City Lights: Let those with allergies eat cake

Finally, a cake everyone can eat.

That was my impression upon hearing about Sensitive Sweets, a new bakery in Fountain Valley that's set to have its grand opening July 13. The tiny shop at 17431 Brookhurst St. offers confections without gluten, nuts, soy, eggs and dairy — just about everything but sugar-free, and the staff is working on that too.

Owner Melanie Hohman started the enterprise after puzzling over how to feed her now-3-year-old son Bradley, who was born with severe food allergies. For his first birthday, she resorted to decorating a cantaloupe to look like a cake, knowing that it would give him only a mild reaction that medication could fix.

Needless to say, Bradley isn't alone. Over the years, I've known people who were allergic to just about everything on Sensitive Sweets' no-no list. And I may stop by there at a later date myself — not because I have allergies, but because I'm vegan, which some people view as a kind of hippie extremism, masochism, or both.

Anyone who doesn't eat animal products spends a considerable amount of time answering tedious questions — probably the classics are "Where do you get your protein?", "Isn't there a food chain in nature?" and "Oh, but you eat chicken and fish, right?" Once in a while, I hear, "Well, what do you eat?", and while that's an ignorant question, it has a partial element of truth.

In recent years, the word "veganish" has come into use to describe people who follow vegan diets imperfectly. I would guess that most vegans really are veganish, unless they shake down the waiter at every restaurant to find out exactly what's in the bread, pizza crust and so on.

I'm much the same way. While I don't buy eggs or dairy at the grocery store, I put my investigative skills on hold if I'm offered a dinner roll or a piece of cake. Bruce Springsteen once wrote that "it's hard to be a saint in the city." It's hard to be a vegan in the city, too, although I'm sure there's a neighborhood in Berkeley or San Francisco that makes it easy.

That said, whenever I hear about a business like Hohman's that dedicates itself to vegan products (and nearly all the confections at Sensitive Sweets are animal-free), I support it as much as possible. Yes, Burger King and other fast-food chains have started offering veggie burgers. But I'd rather give my hard-earned dollars to Native Foods, the Veggie Grill or other places that, ethics aside, offer some of the choicest meals around.

Speaking of which, Sensitive Sweets may just win a few converts on the basis of its cuisine. Wednesday morning, I stopped in to meet Hohman and sample her products, and they're delicious — especially the chocolate cupcake, which is as moist as anything made with milk and eggs.

According to Hohman, the shop has already gotten a steady clientele since opening two months ago. Many of her customers have food allergies, but she's also gotten people seeking low-calorie diets and even a few yoga practitioners. Among the happiest customers are Hohman's two sons, both of whom suffer from gluten allergies.

"Oh, they're spoiled," she said. "Bradley and Luke come in three times a week, and I tell them, 'You can have anything you want.' They point to it, and I give it to them."

City Editor MICHAEL MILLER can be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at

If You Go

What: Grand opening of Sensitive Sweets

Where: 17431 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley

When: 5 to 7 p.m. July 13

Cost: Free

Information: (714) 968-9169 or

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