NORWALK, Conn. — When her daughter Isabella was born with an egg allergy, seasoned chef Pam Nicholas knew creating a perfect first birthday cake would be a bit of a challenge.
So she got to work early, experimenting with egg substitutes and healthy alternatives that would still make a tasty and attractive cake.
“It took me nine months to come up with one good cupcake,” the Wilton mom said, laughing.
But that first frosted confection had a side benefit: Out of Nicholas' months of “mad science” was born Izzi B’s Allergen-Free Bakery, a business she’s busy growing in a small industrial kitchen on Knight Street.
Educated as a graphic designer, Nicholas caught the cooking bug during her senior year of college, when she made every recipe in author Patricia Wells’ bistro cookbook. Nicholas got her design degree but set her sights on a far different future.
“I graduated from art school and then went on to wait tables to go to the French Culinary Institute,” Nicholas said.
From there, the talented cook went to work for top New York City chefs, including Laurent Tourondel of BLT fame, Matthew Kenney and Claude Troisgros, son of legendary Pierre Troisgros.
While working for Restaurant Associates, she was a banquet chef for the Museum of Natural History, led the United Nations delegation dining room and presented meals at the U.S. Open.
“I cooked for the king and queen of Sweden. It was crazy!” she said.
But after moving around and going through a divorce, the single mom settled in Fairfield County. As a mom of a child with allergies, Nicholas often found herself talking to similar parents in doctor’s offices and Whole Foods aisles and realized the need for allergen-free baked goods.
“I knew how it felt to be a parent. It is a big deal,” she said. “Everyone deserves a treat.”
Over the past seven years, she has created a line of cupcakes, custom cakes, brownies, cookies, doughnuts and breads that are free of the the big seven — gluten, wheat, soy, dairy, eggs, all nuts and casein. Everything is crafted from scratch, and the business uses no artificial flavors and dyes.
“All the colors come from nature,” said Nicholas.
The bakery — which is kosher and vegan certified and celiac friendly — is mostly a wholesale business, but Nicholas offers pre-orders for pickup and delivery across the country. Frozen baked goods are also available at a number of local markets, including many Whole Foods, Caraluzzi’s in Bethel, Fratelli Market in Stamford, Palmer’s of Darien and The Pantry in Fairfield.
Crafting allergen-free products is an exacting business, and the results may cost a little more than what Little Debbie has to offer. But Nicholas says keeping children safe and happy is its own reward.
“It’s a little investment in a smile,” she said.
Izzi B’s is at 99 Knight St. in Norwalk. Visit www.ibcakes.com for more information or to place an order.