Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Think you know what vegan food tastes like? Think again. Most people picture piles of brown bulgur salad or -- if things get really exciting -- perhaps some grilled veggies. But Tracy DiMambro, co-owner of Sweet Haven Bakery, proves you can have your organic, animal-product-free cake and eat it, too.

Five years ago, DiMambro took all she had learned while baking with her mother and grandmother and converted family recipes to be vegan-friendly. In January, she and her fiance Thad Wilson (in his night job, he's a local jazz musician) opened Sweet Haven Bakery.

DiMambro changed only what she had to in the recipes, such as creating a tofu emulsifier to stand in for the eggs. In her brownies, chocolate is still chocolate -- it's just fair-trade and organic. The brownies combine a crackly top with a fudgy interior. The lemon poppy seed bread bursts with fresh lemon flavor and has a moist, tender crumb. The vanilla cake with raspberry coulis and buttercream frosting also has a good flavor but falls short with an overly sweet frosting. Even so, it's better than most attempts of egg- and dairy-free desserts.

DiMambro and Wilson have grown the business slowly and chosen relationships with socially responsible suppliers, such as the Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op, that echo their philosophy.

DiMambro left a career in political organizing and nonprofits to pursue this sweeter path. Although it may seem a split from where she started, she says she wants to be a catalyst for "conscious eating" and would "rather do it with sugar than vinegar." It is the same grass-roots message of saving the planet, one bite of banana choconut muffin at a time.

The business is largely wholesale, but it welcomes custom orders for everything from muffins to cakes. Prices vary according to amount ordered, time of order and delivery location (a dozen muffins, $22-$28; 10-inch cakes, $55-$85).

Sweet Haven Bakery items can be found at Java Green, 1020 19th St. NW, and Dos Gringos, 3116 Mount Pleasant St. NW. 202-558-5291 or

-- Leigh Lambert

© 2006 The Washington Post Company