Celine Ikeler, The Karma Baker
Celine Ikeler is the Karma Baker. A mother, artist, and foodie with a daily meditation practice, Celine has refined a new style of baking. She is transforming organic plant-based and gluten free ingredients into extraordinary baked goods for everyone. While she’s immersed in serving up desserts such as Karma Cakes, brownies, Karma Sandwich cookies, Cake Pops, layered cakes, donuts, pies, tarts, cheesecake, muffins, rolls, baguettes and bread loaves…it is her custom made Organic Gluten-Free Baking Flour Mix that puts the magic in all of it. A proprietary blend of vegan flours, Celine was in need of a gluten-free flour that was bean-free. After years of trial and error she magically perfected a recipe which was not only bean and nut-free, but also enhanced her overall vegan baking.
At Karma Baker in Westlake Village, California, Celine and her husband Arek share a philosophy with their employees of Enlightened Baking™ -the intention of one’s heart and mind becoming infused with food as its made. The vibration of the kitchen is high and essential to the manner in which the Karma Baker team works together and supports one another. Sharing ideas is highly encouraged with a loving kindness at every turn. The Karma Baker mission is to change the way vegan & gluten-free baking and cooking are perceived. Through baking Celine and her team want to erase stereotypes and create corrective experiences for everyone. Baking has been a lifelong solace for Celine. At age twelve, it started with boxed brownies until she worked her way up to making chocolate chip cookies from scratch. This creative (and yummy) outlet became something Celine loves to share to this day.
In 2005, she began her journey into the world of vegan baking (no eggs, wheat, butter or cream) when her neighbor’s daughter, Sofia, was unable to eat dessert due to severe dietary restriction. This felt unacceptable to Celine so she became determined to make something edible and sweet that this little girl could enjoy along with everyone else. The end result was a delicious garbanzo bean brownie that became a huge hit. In fact, Celine continued to bake for Sofia and her family and eventually discovered her own list of mild allergies to gluten, wheat, dairy and eggs. It was during this time Celine shifted becoming acutely aware of her own karmic footprint (when a person consumes animal products, their karma is affected) and as a result, chose an animal free diet. Being plant-based, inspires and moves Celine to show the world there is another way to partake in life’s pleasures of good food and delectable desserts. Karma Baker is meant to be enjoyed and she’s letting everyone know – one (gluten-free/vegan) cupcake at a time. Celine lives in Agoura Hills with her husband/business partner Arek, their four children and pet dogs and cats. She enjoys meditating, working out, hiking, backpacking, spending time with her family, creating new recipes and living a vegan lifestyle.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi everybody. I’m Caryn Hartglass, and welcome to the second part of It’s All About Food. Thanks for being with me today.
I want to bring on my second guest for the day: Celine Ikeler. She is the Carmer… Karma Baker. Before I continue with this, (chuckles) I would like to take a moment—you’re hearing my New York accent come out. No matter how hard I try— it’s karma, karma, karma! It’s not “carmer, carmer, carmer.” Bleh!
Anyway, Celine Ikeler is the Karma Baker. A mother, artist, and foodie with daily meditation practice, Celine has refined a new style of baking treats, transforming organic plant-based and gluten-free ingredients into extraordinary baked goods for everyone involved. She’s immersed in serving up desserts such as Karma cakes, brownies, Karma sandwich, cookies, cake pops, layered cakes, doughnuts, pies, tarts, cubed cakes, muffins, rolls, baguettes, and bread loaves. This is her custom made organic, gluten-free baking flour mix that puts the magic in all of it.
A proprietary blend of vegan flour, Celine was in need of a gluten-free flour that was bean-free. (singing) Bean-free. After years of trial and error, she magically perfected a recipe which was not only bean and nut-free but also enhanced her overall vegan baking. We’re going to hear a lot more from Celine. Welcome to It’s All About Food.
Celine Ikeler: Hi. Thank you so much.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi. Karma, karma, karma.
Celine Ikeler: Right? (chuckles)
Caryn Hartglass: (laughs) “Carmer.” Oh my goodness, I can’t believe I fell into that trap. (laughs)
Celine Ikeler: (laughs)
Caryn Hartglass: Hi!
Celine Ikeler: Hi. Thank you so much for having me today.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re welcome. Synchronicity, serendipity: it was my mom’s 84th birthday this weekend, and the whole family got together out on (Pennsylvania accent) Long Island. (laughs)
Celine Ikeler: (chuckles)
Caryn Hartglass: Which I learned how to say when I lived in Pennsylvania, Long Island. Anyway, my niece has Celiac disease, and she was diagnosed eight years ago when she was four. I jumped in and started all about gluten-free baking back then. So I was looking for a vanilla cake recipe. I wanted to make my mom a raspberry vanilla cake. I’m vegan; there’s a bunch of vegans in the family. It gets challenging to—
Celine Ikeler: Definitely.
