If I were a superhero, my kryptonite would be baking. Lucky for me, and also for you, there are a lot of people out there who have mastered this mysterious gift of God. The main problem is that here at Let’s Veg About It, we aren’t looking for the run of the mill baker; we’re about to enter the unicorn zone. From our experience, vegan/vegetarian bakers are rarer than a good Mexican food place in Asia (go to Taco Amigos, seriously). I’d like to introduce one of the few vegan bakers here in South Korea, Erin Batty.
A few months back, before launching the website, I threw around the idea of interviewing some of the people involved in the vegan/vegetarian community. It felt like a great opportunity to show the people behind our dietary ideology and share with you their stories. I decided to interview Erin about how she became a vegan baker and the challenges she has had to overcome living here in Korea. Enjoy!
Why did you become a vegan baker?
I’ve been baking since I can remember. My mom is a rockstar baker and I spent a lot of time with her in the kitchen as a kid. She taught me everything I knew about baking, which was amazing up until my gluten and dairy allergy diagnosis in 2013. Prior to the diagnosis, I had stopped eating meat and drinking milk or consuming most dairy products, but adjusting to a completely vegan and gluten free baking was hard! I had to relearn a lot of what I knew and continue to do so.
What inspired you to continue baking?
My allergies were the main motivating factors, since it forced me to learn alternatives to baking. But once I realized the amazing possibilities for vegan and gluten free sweets, my passion for delicious desserts combined with my passion for sustainable, cruelty free, and allergy friendly food inspired me to establish what is now known as BattyCake! I truly believe that with some dedication, all vegan and gluten free desserts can be made just as delicious as the conventional ones. I’m committed to baking vegan and gluten free, and nothing makes me happier than supporting both of these very important communities.
What is the biggest challenge that a vegan baker deals with in Korea?
In the beginning, finding quality ingredients was difficult, but as time has passed, a lot has changed, especially as gluten free becomes more recognized. My biggest challenge was navigating the language barrier – (and I’m still learning!) and the different tastes that exit here. I’m comfortable making desserts that appeal to westerners, but I have a lot to learn about what Koreans like. In the future I would like to create fusion desserts that are inspired by both styles of desserts.
What are the blessings of being a vegan baker in Korea?
There are many, but first and foremost is making people happy. I know what it feels like to be restricted in your diet and how discouraging it can be to not have anything to eat. When I see how happy people are when they have desserts, it makes absolutely all the hard work worth it. The most memorable moment for me was at an old job, where my coworker’s twelve year old daughter had been diagnosed with gluten, egg and dairy allergies. She found out that I baked vegan and gluten free and was so shocked that such a thing even existed! I started to bring her samples of what I made at home. Her daughter then went out and with her own pocket money, bought me a present and wrote me a very touching letter. It was the first time, she’d ever been able to have desserts or bread of any kind in her whole life. I will treasure that letter forever!
And when asked what her favorite quote was she chose this:
"People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous of you. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway."
When you meet her, you can't help but see her live out this quote in her life. She is a genuine individual with a gifted talent in the art of baking.
How can people contact you if they want your products?
I take all orders through my Facebook page BattyCakeBlog. I try to change my order menu every two months or so, so keep an eye out for updates! Unfortunately, I can’t ship cakes and cupcakes, but they’re always available for special order so send me a message with a request or questions anytime!
I hope you all may be inspired to not only support, but be encouraged to live out a healthier lifestyle and become the blessing to those around you. You can also find BattyCake at the Flea Markets as well as the upcoming Vegan Festival. So keep your eyes open and continue to Veg About It!