Sue Kakuk started baking what she called breakfast cookies for her daughter’s University of Vermont bike racing team when she realized those young athletes were living off fast food and junk.
“Doughnuts for breakfast? This has to change!” said Kakuk, of Wayzata. “I know what athletes need.”
While that daughter has cycled on, the nutritious treats continue to power racers across the country and beyond. Kakookies — the company Sue and her husband, Jay, started — sells four varieties of nutritious vegan treats; all are wheat-, dairy- and egg-free.
Through the years, the Kakuks have remained connected to the sport. They’ve turned their weekend farm near the Apple River in Wisconsin into training camps for collegiate and professional teams and provide all the meals for the competitors.
“Many of these athletes have a range of dietary restrictions,” Kakuk said. “It took me a while to bake the kinds of things all the racers could eat and that tasted good; that’s how I came up with the recipes we use in Kakookies.”
An accomplished cook with a background in kitchen design, Kakuk has been a finalist twice in the Pillsbury Bake-Off. Experimenting and trial and error come easily to her.
“Unlike other gluten-free and vegan baked goods, I didn’t try to copy a traditional recipe by simply substituting gluten-free flours, but determined the right mix of whole grains myself,” she said.
As Kakuk worked through the process, she would send off test samples to her daughter, Alynn, and friends for taste testing. Today Alynn is a wellness physical therapist at the Mayo Clinic and continues to occasionally help with the business.
Kakookies are made of rolled oats, flaxseed meal, coconut oil, nuts, dried fruit, molasses and brown sugar. The notably soft texture makes them especially easy for athletes on the move to eat and digest.
“Last year, a mountain bike team took Kakookies to South Africa. One of the cyclists wrote that he preferred them over nutrition bars that can freeze hard in low temperatures, are tough to bite into and often loaded with nuts and seeds that are hard on the gut,” Kakuk said.
Before launching Kakookies, she had been sending boxes of her increasingly popular home-baked treats to cyclists in honor of birthdays, first-place finishes and graduations. Two years ago, her husband retired from his job as an engineer at Toro to help his wife push Kakookies into a thriving business. He manages operations and logistics, and she continues to develop recipes and expand the line.
Kakookies are now produced in a commercial kitchen and contain the same simple, wholesome all-natural ingredients they did when baked in the Kakuk home. They stay fresh without added preservatives or stabilizers.
“Because they’re made without dairy or eggs, they’re naturally shelf-stable and they’re wrapped right after they’re baked and shipped out quickly,” Kakuk said.
These are good options for camping trips, hikes, bike trips and lunchboxes. But be forewarned. They’re very easy to eat.
Kakookies have four varieties, available individually or by the box ($24 per box of 12). Available at Twin Cities food co-ops, Whole Foods, many coffee shops and bike stores, and online at kakookies.com.