Caryn Hartglass: —meet everyone’s needs. I found your vanilla cake recipe online.
Celine Ikeler: Oh, that’s wonderful! (chuckles)
Caryn Hartglass: And I have to admit, I didn’t use your baking mix because I didn’t have time to order it and I’m ended up using Bob’s 1-to-1 flour mix.
Celine Ikeler: Oh, cool.
Caryn Hartglass: But it came out great. It’s a great recipe.
Celine Ikeler: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: It was just a fantastic hit. I used Zsu Dever’s Swiss buttercream recipe from her aquafaba cookbook.
Celine Ikeler: Oh, nice.
Caryn Hartglass: And the combination was just fantastic!
Celine Ikeler: I bet. That sounds great. Nice, light, and fluffy.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, so thank you for that.
Celine Ikeler: You’re very welcome! That’s wonderful, I’m glad you found it.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah!
Celine Ikeler: I think Google’s working. (chuckles)
Caryn Hartglass: Google is working. But it was just funny because I really wasn’t all that familiar with you before, and then knowing that I was going to talk to you—pop! There it was.
Celine Ikeler: Yeah. You know, Deepak Chopra has a book right now that just came out and it’s kinda of a reprise of an older book he did called Synchrodestiny. I’m reading it right now, and it’s very much about the small coincidences in life that once you start to notice them and accept them in, you actually will start to see them happening everywhere. And they will guide you towards your larger purpose and a fuller life. He was totally on it.
Caryn Hartglass: We’re going to focus on you on a minute, but I have to tell you that I know that synchrodestiny video program because some of the other things that I do in my life is vet programs for people to see if they want to promote them.
Celine Ikeler: Oh, cool.
Caryn Hartglass: And I got access to Deepak’s synchrodestiny program, and I got to watch all of it. It’s fascinating. So it’s funny that you that you bring it.
Celine Ikeler: (chuckles)
Caryn Hartglass: Because I really enjoyed it. This whole coincidence thing—if you’re paying attention— is amazing.
Celine Ikeler: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: ‘Cause there are no coincidences.
Celine Ikeler: Yeah, that’s exactly it. There are no coincidences, and in fact it’s really just the universe sort of tapping you on the shoulders and saying, “Oh look. See? You’re doing it right. Oh look. Everything’s aligned.”
Caryn Hartglass: Yes.
Celine Ikeler: I love it, I really love it. I’m jealous that you got to see the whole video program. I’m curious about it. (chuckles)
Caryn Hartglass: (laughs) Yes, it’s good.
Celine Ikeler: That’s good.
Caryn Hartglass: Especially to hear him in his calm, metered tone to present the ideas and the stories.
Celine Ikeler: He is like gravitating towards guruness all the time. Ah, I just love him. I love listening to him. He’s just so meditative and wonderful.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, tell me briefly your story. How did you get into vegan and gluten-free baking?
Celine Ikeler: Well, for me, it all started with allergies. I know that that’s a lot of stories for many people because we have so many customers that are limited due to allergies and stuff. For me, we moved in 2003 next door to a family, and their daughter was anaphylactically allergic to twenty foods: the wheat, the dairy, the eggs, soy, nuts. Common ones but then also certain fruits, certain vegetables, oils. Just so many things. She was on such a limited diet and so fearful with food.
And I lived next door. I was a stay-at-home, just baking away all the time because, heck, it’s fun. I just had a wild hit to always be baking. So I would bring stuff out to the neighbor’s house at playdates or they come over. And it just broke my heart that she was so left out. Left out is one bad thing, but then the other side of it is—the options that she had were disgusting. Nobody else wanted to eat it. She was barely even excited about having it. I couldn’t really handle it. I thought, “Oh, I just got to make something for her that is good enough that my kids would eat it too,” and I could bring it over and we can all do it.
So that’s when I start to get started. I looked at she could eat and figured out a brownie recipe from there. My kids liked the brownie, she liked the brownie. It was kind of like an open door. Like, “Hey. That’s kinda cool what I did there.”
