Eating the occasional baked treat is a guilty pleasure for many people. But, for people who suffer from food allergies, the risk of exposure to allergens often hidden in baked goods is simply not worth the momentary delight. Maura, one of the founders of Fancypants Baking Co., thought about this phenomenon one day in 2003 as she drove to her sister’s house in Richmond, Virginia. Maura thought about the joy she felt as a child spending hours in the “kitchen rolling dough, cutting out creative shapes, baking and laughing” with her grandmother, while they listened to Luciano Pavarotti before indulging in the result of their efforts; “the most flavorful, crunchy, cookies.” Maura also thought about several of her friends who suffered from food allergies and had “never experienced the pleasure of biting into a crunchy, warm, gooey cookie.”
Having recently finished graduate school and feeling unfulfilled in her job, Maura was ready to change her life path. Keeping her food allergic friends in mind, the fact allergies to peanuts and tree nuts are common, and that baking cookies had always brought her joy, she decided she would find a way to create “a delicious, nut-free, fancy cookie” in order to share that joy with people who previously may have been unable to experience it.
One year later, in 2004, Fancypants Baking Co. became the first peanut- and tree nut-free baking company in the nation.
My Kids Food Allergies (MKFA) talked with Maura about her journey, Fancypants Baking Co. and nut-free baked goods.
In the quest for healthier, allergen free food products, many companies have begun to manufacture more natural, baked goods. However, they tend to lack in flair, creativity and, well, overall “fanciness.” Fancypants Baking Co. did not want to lose flavor and creativity just because they made allergy friendly cookies. Maura told MFKA, “it was harder than I thought,” to find a recipe that was nut free, delicious and fancy. However, with the help of a culinary expert, Josh, who later became Maura’s husband, she was able to do just that, and Fancypants Bakery Co. was born.
Fancypants Baking Co. specializes in creating peanut and tree nut free, non GMO, kosher certified, hand decorated, made to order cookies for all occasions. They make cookies for everyday snacks, birthdays, holidays and even weddings! Each decorated cookie takes five days to make form start to finish, on average. The icing is made from locally sourced fruits and vegetables, which takes longer to dry than conventional icing. The food coloring is also fruit and vegetable derived. Each decorated cookie is hand crafted and made to order.
Back in early 2004, Maura ran Fancypants Baking Co. out of her small apartment in Boston, Massachusetts as a part time business. But within three months, she’d left her job and was running the business full time. Within a year, her husband left his teaching job to help run the business. They hand delivered cookies to local retailers like Roche Bros. and City Feed & Supply in the Boston area. And by 2006, they had moved the company out of their little apartment into a 1,000 square foot commercial kitchen.
Last spring Fancypants Baking Co. moved into a 15,000 square foot commercial facility divided evenly for baking, decorating, packaging and storage prior to delivery. “Our facility is strictly peanut and tree nut free [and] we have rigid sanitary and quality control procedures in place to make sure that that no nuts of any kind ever enter our facility.”
Maura commented on Fancypants Baking Co.’s growth in the last decade, “We have grown since that time and now are sharing our delicious nut-free, allergy friendly cookies with customers all over the country. Every day I think to myself about how far we have come and I am proud that the same love and dedication is still given to each cookie that leaves our facility today!”
For the future, Fancypants Baking Co. is working on a brand-new cookie line. Maura said she can’t share more just yet, but she is excited about it and advises customers to “stay tuned.”
Fancypants Baking Co. also plans to expand and has hired Steven Evancho as their first “In-house Brand Manager and photographer.” Additionally, Fancypants Baking Co. is exploring social media outlets such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook in order to reach a wider audience
Maura admits she is a “chocolate chip cookie lover at heart and usually reach[es] for one of those first,” but that the new s’mores cookie option is “addictive!” Customers tend to agree as the number one Mini Crunch! Cookie is chocolate chip. However, in the decorated cookie department, the baseball cookie is the #1 seller. “Customers love that our cookies are decorated by hand, [and] soooo many customers comment that the cookies taste like ones their mother or grandmother baked,” Maura added. She attributes the homemade taste to “quality ingredients like King Arthur Flour and cage free eggs.”
Fancypants Baking Co. manufactures a variety of flavors for their packaged Mini Crunch! Cookies including Brown Sugar Oatmeal, Vanilla Sugar, Double Chocolate, and Chocolate Chip.
Their handcrafted cookies are designed for parties, baby showers, corporate functions, weddings, as well as Get Well, Thank You, New Baby, and Congratulations gift boxes to name a few. They also make their own cookie cutters for a customized design feel for their signature-baked treats.
In addition to creating nut-free, allergy friendly cookies, Fancypants Baking Co. is involved with the food allergy community, by supporting as many local events as possible with product donations for raffles and educational presentations.
Recently, Fancypants Baking Co. participated in Healthy Kids Day, at Whole Foods in Newtonville, Massachusetts. During the event, Fancypants Baking Co. hosted one of their “famous cookie decorating events” where they interact with customers and decorate cookies together. They also sampled their delicious low calorie, low sugar, low fat Mini Crunch! Cookies.
When asked about other companies and products that advocate and support the food allergy community, Maura replied, “I’m a huge fan of Vermont Nut Free Chocolate! Yum.”
Finding Fancypants Baking Co. Cookies
Customers can find Fancypants Baking Co. products online and in several local and chain stores, including Whole Foods. Maura told MKFA, “Our decorated cookies are available at most Whole Foods stores in the country. The Mini Crunch! Cookies are also available at Whole Foods and Stop & Shop stores in New England; Roche Bros. supermarket, coming in May 2015; Whole Foods in New York and New Jersey, coming in May 2015; and will become available later in the year at several more large grocery chains.” So keep your eyes peeled for Fancypants Baking Co. products in a store near you! In the meanwhile, all products are available online.
Additionally, Fancypants Baking Co. has generously offered MKFA readers a 20 percent discount for online purchases. Use discount code MKFA20 at checkout.