When Amanda Lunan was a little girl, she wasn’t allowed to eat much sugar, but these days she has a whole damn bakery.
Lunan, aka Mandi Loo, opened Auntie Loo’s at 507 Bronson Ave in October 2009 — combining her love for animals and her passion for desserts by opening Ottawa’s first all-vegan bakery.
With Auntie Loo’s fourth anniversary coming up, Lunan and her staff have a lot to celebrate.
“It's exciting,” Lunan says. “We’re doing an expansion and moving to Lowertown this autumn. We got picked up by Farm Boy in March. Things are really blossoming for us, and I’m really happy about it.”
Lunan converted her Nana’s old recipes to create mouthwatering cupcakes, birthday cakes, squares, scones, pies and tarts that don’t contain dairy, eggs, gelatin or any other animal ingredient. The bakery’s success, though, could never have reached these heights if only vegans flocked to Auntie Loo’s desserts.
From the beginning, the confections have appealed not only to vegans or people with allergies, but to anyone who enjoys delicious treats and a sense of community. Auntie Loo’s has particularly close ties to Ottawa's LGBT community.
“We’re big on supporting things like Ten Oaks and stuff like that that really helps kids to figure it all out and find, most importantly, a community because then you don’t feel like you’re the only one,” Lunan says. “That's the best thing you can do for anybody — adult or child — because the community always makes you feel better.”
From the AIDS Committee of Ottawa to Capital Pride, Auntie Loo’s treats are always a welcome addition to any gathering.
As Auntie Loo’s has grown, Lunan has stepped more into the owner’s role, unlike the early days, when she had to do everything herself. This has paved the way for Matthew Tice, aka Mattycakes, to become the bakery’s head baker and kitchen manager. Tice is also in charge of the craft circuit and special events.
“Last Valentine’s Day we had eight couples, and me and my boyfriend taught the class,” he says. “So there were 10 of us in this small kitchen. It was jam-packed. We also had a bachelorette party here a couple of months ago. That was fun.”
This fall, when Auntie Loo’s relocates to 112 Nelson St — near Rideau Street and handy to the Bytowne Cinema — Tice says the added space will allow more special events and even more tantalizing treats. From boys’ nights teaching testosterone-laden chefs to make beer cupcakes to more girls’ nights and in-bakery slumber parties, the new space will also make room for a selection of “take and bake” goodies that are ready to be popped into your oven.
The bakery’s ever-expanding menu includes whoopie pies, vegan ice cream cakes and gluten-free wedding cakes, but for Tice the sweetest part is seeing his happy customers.
“When somebody eats something that you made, their reaction is just — I can’t describe it,” he says. “The joy in their face, their smile; that’s the best thing about baking.”