About a few years later, I was talking to her mom who was like an allergy expert. Because she been so on top of Sophia’s allergies, and I told her I had this runny nose that just would never go away. Any time that I tried to take away a food or every time that I ate anything, didn’t matter what it was, my nose would run. She said, “It’s definitely a food allergy. You should have a blood test done.” So I did, and when I got the test back it also said I had dairy, eggs, wheat, gluten, beans—and weird things like bananas, pineapples and garlic as well, which I later found were all kinda related.
I really love chocolate chip cookies, and I thought, well, now I really got to pick up my game. Because I want to eat a cookie that’s awesome.
Caryn Hartglass: (chuckles)
Celine Ikeler: No point eating desserts that’s not good. Or it’s, “Oh, it’s kinda like a cookie. It’s sweet, it’s chewy.” For me, it’s got to be satisfying, indulging, and great.
So that’s where opening up the books and learning about what is vegan gluten-free baking. Which really didn’t exist then. There was some vegan, and there was some gluten-free, but it really didn’t collide very much. And it all came down to the flour for me. Bob’s Red Mills all-purpose was the big one then.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Celine Ikeler: It’s got garbanzo bean flour and fava bean in it, and I couldn’t use it. So I started dissecting what it was made of, (chuckles) and I came up with my own version. And realized when I used in any basic baking recipe—just your old Ina Garten’s great recipe—I could not need eggs as much as I did. I didn’t need the binding agents. And it was moist; it was tender; it had a really nice crumb.
So I knew I was onto something when I started the flour blend. I got so good at this vegan gluten-free that my friends, especially Sophia’s mother: “Nobody has this. You have to get out there with it. You have to start a bakery.” And so I did. (laughs)
Crazily enough. Then my vegan trip just started after that. It very easily turned into a lifestyle.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I think what’s important for me about gluten-free vegan baking is: number one, I’m a vegan; I’ve been vegan for almost thirty years.
Celine Ikeler: Wow, great.
Caryn Hartglass: And my primary, primary reason is I don’t believe in killing living species.
Celine Ikeler: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: Non-human animals. So I want to help people do that. I’m also passionate about healthy food, whatever. I want people to know that they can have their cake and eat it too. They can have all the treats, and there’s no deprivation. So if you want to go vegan and you happen to be gluten-free, a lot of people feel like, “Oh, I still have to eat eggs and dairy because I’m not going to be able to have these things and have it vegan.” And that’s just not true!
Celine Ikeler: Right, right. That’s exactly our take on things. We pride ourselves in creating the old-fashioned desserts just as creamy, just as delicious—it looks just as good as the real thing, and you aren’t missing anything when you eat it, in the hopes that when someone eats that, they go, “Wait a minute, this doesn’t have butter and eggs? Then maybe I don’t need it every time I bake. Maybe I don’t need it in my life as much as I think I do.”
That’s our ultimate goal, and we see it happen all the time. People come in and they’re like, “I just decided to try out being vegan. What do you guys have?” And we’ll say, “Everything in the case.” (chuckles)
“Everything in the whole place. Take your pick.” And they’re like, “Wow!” Then they do. They eat it with the mindset of “it can’t be that good,” but then they try it and they are. They’re kind of moved to a different kind of thinking. If we just do that to one person, that’s what we set out to do. Of course, we’ve wanted to do that for a lot more than one person. (laughs)
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Now, people can order online?
Celine Ikeler: Yes. Our website is set up so you can see what we have in the bakery.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m looking right now! It’s crazy.
Celine Ikeler: Oh good. Yeah, the bakery itself is amazing.
Caryn Hartglass: Everybody right now: if you’re listening, you need to go to karmabaker.com/shop and you’ll see all of these amazing, amazing desserts.
Celine Ikeler: (chuckles)
Caryn Hartglass: Oh my God, the Karma Cakes. They look like those Hostess— what are they called? Those Hostess CupCakes with the little squiggle on top with the white creamy filling. Oh!
Celine Ikeler: Yeah. Recreating what you had in your childhood is what we love to do. The oatmeal cookies? I took the Quaker box, you take the lid off and there’s that recipe there? It was one of my favorites as a kid. Really good.
Caryn Hartglass: The Toll House cookie!
Celine Ikeler: Yeah, that’s the chocolate chip cookies. The oatmeal recipe is the one inside the oat tube.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, okay.
Celine Ikeler: You know, the cardboard thing. And I just replaced the eggs with— this one particularly I replaced with the egg replacer, which is just kind of a sodium bicarbonate reactive kind of egg thing, and then I put my flour in, and coconut oil. And it was perfect. It was absolutely perfect.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow. Fantastic.
Celine Ikeler: It felt like a win.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I’m looking at your vegan sprinkles right now. That looks like a lot of fun.
