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Vegan, Gluten-Free Baked Goods Take the Cake at Blooming Lotus Bakery

Feb. 24, 2022 at 1:00PM

If you’re looking for a fluffy cupcake covered in frosting so full of sugar it almost crunches under your teeth, you won’t find it at Blooming Lotus Bakery. Blooming Lotus is Milwaukee’s bakery for the health-conscious, the gluten-free, the people trying to stick to their New Year’s resolutions. It stands out in a city where nearly every restaurant menu features a burger and something fried.  

Just as you shouldn’t expect a Boca burger to taste like a 100% grass-fed beef burger, you shouldn’t expect these baked goods to taste like the saccharine confections found at conventional bakeries. But it’s better that way. 

What you can expect is a wide array of delectables free of gluten, corn, eggs, dairy, and processed sugar. And while it may feel like betraying our carb-heavy, meat-happy food culture in Milwaukee, expanding your food horizons can change your life. Especially in the name of low-carb, high-protein, high-fiber baked goods that let you indulge without the sugar sweats and guilt. And if you suffer from food allergies or have health conditions that require you to abstain from certain foods (mentioned above), Blooming Lotus is a godsend.

That you’re also consuming something nutritious is an added bonus. Don’t think about it in terms of rules. Think about the menu in terms of options.

Blooming Lotus is a Progressive Bakery in a Traditional City 

I’ve been going to Blooming Lotus for a long time since I moved to Milwaukee nearly six years ago. And it’s always felt worlds apart from everything else around the city. I know it’s a touch blasphemous but it seems like it belongs in Madison where I lived for years and appreciated the abundance of vegetarian and nutrition-focused restaurant fare. I depended on places like Blooming Lotus to sate my cravings and was happy to find it in Milwaukee in a sea of gluten, cheese, and sausages.  

As a recovering vegetarian, I’ve shifted away from strict food rules and focused on nourishment instead. I eat to satisfy my body and mind, and to supply my system with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals so I can function well. And I listen to my body, which has since let me know gluten ain’t it. When I eat gluten, I experience lethargy, mood lability, and acid reflux. So I’m casually gluten-free without the fear and pressure that comes with food rules. That ain’t healthy. 

But Blooming Lotuses’ baked goods are. They’re satisfying without jitters and sugar crashes that can come from conventional baked goods. You can thank the fiber for that.

Pastries Free From Allergens, Full of Flavor 

If you have a food allergy, health condition, or are tracking nutrients for training, weight management, or overall health, Blooming Lotus has you covered. On its website, you can find a breakdown of nutrition information including protein, fiber, and carbs as well as the ingredients in each of their baked goods. Find me another Milwaukee establishment with that level of transparency.

Now, what you need to know next is that the menu items rotate depending on the day and the season. There are everyday items and specialty items. The breadth of options can be overwhelming, so it’s best to follow your heart when it comes to food. Who doesn’t love a donut?  

I recommend donuts as an entry point to their menu, and you can find them on Thursdays and Saturdays. They’re in the style of a cake donut, soft and pillowy, with a ring of delicate icing across the top. You’ll need to check social media or visit them on-site to see what flavors are available that day but they often have a spice donut base with either vanilla or chocolate icing, and you should definitely try one. Alternatively, chocolate lovers will find the chocolate donuts a welcome treat. They’re satisfying, especially fresh, and are best eaten in the car on the drive home. The delicate dance of keeping your sticky fingers off the steering wheel is one hundred percent worth it. You don’t wait for donuts, people.

Must-Have Pastries From Blooming Lotus

Danishes are available on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. They come in a variety of flavors, many filled with gobs of fruit like cherries or apples. However, this is where I plug my favorite Blooming Lotus menu item: the almond danish. I’m obsessed. Don’t order it if you don’t like almonds or marzipan but it’s a thing of beauty for almond lovers. It’s an alternative to the French almond croissant that flakes apart and tastes like a dream. Blooming Lotus has accomplished something special here: an aerated, bubbly, slightly chewy dough that they fill with gooey marzipan-like filling, topped with a drizzle of icing and slivered almonds. It’s divine. 

My second favorite menu item is available every single day. It’s the cinnamon roll. The Blooming Lotus version comes with sticky nuts spilling out over the top and features the same aerated dough from the almond danish. It is perfection, popped in the microwave for about 15 seconds, and consumed alongside a cup of coffee or tea. 

