When we recently commissioned these Horchata Polvorones from Texas baker Mariela Camacho, it was for so many reasons: They're delicate. They're deeply flavorful. They happen to be both vegan and gluten-free. And yet none of this is the biggest reason these cookies are so special. What truly makes them stand out is that they’re part of King Arthur’s yearlong Baking a Stand initiative.
Baking a Stand began last year with the mission to highlight the recipes of inspiring bakers from around the country and raise money for social justice organizations. With each season, we’ve worked with a new baker whose recipe we bake and sell in our Vermont café; all proceeds from the items’ sales benefit a local Vermont organization fighting inequity and injustice, with an additional donation from King Arthur given to a non-local organization chosen by the recipe contributor.
These organizations have included JAG Productions, a Black theater company here in Vermont; RVA Community Fridges, a BIPOC-led initiative to reduce food insecurity in Richmond, Virginia; and Vermont ReLeaf Collective, a BIPOC network advancing racial equity in land, environment, agriculture, and foodways — plus many more.
How Baking a Stand began
The idea for Baking a Stand was sparked a little over a year ago. Amidst the racial and social justice reckoning in the summer of 2020, employee-owners at King Arthur’s Norwich bakery started thinking about how they could actively have an impact in their own community. “We were having talks in the bakery about how King Arthur could get involved,” recalls lead pastry baker Andrea Quillen. “Could we do a bake sale? Would it only be a one-time thing?”
Andrea and her fellow bakers were inspired by the social justice work led by other pastry chefs, like Paola Velez’s work with Bakers Against Racism and Natasha Pickowicz’s annual Bake Sale for Planned Parenthood. While thinking about how to apply that same approach, one thing was clear: “We couldn’t make it about us,” says Andrea. “We needed to shine a light on different bakers and different local organizations.”
The four bakers and their recipes
Andrea reached out to King Arthur’s leadership, who immediately responded with their full support, and planning got underway. The first baker to be featured was New World Sourdough author Bryan Ford. “I love his approach that bread-baking is about more than just white, holey, airy bread,” says Andrea. That culinary style is embodied in Bryan’s Choco Pan de Coco, a coconut and chocolate-perfumed loaf that we sold at the café from October to January.
The next baker featured was baking activist Arley Bell, whose Rosemary Lemon Brown Butter Muffins (pictured at the top of this post) were perfectly suited to the winter months in which they made their debut. “With the mission behind this project, I was of course immediately on board,” says Arley. “It was a lot of fun to develop a recipe, but also to be a part of something bigger … and to be able to make a difference in a way that I typically wouldn’t.”
Following Arley, the bakery collaborated with cookbook author and activist Julia Turshen in June. Featuring Julia’s Orange and Greek Yogurt Cake, Andrea says, felt like an authentic way to incorporate Pride in Baking a Stand — both by highlighting Julia's work and supporting local LGBTQ+ youth organization Outright Vermont.
Finally, Mariela is closing out the yearlong program with her Horchata Polvorones. To Andrea, these cookies embody something she loves about this program: “It’s getting our Norwich customers to try something they wouldn’t really have a chance to before. I love an opportunity to expand people’s taste and culinary knowledge.”
Baking for a better world
Andrea is quick to point out that this initiative isn’t about King Arthur and her bakery team, but the bakers and local organizations whose work they’ve been grateful to highlight. She’s giddy when she reflects on how so many great bakers have shared their work and their recipes with us. “It’s incredible! I’m so grateful for the bakers who participated.”
Baking a Stand was designed to be a one-year program, and now that year is coming to a close. But the work it represents is far from over. It’s part of the broader King Arthur mission: How do we inspire others through baking? How do we bake together?
That means expanding our culinary knowledge and baking styles, continuing to collaborate with bakers we’re inspired by, and thinking beyond the kitchen to support more BIPOC farmers and producers in our community.
For instance, we've continued working with JAG Productions to host Theatre on the Hill, a set of weekly performances that illuminate Black life and aesthetics. We’re also centering our giving program on organizations and individuals working to create more equitable food systems across the country, and partnering with bakers of all backgrounds to share their culinary expertise, like Shilpa Iyer’s Singaporean Pandan Chiffon Cake.
With a year of Baking a Stand behind us, our work is just getting started.
Learn more about how King Arthur is using baking to build stronger communities on our Giving Back page.
Cover photo by Liz Neily.