FeaturesSpreading Holiday Cheer

Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice

Baker Dylan Carnes vegan confections brighten up the holidays.

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Dylan Carnes (photos by Mikah Danaé)

Despite the pandemic, things are going well at Houston’s Sinfull Bakery, and owner Dylan Carnes has big plans for the holidays.

“Times are interesting right now, so I don’t know what to expect in December,” she says. “We have a lot of new things happening at Sinfull.”

The bakery has sold vegan treats for more than a decade, and recently opened a storefront at 1714 Webster Street in Midtown. This month, Carnes’ shop is set to begin selling coffee and hot food in addition to a full holiday menu.

“I’m pretty excited about what this will hold for Sinfull’s future, since we have been a wholesale operation until now,” Carnes says. “For Christmas, Sinfull Bakery is taking pre-orders for our holiday pies and savory items. And for one day only, we are bringing back our Mint Double Chocolate Cookies!”

Eleven years ago, Carnes, a queer Houston native, was living in Port Angeles, Washington, when an idea came to her during a hike to her favorite lighthouse: create a vegan bakery with all of the deliciousness and none of the sin. (She now remembers that moment of inspiration every time she looks down at the lighthouse tattoo on her right arm.)

So Sinfull Bakery—the first vegan bakery in Houston—was born. “I decided to give up my career and become a vegan baker. I was only 24 and had never baked in my life, so I was a bit crazy. However, I have been cooking since I was seven.”

When Carnes was 14, she became a vegetarian. Living in meat-loving Texas, her parents were hesitant about her diet change and had no idea what to cook for her. This is when her cooking interests really took a new direction. “I still think about how, in the first year of my business, my dad couldn’t say ‘vegan’ correctly because he hadn’t really heard much about it at the time,” she laughs.

Sinfull Bakery is selling seasonal pies for the December holidays. And, for one day only, the treat shop will bring back their Mint Double Chocolate Cookies.

It was rough going at the start, but it didn’t take long for Carnes’ business to take off. “When I moved back to Houston, I had a DBA, two full journals of recipes, a few dollars in my pocket, my last amount of money on my food-stamp card, and two parents willing to let their daughter use their kitchen 24 hours nonstop. That’s exactly what I did.”

Within six months of moving back to Houston, Carnes’ products were being mass-produced in commercial bakeries and sold at Whole Foods Market. “At that time, they only sold my sweet-fill, Czech-style kolaches (which were, of course, the size of Texas) and my sweet loaves,” she recalls. Unfortunately, those tasty treats—the first commercial vegan kolaches to hit the market—are no longer sold at Whole Foods. “I decided to keep those local and make different varieties, mostly savory, exclusively for our Houston storefront each week.”

Whole Foods, H-E-B, and other local businesses currently sell Sinfull Bakery’s Everything Bars, Coconut Dream Bars, cinnamon rolls, and, for a limited time, a selection of holiday pies. 

The vegan bakery’s treats can also be found at several shops in Austin. You can find all of the locations at sinfullbakery.com, along with a complete menu of prepared foods available at the storefront for curbside pickup.

In addition to her lighthouse tattoo, Carnes’ left hand and arm is covered with tattoos depicting her childhood in Houston—complete with a bayou, downtown skyscrapers, and trees on her fingers that represent her parents and sister. Her family—including her little Shih Tzu dog, Joy—is as important to her as the bakery is.

“My belief with my products is ‘the simpler the better,’ Carnes says. “And that’s why I think people hesitate to believe [my baked goods are really] vegan. I also strongly believe in using mostly organic ingredients. When I started Sinfull, I was the only bakery in town using mostly organic ingredients.”

For more information on Sinfull Bakery, visit sinfullbakery.com.

This article appears in the December 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.

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