Melbourne welcomes a 1950/s oasis with delicious baked goods and exquisite cupcakes, located in both Ascot Vale and Prahran. Owners Deb and Lucas, take much pride in their work, from friendly helpful service to the heart-warming delicious desserts, it takes you right back to childhood memories of baking with mum. Whilst indulging in their tremendous vegan cheesecake and a hazelnut milk cappuccino, I was given the chance to interview Deb, one half of Mister Nice Guy’s Bake Shop, about vegan cooking, her and Lucas’ romantic bake dates and plans for the future.
COUTURING: Where did the name Mister Nice Guy come from?
Deb: I was originally a graphic designer, and I was doing a piece for my Dad, he was working with Hairspray The Musical, and asked me to design some street shops, so I named the hair dresser “Mister Cut’s”, later on we were figuring out what to name the business and I said I really liked the idea of the Mister part, so we went with Mister Nice Guy’s.
C: How did you and Lucas meet?
D: We actually met on Myspace, back in 2007, I was a graphic designer and a trend writer so I had to research trends, and my boss told me to research a business which Lucas had (in Portland, Oregon), but I accidentally added him and not his business page, he just started sending me emails and messages, he was really cute and really nice. I ended up moving over there to be with him. Mum being mum, told me ‘he’s probably an axe-murderer’.
C: How did you come to bake specifically vegan?
D: We were baking anyway, we had a routine that on the weekend Lucas would bake something that I’d never had before like strawberry shortcake or upside down pineapple cake. We had only just started dating but he was fattening me up, then I tried baking and I was pretty terrible at it and Lucas started to teach me.
The vegan thing came about when I was in Woolworths and I was buying eggs and they have caged eggs, cage-free, free range, but they were all by the same brand, and I thought there wasn’t something right about that, so I did some research on it and watched the documentary Food Inc. We saw Patty Mark from the Animal Liberation Victoria, on t.v being arrested for rescuing chickens, Lucas and I ended up meeting her a week later and went to her house, she was so lovely and warm, she told us why she was vegan and why she was doing what she was doing and it made sense to us, we bought her baked goods and she told us we should start something because there’s nothing like that in Melbourne, so that’s pretty much how it all started.
C: Do you have any goals for the future with your two stores?
D: By 2013, we want to make it 100% fully organic and gluten free.
C: Is there a difference between the Ascot Vale store and the Prahran store?
D: For now, Prahran just does cupcakes, and our Ascot Vale bakery is more for experimenting, where we ‘veganise’ baked goods and experiment with making them gluten free and sugar free, so Ascot Vale is cheesecakes, babkas and cinnabuns, American style pies, Texas scones with jam and we’re trying raw desserts. We’re experimenting with macaroons at the moment, but their looking more like yo-yos than macaroons, but it’s tasting like a macaroon, so we’re tweaking a few things, and its getting there.
C: What is your first memory of baking?
D: Lucas’ first memory was his auntie would make him coconut cream pies every time she would babysit, and he would just spend a day eating a whole coconut cream pie, there’s a really cool photo of him with his grandma, baking an upside down pineapple cake and he’s standing on his tippy-toes trying to reach it, he could never wait until someone had given him a slice of cake or anything he would always just eat it or take the top part, and he’d make this innocent face.
My first memory is probably just baking with my mum, standing on a stool helping her mix chocolate chips into a mixing bowl and of course licking the bowl, pretty standard.
C: Where does the inspiration for the names come from, for example the zombie brain cupcake?
D: Mainly cartoons, the 80s, just things that we love, like fuzzy Ewok, just because I love Ewoks, we have another called Rosie Robot because we love The Jetsons, the Angel Poop one because we think it looks like angel poop, we just try to have a lot of fun with the names.
C: What has been the most rewarding thing about starting this business?
D: Everyone is so happy, everyone is so thrilled, the Facebook comments and emails that I get, just make me so happy, I don’t get sick of it at all, everyone is so positive.
C: How does baking vegan differ from traditional baking?
D: You start with a traditional recipe, because everyone thinks to look for a vegan recipe for something to begin with, but its better to look up a normal cheesecake recipe for example and you just need to know little tricks like using corn starch, or egg substitute, or things like using apple cider vinegar to make a really buttery milky consistency.
C: How has your customer response been so far?
D: All positive, everyone is happy with what we’re doing and eager to try new things, we don’t say vegan anywhere in our bakery, we don’t like to advertise that it’s vegan, we go out of our way to say its gluten free, because of the stigma behind vegan that you’re going to judge them for not being vegan and we really don’t want to do that to customers at all. I think that has made the customer response better.
C: What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job?
D: Being independent is a really big plus, being able to make your own decisions, not having to ask anyone how to do things, you have to sort-of figure it out on your own, which can be a hindrance, but you learn a lot through those processes which are painful but is so much more rewarding, there’s been a fair amount of competition out there but we’ve used that to make our stuff better, I’m so proud of us and how far we’ve come.
C: What made you want to open the Ascot Vale store?
D: I grew up in Bondi Beach, and this reminds me of Bondi Beach in the 80s like a little country town, everyone is super nice and everyone knows you by name, like the guy at the post office knows you, the guy at the hardware store knows you, its great having that sense of community, the houses around here are beautiful, its so friendly and also busy, we live just around the corner as well so we don’t have to travel too far to get to work!
C: Do you have a favourite in your repertoire?
D: My favourite is the babka, definitely.
Lucas’ favourite is the strawberry sour cream pie.
C: Your best seller?
D: Definitely the Red Velvet cupcakes, cheesecakes and our brownies.
Mister Nice Guy is located at 151 Union Road, Ascot Vale
and Aisle one, Stall 98, 163 Commercial Rd, Sth Yarra, Prahran Market
Mister Nice Guy also do deliveries and special requests for cakes and cupcakes, head to: www.misterniceguy.com.au