Celine Ikeler: Yeah. (chuckles) Like I said, we have a lot of people with allergies, and they are sensitive to a.) artificial colors. Or they’re in it for the health. They know that stuff is not good for you. You know, artificial coloring has been banned in Europe for ten, fifteen years, I think.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow.
Celine Ikeler: They don’t allow it in their cereal or anything. So they’re onto something; they know about that stuff. We’ll use it upon request because we love to give people what they want. But, in the bakery, if you come in and you want sprinkles, we’ll always use the vegetable dyed sprinkles.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s beautiful.
Celine Ikeler: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: I try to avoid— well, I do avoid all of those food colorings because how terrible they are for us.
Celine Ikeler: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: And it makes sense. The plant kingdom is filled with so many beautiful colors.
Celine Ikeler: That’s true.
Caryn Hartglass: That we should be able to access them in a more natural way rather than those synthetic versions.
Celine Ikeler: Right. We’re creatures of visual eating, and I think we’ve gotten away from that colorful plate. If you take a rainbow of fruit and put it on a platter, nobody can stay away from it. That’s what people want. We just we’ve gotten away from realizing that food is not processed and comes from the farmers market. (chuckles)
Caryn Hartglass: Now, what are the most popular items at the Karma Baker? (laughs)
Celine Ikeler: (chuckles) Definitely the most popular is the Karma Cake which is the Hostess-style CupCakes. It’s a chocolate cupcake filled with vanilla cream. Then it’s got the chocolate glaze on top and a white swirl. We’re actually about to come up on to selling about 50,000 of those. (chuckles)
Caryn Hartglass: Whoa!
Celine Ikeler: Yeah, I just found that out.
Caryn Hartglass: You know, I’m going to guess that they’re better than the original.
Celine Ikeler: You are totally right. (chuckles) You are so right.
Caryn Hartglass: Mhmm. ‘Course ‘cause I know you used quality ingredients.
Celine Ikeler: Yes, yeah. They really are. They’re so much better tasting. We use really good quality chocolate, organic cocoa powder that’s free trade. We use really good vanilla. It’s ingredients that there’s no fake chemicals in it, nothing to keep it fresh. It’s not meant to sit on the counter for months. Yeah, people love ‘em.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, Mexican wedding cookies.
Celine Ikeler: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: How do you do that? What’s the secret?
Celine Ikeler: (chuckles)
Caryn Hartglass: (laughs)
Celine Ikeler: Those— ‘cause they are like a shortbread, which is basically like butter with a little bit of flour, right? Vegan butter is our butter of choice, and it’s organic palm shortening and oil.
In those kinds of cookies and those kinds of things, it’s really about the technique that you’re doing it. You’ll want to cut the cold butter in. You don’t want to overprocess it; you don’t want to stir it up too much. Barely mix it and then bake ‘em at high heat for real quick. And then you get a beautiful soft, crummy cookie.
Caryn Hartglass: And most of your ingredients are organic. Is that right?
Celine Ikeler: Yes, yes. We really do try to go organic. Usually organic is the way to vegan, so organic sugar means it’s not going to have bone char. Organic palm shortening means it’s not going to be hydrogenated. We just prefer organic, and our customers do. We’re respectful to that. If it’s possible to get it that way, we do.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. I understand that you have this new product: the Unicorn Donut.
Celine Ikeler: (chuckles) Yes. (chuckles)
Caryn Hartglass: What’s special about that?
Celine Ikeler: The Unicorn Donut is probably our next bestseller lately. That is born out of this unicorn craze that’s kinda going on right now. Which I didn’t realize was going on. I think I tapped into it in the collective.
So I went to bed one night. When I woke up, I had this picture of this donut in my head with a unicorn horn and these super fun sprinkles. I just made it, I didn’t know what to do with it. I kind of put it out in the front case, and I put it online. People went crazy for it. Then I realized this unicorn thing is so big right now.
I think really, people love unicorns because we’re all kinda unicorns. We’re not the same, we’re all totally unique. And we’re all hard to see, and we’re all hard to find because I think we live in a world that doesn’t want to see differences. Doesn’t want to see the inside. You just want to see the beautiful outside. It’s all the same as the next door neighbor’s. So I think that it really speaks to something in people like, “This is my hidden special self, and I’m going to let it out.”
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. The last item that I want to talk about which is making me want to lick the screen here— (laughs)
Celine Ikeler: (laughs)
Caryn Hartglass: —is the rugelach.
Celine Ikeler: Oh! Yeah, rugelach is so good. So we are right next door to a Chabad center.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh good.
