“I just wanted it to taste good”: Milwaukee Baker sells allergen-free cookie and brownie mixes nationwide

“I think everyone I’ve cooked for has been special in their own way,” Simmons says. “I remember baking a birthday cake for twins who were about to turn 5 and because of their allergies they had never eaten cake before.” (Photo provided by Nubian Simmons)

By PrincessSafiya Byers

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories about fifteen neighborhoods in the city of Milwaukee. Visit milwaukeenns.org.

Nubian Simmons Baking Mixes consist of cake mixes, flour and frosting. “Pastry is a science,” says Simmons. “Most people think you can just convert the ingredients and get a good substitute, but no.” (Photo provided by Nubian Simmons)

All Nubian Simmons wanted was to have a dessert like everyone else. But her severe wheat and dairy allergy made that nearly impossible.

So she started cooking for herself.

First, it was so she could enjoy the foods she loved. Then it was for the others. Now, her line of baked goods, The Pink Bakery, sells allergen-free cookie and brownie mixes nationwide.

“When we would go out, my siblings and my mom would have brownies, ice cream, and creme brulee, and I would get orange slices,” Simmons said. “Sad little slices of orange. There was nothing on the market to satisfy my palette.

Without experience, she started cooking. It took him five years to perfect his allergen-free desserts.

“I just wanted it to taste good,” she said.

She enlisted her mother and siblings to be her taste testers.

“Someone once said their candy tasted like failure,” said her mother, Janice Simmons. “And they do. For five years, we tasted desserts. I got burned on chocolate.

During his summers in high school, Simmons’ mother sent him to an engineering camp at Marquette University.

“It all comes down to engineering,” she said. “To make a good substitute, you have to understand that sugar destroys structure, but flour supports structure.”

Simmons, 42, lived in Memphis, Tennessee, where she ran a bakery serving allergy products before moving to Milwaukee.

Back in Milwaukee

She was inspired to launch her line when St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis asked her to provide baked goods for an event he was hosting.

Simmons wanted The Pink Bakery to launch in Memphis, but life had other plans. She had found a space to build a manufacturing plant, but said things went wrong and then COVID hit. Her mother encouraged her to come home.

“When I left Milwaukee, it wasn’t a good place for black people,” she said. “I have been pleasantly surprised at the love and support I have received since my return.”

She returned to Milwaukee in August 2020 and found her perfect space for a manufacturing facility on the Near West Side.

And she continues to remember the people she serves.

“I think everyone I’ve cooked for has been special in their own way,” Simmons said. “I remember baking a birthday cake for twins who were about to turn 5 and because of their allergies they had never eaten cake before.”

She recalled a time when a restaurant accidentally put a regular noodle in their food and she lost her hearing for a month.

“It was the chef’s first day and an honest mistake,” she said. “But something so small did a lot of damage.”

Janice Simmons said it’s important to listen to your children.

“Before we even knew about her dairy allergy, she was turning away from it and removing the cheese from her pizza,” she said. “Children know when something is wrong with their body even if they don’t know how to say it. You must listen.

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