University of Wisconsin-Stout alum Coltan J. Schoenike had a whisk and a dream when they started a cupcake company that ultimately led to them publishing a book of recipes.
Schoenike, who lives in Menomonie but is originally from Omro, graduated in August with a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and a sex therapy certificate. Schoenike also earned a human development and family studies bachelor’s degree from UW-Stout in August 2018.
Schoenike published the recipe book “Spread Love (And Buttercream!) Recipes and Reflections Where Love is the First Ingredient, and a Sweeter World is Ours for the Baking” in December.
“I have been baking as far back as I can remember,” Schoenike said. “My mom, Louise, baked a lot. I would always help her as a kid. We’d play with different experimental flavors. She would make treats she would take to work, or I would take to school. Sharing through food makes people happy and makes people feel a little bit more loved.”
About 18 months ago, Schoenike reconnected with baking after taking a few years off while studying at UW-Stout. Schoenike, who is transgender using the pronouns they and them, decided to start Them de la Crème, named as a play on their pronoun usage, to make some extra money and share their love of baking. Baking is on hiatus until further notice as they formalize the business.
“I love baking for the experience of love and kindness that comes with it,” Schoenike said.
Schoenike sprinkles supportive and meaningful writings into the book, encouraging readers to show some extra love to themselves, build more meaningful relationships and engage in social justice.
The cookbook opens with beginner-friendly recipes and advances to more detailed, showstopping cupcakes, from root beer float to lemon lavender. Schoenike ended up writing the book in about two weeks. The print copy is available at Bookends on Main, Hive & Hollow and The Farmer’s Store in Menomonie. It also is available online at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and Walmart. A full list of locations can be found on the website.
Recently, Schoenike donned their signature pink apron and taught a virtual baking class to UW-Stout students during a campus Involvement Center virtual event, making rainbow pride cupcakes from the book. Walking through the mixing process, baking and decorating, Schoenike shared stories and encouraged students to be kind and accepting of themselves.
“Don’t measure vanilla; your heart will tell you when it is enough,” said Schoenike, who is engaged to Jacob Reid, a UW-Stout student majoring in HDFS, during the baking demonstration.
Professor Markie Twist from the human development and family studies department called Schoenike’s book a “masterpiece of love” in a review.
“This book is inspiring for the baker in each of us but also for the human in each of us,” Twist said. “Offered in this book are recommendations for ingredients and recipes that help us create sweet treats to nurture our bodies, as well as words of kindness, genuineness and support to nurture our hearts, minds and relationships.
“I can say as a therapist and counselor, the self-love-focused affirmations and stories rooted in scholarly foundations and lived experience are as thoughtful and effective for fostering self-love as the ingredients and recipes are for fostering incredibly delicious treats,” Twist added.
UW-Stout senior Shana Haas, of Greenwood, said Schoenike’s book is beautiful both for the recipes and the writings.
“I'm not much of a baker, but Coltan's recipes are so easy to follow and have had me in the kitchen more than ever before,” said Haas, who is majoring in rehabilitation services. “To date, I have made the chocolate cake, chocolate cupcakes, vanilla cupcakes and the chocolate chip cupcakes. All of them are delicious, and I have no doubt the other recipes being equally good. They're fluffy, moist and the flavors are spot on. The frosting recipes are amazing and pair so well with the recipes too.
“Reading this book felt like a hug from an old friend, honestly,” Haas added. “It is uplifting, kind and gentle in its encouragement and provides a constant reminder to give ourselves grace and radical self-love, while also focusing on how to make our spaces more equitable and inclusive for all communities. When I have difficult days, I like to flip through the book and remind myself how much good there is not only within myself but also within the world. Coltan's book has definitely had a positive impact on me and my ability to develop healthier relationships with myself and others.”
Lemon cheesecake is one of Schoenike’s favorite cupcakes in the book. “Lemon is one of my favorite dessert flavors of all time,” Schoenike said. “It has lemon cake filled with no-bake cheesecake.”
Some of the recipes Schoenike has been making for years, while others have been developed more recently including a pink champagne cupcake. A tiramisu cupcake is one of the most challenging because it has distinct layers like a traditional tiramisu would have, Schoenike said.
‘Put love into it’
Growing up Schoenike was bullied as a child, finding solace in baking and theater. Those experiences of aggression sparked a passion for advocacy and to support others, Schoenike said.
“As a queer person, especially a transgender person, I’ve seen the worst in people,” Schoenike said. “I don’t want anyone else to have to deal with that. It happened to me and I am fine with that as long as I am the last one it happens to. I want to put love and healing out in the world. Love is a limitless resource that should be shared. I want to leave the world a better place than the one we were given. Hurt people, hurt people. We need to break that cycle and say we are done with that.”
The cookbook uses mostly stock images rather than photos of Schoenike’s own cupcakes. Schoenike did this on purpose to allow bakers their self-expression.
“Comparison is such a terrible thing we do to ourselves,” Schoenike said. “I didn’t want an image in a book saying this is what you should make. You should have fun with the process. In my work with relationships, it’s the same. It’s your process. Your journey. Take this book as a guide to have fun with.
“The biggest thing I want people to focus on is it’s a cupcake and it’s going to taste good,” Schoenike said, urging bakers not to stress about cupcakes’ appearances. “Enjoy the process. Put love into it. It should be a joyful process. You are entitled to joy.”