Celine Ikeler: For a long time, we had a huge community around us. For a long time, they would come in and say, “Oh, are you kosher?” We’re like, “We’re not. But we’re vegan and gluten-free!” And they’re like, “Doesn’t matter.”
So we got our kosher certification from the rabbi next door, and it’s just really part of that inclusive “all are welcome.” We really do want everybody to have all of the good stuff. So rugelach was the first thing we did. (chuckles)
Caryn Hartglass: Well, vegan is naturally kosher, but you have to have the blessing.
Celine Ikeler: Right, yes. And the rabbi came over and did his deal. It was amazing. (chuckles)
Caryn Hartglass: (chuckles) Yes, and then you paid him.
Celine Ikeler: Yes. (laughs)
Caryn Hartglass: (laughs) Yeah, it’s all about that. Well, for any sort of certification, there’s always some sort of transaction.
Celine Ikeler: Oh yeah. Definitely.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, and what’s important for kosher— I always like to say that vegan’s better than kosher, and I can say that ‘cause I come from a Jewish upbringing but I’m not religious today. But not wanting to mix dairy with meat, these vegan items are perfect for those who are eating kosher because they can have all of the dairy-like items when they’re not supposed to be eating dairy because there’s no dairy in it.
Celine Ikeler: Exactly! We love that. (chuckles)
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. I’m very excited to find out about you. I was very excited to use your vanilla cake recipe, and I think I will be visiting your order shipping page.
Celine Ikeler: Perfect, wonderful. I hope that you do.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. I think my niece will really enjoy some of the things that you have here.
Celine Ikeler: That’s good. The website also has recipes. Like you said, you found the vanilla cake on the blog. So there’s recipes there that if you get the flour— we’ve tried and tested this flour in our bakery for four years now. We know what works and how it works. So I’ve spent tons of money throwing away ingredients on bad recipes.
Caryn Hartglass: (chuckles)
Celine Ikeler: I guarantee you that the recipes will work. (laughs)
Caryn Hartglass: Fantastic. Thank you. Thank you, Celine, for joining me on It’s All About Food.
Celine Ikeler: Thank you so much. It was really nice talking to you.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, have a delicious week.
Celine Ikeler: Thank you. You too! Bye bye.
Caryn Hartglass: (chuckles) Okay. That was Celine Ikeler of Karma Baker, and we have just a few minutes left and I wanted to bring up a few things.
You may remember that I spoke with Stacey Murphy last week about growing your own vegetables. I happen to be on her list, and I found out that there’s a deadline tonight to register for a program. It’s this spring’s Grow Your Own Vegetables, and it’s at growyourownvegetables.org. So if you’re interested in that, the registration closes tonight. I think that we’d all like to know more about growing our own vegetables, don’t we.
Anyway, if you visit responsibleeatingandliving.com, you know that’s where I live. You can get my newish recipe which includes Celine’s vanilla cake recipe and Zsu Dever’s Swiss buttercream recipe. It’s not that hard to make and hopefully my instructions are clear. Let me know if you try and how it works out because it really is a wonderful, wonderful treat.
There are, of course, some fun stories in this week’s What Vegans Eat, my daily blog. It’s been an interesting week because I’ve been spending some time with my parents. My dad is 89 and my mom just turned 84. Happy birthday! We all have different food requirements so it’s always a fun challenge feeding them.
But I just wanted to tell what one of my mom’s favorite treats was this week when we got together for her birthday. We made a red pepper hummus. You’ve probably have heard my rant against store-bought hummus. So many of them are… disgusting! (chuckles) Can I say that? Hummus should be made traditionally with garbanzo beans, lemon juice, olive oil, sesame tahini, maybe a little salt, sometimes some herbs and spices.
I don’t make mine with olive oil, and we made one this week with roasted red peppers. We like Artisana sesame tahini. It’s a little expensive, but it’s the best organic sesame tahini you will ever have. And you mix that up. Lemon juice and the garbanzo beans, and it makes the most perfect hummus. My mom really liked it spread upon baked tofu. We make our own baked tofu at responsibleeatingandliving.com. You can check out the recipe. This week we made it with maple syrup and coconut aminos instead of soy sauce because we wanted it to be gluten-free. And it was perfectly wonderful, especially spread with that red pepper hummus. So check that out.
In the meantime, have a very delicious week! I’m Caryn Hartglass, and you’ve been listening to It’s All About Food. I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. I’ll be back next week, and we’ll be talking about The Alzheimer’s Solution. Don’t miss it. Bye bye.
Transcribed by HT 9/4/2017