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From Lemons to Lemon cake | Iowa
Chantal and husband

How one baker in New Hampton, Iowa rises to every challenge

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Or in Chantel’s case, delicious, beautiful, gluten-free cupcakes.

Chantal Papousek grew up eating some of the best pastries in the world. Her grandma, or “Omi” as Chantal calls her, was an esteemed pastry chef in her home country of Germany, baking for heads of state and other prestigious figures. Her great aunt and mom carried on the family’s baking tradition in Iowa, with her great aunt becoming a professional wedding cake baker and her mom creating memorable dishes for Chantal and the whole family at home.

When Chantal was diagnosed with celiacs disease, a condition where the immune system reacts to eating gluten, she knew she couldn’t live without the baked goods she was used to. That’s when she tried making her first gluten-free cake.

“First I tried boxed mixes. They were ok, but lacked that special something and didn’t taste like the real thing,” said Chantal.  “Then I tried different gluten-free rice flours. I tell you, I threw some failed recipes out the window for the birds and they wouldn’t even eat it. The crows came down, took a look at it, and flew off cawing like crazy as if to warn every other bird and critter to stay away from that gluten-free disaster.”

But Chantal didn’t give up. She loved science as a child, and used the scientific process and some creativity to experiment until she finally nailed the recipe. “It took me one year to develop my first cake recipe, 14 months to develop my bread/hamburger bun recipe, and two years to develop my cinnamon roll recipe. Lots of blood, sweat, tears and money went into those recipes,” she said.

It was worth it.

She finally had baked goods that were gluten-free and tasted just like their wheat-flour counterparts. Her friends started to request orders, and Chantal soon realized that there was a market for her treats. She started selling her items at a local bakery and they sold out every week. At the prompting of her growing customer base, Chantal opened New Beginnings Gluten Free Bakery in New Hampton, Iowa, and started selling her baked goods in grocery and health food stores across the state.

The next chapter

Chantal’s commercial kitchen is located in the lower level of her home, allowing her to be a business owner and take care of her 2-year-old granddaughter. Unfortunately, making the decision to base her business in her home also limited her earnings.

“The state has a cap on bakery licenses like mine to only do $35,000 in sales, which means that home bakers can’t really make a living,” said Chantal. She called her state legislators to see if there was a solution.

Those calls led to legislation this year to change the policy. “To say that one person can’t make a difference isn’t true,” she said. HF2513 has bi-partisan support and looks to pass on to the senate where she was told it will likely be passed and signed by the Governor.

“There are 411 in-home bakeries in Iowa, and this will allow all of them to earn an actual decent living, as well as any others down the road,” she said. “Never be afraid to stand up for stuff you believe in and want to fight for.”

For more about Chantal’s story, visit.


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