The other must-have is anything that features chocolate frosting. It’s made with cashew butter, cocoa powder, and maple syrup. It’s thick. Like real thick. And it’s sweet without coming across as cloying. Try the brownie, the chocolate cupcake, or the cashew indulgence bar for a nutty pop. The cashew indulgence bar takes after its namesake; it’s rich with frosting as thick as the cashew base. It has a slightly savory pop from the nuts and a gentle crumbly texture that just holds together while you bite into it. The brownie and the chocolate cupcake, on the other hand, have dense cake layers, which a novice unfamiliar with alternative baked goods may balk at. It’s denser than you’re probably used to and that’s valid; I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on the textural differences. Warming the baked goods up softens them substantially.  

Real talk. You’re not going to find the fluffy, delicate texture of a traditional baked good here. The closest thing to it are the donuts, which is why I directed you to them first. It’s a way to ease into the textural shift. At the same time, just because something is different doesn’t mean it’s less worth our time. Give it a chance, try a few items, and see where your tastebuds land. It’s like a choose your own adventure, but every outcome involves pastries.  If pastries aren’t your jam, you can opt for one of the baked goods. Maybe your adventure will start with a baked good and end with the best day of your life. Who knows? But you’ll have to choose baked goods to find out.

Fruit Lovers Rejoice: Blooming Lotus Has Baked Goods For You 

If you’re less interested in the pastries and more about the baked goods, there are plenty of scones, muffins, and rolls to sample. From carrots to cranberries to apples to blueberries—the scones and muffins are fruit-forward. Try the apple streusel muffin with plentiful cinnamon, chunks of granny smith apples, and a dusting of Blooming Lotus streusel—made from walnuts, cinnamon, coconut sugar, and coconut butter. It’s fall in a brightly colored muffin wrapper. Pro tip: bring it home, warm it up, and top it with vegan butter (I use Miyokos). The pop of salty butter really balances out the sweetness. 

As far as scones go, the hippie scone is a Blooming Lotus standard. The batter is woven with Blooming Lotus’ nutola: pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, coconut, currants, cherries, blueberries, and sesame seeds. It’s a powerhouse scone, perfect post-workout, or brought along on a long hike to fuel your body. Otherwise, it’s a meal unto itself. 

Another must-try is the Irish soda bread roll. It’s an item you don’t see at many bakeries but can usually only be found in Irish restaurants alongside a bowl of stew. Blooming Lotus’ is slightly tangy, filled with dried currants, and let’s be honest: belongs alongside a bowl of stew. The Irish know what’s up. 

If you’re looking for bigger ticket items, the people at Blooming Lotus make pie every week, usually three different types so you can grab a slice to-go. It’s out of rotation right now but look for the key lime when summer comes back around. It’s damn tasty. They also do custom cakes in a variety of flavors. So, if you have an event coming up (birthday, wedding, celebration), consider ordering a cake. You can choose from brownie cake or vanilla cake, and can select your favorite frosting: chocolate, toffee, or dream cheese, which is a dairy free cream cheese-style frosting. The options expand out from there to include pumpkin, fruit add-ins, or even coffee-flavored layers. They run much higher price-wise, on par with custom cakes from a conventional bakery. I’ve never ordered a custom cake but I want you to know your options, and if you do go for it, I would bet on the experience (and flavor) being above and beyond.

Service With a Purpose

When I lived in Madison, there was a Thai restaurant I’d go to regularly. It was an experience. When you walked in, the staff acted like you didn’t exist. You’d wait for upwards of 10 minutes before somebody addressed you, inconvenience obvious on their face, only to tell you to pick a table while tossing a menu at you. It didn’t matter because the food was so damn good. I kept going back. My food philosophy has always been that I can let things slide as long as the food is good, and I would never rate a restaurant poorly based on service, parking, or décor alone. It starts and ends with the food. 

That said, I’ve visited Blooming Lotus for years and I’ve never had a less than satisfactory customer service experience and felt it’s worth mentioning. If you believe in vibes, they have good ones going on. Maybe it’s the passion behind what they do—the owner’s family struggled with health issues for years and Blooming Lotus was born out of a desire to provide nourishing, delicious food for people who struggled to find food that didn’t exacerbate their health conditions. Or maybe they’re just solid people with positive energy. 

On my most recent visit, a lovely gentleman took my rather extensive order. He lifted the tray of cupcakes, carefully picking out the one with the most frosting for me, unprompted. He did this more than once and I felt like I was 10 again, in a good way. In all these years, no matter what’s going on—pandemics, poor weather, or protests—the people at Blooming Lotus come across unshakeable. And I’m happy to report they opened a second location in the last year in Shorewood off Capitol Drive. I’m glad they’re expanding their business. And I’m happy to give them my business. When it comes to supporting local businesses, let’s put our money where our mouths are—and reap the benefits of baked goods with fewer allergens but more health benefits.

About the author

Caitlin Knudsen

Propagator of succulents, hobbyist baker, healthcare by day, pug wrangler always.