bet, and a good way to win over not-vegans.
posted by latkes at 5:10 PM on June 23, 2013

I agree. The kind of baked good that I'd want on a hot day would probably be citrus or melon based, and very light and sweet.
posted by gjc at 5:11 PM on June 23, 2013

Little fruit tarts. Mini pineapple upside down cake. And I like MeghanC's idea of shortcakes also. Things that use seasonal fruit.
posted by drlith at 5:31 PM on June 23, 2013

I don't know if marhsmallows are vegan, but there's a stand at our farmer's market that sells marshmallows with sprinkles on sticks for I think a quarter a piece. Draws in the kids, and once they're there, maybe the parents will buy something?

Or cake pops? Again, if you could make them small so you could charge like 50 cents a piece, that could get folks into the booth.

Or, heck, strawberries dipped in chocolate on sticks? Frozen banana chunks---with or without chocolate---on sticks?
posted by leahwrenn at 6:02 PM on June 23, 2013

French macarons are great in the summertime. I do not know if they can be made vegan... But they are light and flaky and dissolve in your mouth like heaven.
posted by ista at 6:39 PM on June 23, 2013

I probably wouldn't buy a sweet baked good in the summer. One thing I *would* buy is a "breakfast bar" - a roll or a cookie with oatmeal, almonds, maybe blueberries - not too sweet - something I could buy a few of for a quick breakfast during the week. I am always looking for ways to make my breakfast more healthy, more filling, and faster.

Along those lines, granola might be an option.
posted by bunderful at 6:47 PM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Avocado lime tea cookies, seasonal fruit tarts, a light carrot cake, an especially tart citrus cheesecake, lemon/lime bars, citrus pound cake.

Maybe cupcakes/cakes/fruit cobbler/crisp in a small jar, served with a tiny disposable spoon so they can be more easily transported?

Watermelon-mint salad with lime-agave dressing is the most refreshing summer dessert ever -- even if it isn't baked, it might help draw more people in to check out your other wares while providing a nice complement to your beverage-focused neighbors.
posted by divined by radio at 6:49 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Since you asked for general thoughts, mine as a non-vegetarian is that a vegan cupcake doesn't sound like a treat. If I were to splurge on a cupcake I'd want one that's made with butter and other fattening goo. I don't want to waste dessert on a cupcake that's not really a cupcake.

I eat a lot of vegan and vegetarian foods but I generally don't like the way vegan baked goods come out. They taste bland to me. So samples are the way to convince butter fans like myself to give your product a try.

Perhaps another idea is to sell breakfast breads instead of something to eat right away. I would buy a vegan loaf of banana/zucchini/whatever bread for Monday breakfast before I would buy a vegan cupcake. I think other people like me think "healthy" when they hear "vegan" (rightly or wrongly), and people stock up on items for the week at the farmer's market.

You could even sell slices of breakfast bread. I bet they'd sell better than cupcakes.
posted by vincele at 7:19 PM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

At my local farmers' market this morning I saw peach basil focaccia for sale. It was the peach basil combination that stood out for me -- I bet that would be delicious in a tart or mini-pie.
posted by southern_sky at 7:40 PM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I also think you're discounting #3, I personally would go out of my way to avoid vegan baked goods. Have you tried giving out samples of something that (I'm going to take your word on this) is awesome to draw non-vegans in?
posted by crankylex at 8:18 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is this a farmer's market that runs something like 11-3 on weekends? A lot of people, if they want to eat something immediately, will be looking for breakfast/brunchy treats, which will probably mean something stuffed with fruit. Crepes, danish, puff pastry, phyllo, tart crust, graham crust, samosa dough, muffin batter are variably-veganizeable substrates for the flavors mentioned upthread that an experienced chef like your wife can probably run with easily, and they're things that can plausibly be called "breakfast". Cupcakes, not so much. I agree with other commenters, though; if I buy cupcakes at my market, I'm probably buying a 4 or 6 pack because I'm visiting friends that evening, and your price point is just fine for that. Have that packaging to hand. I also buy tarts and pies for that purpose, and am particularly likely to buy ones made with seasonal fruits, even if the fruit is not local. Where you are, that'd probably mean rhubarb and strawberries right now.

(If you're focusing on immediate consumables, I'd also rethink beverages, even if it's just bottled water. I can only wait in only one line with my kiddo in tow, and will pick the line where I can get a drink and a muffin for him and bread for dinner.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:21 PM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hand pies, or turn-overs made with fruit and/or dried fruit. Easy to carry, yummy and vegan.

Crepe rolls, or filled pancakes. You can make those quite small and fill them with savory as well as sweet fillings.
posted by ofelia at 8:41 PM on June 23, 2013

How about something crunchy and savory to go with the lemonade? Pretzel sticks?
posted by bq at 10:07 PM on June 23, 2013

My friend just had a party and served frosted lime cookies. they were absolutely divine.
posted by fogonlittlecatfeet at 10:50 PM on June 23, 2013

When I'm at the Farmer's Market, I don't want to carry food-in-progress. Tiny cupcakes for a dollar. Small, super-healthy muffins, like gingerbread, bran, apricot, & carrot for people who didn't eat breakfast. Apple crisp. In the summer, things with a glaze instead of rich icing. Though if you had strawberry shortcake, all bets would be off, and I would totally buy a big serving. True of peach and blueberry shortcake to a lesser degree. Caveat, muffins can be made with honey instead of sugar, but for many treats, substituting honey will not taste right to a lot of people.
posted by theora55 at 8:42 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Fruit tarts, strawberry shortcake, peach things.

Anything filled with the fresh fruits of summer.

Light, cool fruit soups would also be great.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:55 AM on June 24, 2013

Can you do cake pops on a kebab with fresh fruit on it? (think: white cake with strawberries= shortcake kebab)

What are the demographics of your market? If there are a lot of children who attend, brightly glazed (not frosted) sugar cookies in fun summer shapes could possibly be a big hit too.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 1:17 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

You guys are the rockingest. We're going to analyze, discuss, and come up with a plan of attack, and follow up later.

If anyone in this thread is ever near Sherbrooke QC and wants a vegan* cupcake, we've got one with your name on it.

*which are like mad delicious! That's why they keep winning things like Cupcake Wars.†

†but I've tried other "vegan treats" at festivals before and holy God I can see why there's a bad rep there; leaden "brownies" that taste like flax oil and despair, cookies that seem to be composed of 90% oat hull, etc. We're going to seriously rethink how to approach "vegan" in a way that attracts its fans while still appealing to the wary.
posted by Shepherd at 12:40 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

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