National Public Radio: The Talk of Iowa features the Unicorn Cookbook!
Fill Your Hearts and Bellies Rainbow Unicorn Food and Magical Desserts!
As a child raised in Dubuque during the 80s, Luke Stoffel was often told by his mother to stay outside until he found his own version of fun. That, his mother Joyce says, pushed him to be inventive.
“Allowing some of that to happen in kid’s life, their boredom will eventually work into creativity,” she explains. After Luke lost his job, he spent his 37th birthday making a rainbow cake with his mother and decided his next move would be to add more color to his life. His latest venture is The Easy Bake Unicorn Cookbook, a collection chockful of glittery sugar-coated recipes.
Desserts range from bright pink “slumber party popcorn balls” to “Peeps pizza,” a rice krispie treat topped with fluffy marshmallows. Another recipe, the North Pole Sundae - a hot fudge, peppermint ice cream and candy cane concoction - came out of Luke’s recollection of eating ice cream with his little sister in the middle of winter. Crucial to each recipe? Good company and plenty of love in the kitchen, even if the result is just a “beautiful mess,” Stoffel says. “Baking should be fun. They should all evoke beautiful memories,” Stoffer adds. “If it doesn't turn out the way you want it to, we say ‘never underestimate the power of frosting to stick.’”
Its kickstarter campaign met its goal in eight days. Now, Luke’s startup Cinderly wants to open a pop-up store for the baked goods in New York City. Luke and Joyce chat with host Charity Nebbe on this segment of Talk of Iowa.
Below is a quick summary of the interview:
It’s Talk of Iowa from Iowa Public Radio. I’m Charity Nebbie. Today we’re going to start the hour on the other end of the rainbow with a unicorn baker. Luke Stoffel grew up in Dubuque, Iowa. He learned to bake from his grandma and his mom, and he lives in New York now, and is in the process of publishing his Easy Bake Unicorn Cookbook.
Luke Stoffel's story is as colorful as a rainbow and as magical as a unicorn. With roots in Dubuque, Iowa, and a professional life that took him to the whirlwind streets of New York City, his journey led him to create the "Easy Bake Unicorn Cookbook."
"It was always more than just the act of baking," Luke recalls, thinking back to his childhood days. "It was about the stories, the laughter, and that familial bond. My grandma, my mom - we'd spend hours in the kitchen, and it was there that I learned to appreciate the joy of creating something from scratch." His mother Joyce went on to say “It was always so special, baking together in our kitchen," Joyce reminisces. "For a young boy, Luke always had this fascination with colors, stories, and especially baking. And I loved every moment we shared, from mixing the batter to decorating the cookies."
In tracing the origins of his cookbook, Luke tells of a serendipitous encounter in New Orleans with his cousin. "The memories of us baking with our grandmother resurfaced," he shares. "I started thinking about how I could blend those memories with my graphic design skills from Iowa State. That's how the idea of the cookbook really took shape."
Rainbows hold a special place in his heart, with one particular memory standing out. "That rainbow cake my mother and I baked for my 37th birthday... it was vibrant, multi-colored, and just filled with joy," Luke fondly remembers. Yet, it's not all about perfection. Luke recounts the seven-layer rainbow cake that didn’t quite go as planned. "It tumbled when we cut it, but you know, it was our beautiful mess. That's what baking should be about—the joy of the process, not just the end result." At the heart of the cookbook lies the rich tapestry of family memories that Joyce and Luke wove together. "Those sugar cookies we baked, they weren't just treats. They were memories in the making. The times when Luke and his siblings would gather around, eagerly helping and learning - those moments were priceless."
But beyond the culinary delights, it was the stories and the familial bond that made those moments unforgettable. "Whenever we baked, it wasn't just about the cookies or the cake. It was about the laughter, the stories we shared, and the bond that strengthened with every dollop of icing," she shares, her voice filled with emotion.
His move to New York also introduced him to the world of unicorns, especially in his advertising career and his startup, Cinderly. "The unicorn trend's current popularity definitely played a role," he admits.
When asked about the cookbook's deep dive into family recipes and stories, Luke's mother, Joyce, chimes in, reflecting on their baking days. "I still remember baking sugar cookies with young Luke and his siblings. Those moments, as simple as they were, they created lasting memories," Joyce adds, emphasizing the lasting impact of these shared experiences. "For Luke, the specific cookie cutters, passed down through generations, became symbolic of our shared past."
Beyond just recipes, Luke wanted to transport readers to his childhood days, digging for worms in the garden or playing pranks on neighbors. "These tales are set in the 80s, in the fields of Iowa, capturing the essence of where I come from," he says.
But with such regional stories, was there any concern about the appeal of the book? Luke seems unfazed. "The 80s nostalgia provides the charm," he confidently states. "Brands like Rainbow Brite and Lisa Frank, they resonate with a whole generation. So, in a way, this cookbook bridges the gap between Iowa and New York."
In a world filled with complex recipes, Luke's "Easy Bake Unicorn Cookbook" offers a refreshing twist. "I wanted the joys of baking to be accessible to everyone. Baking should be enjoyable, not intimidating," Luke says with conviction. And with simpler versions of intricate recipes, even novices can craft enchanting dishes like the unicorn-style rainbow cake.
As Luke’s mother Joyce flips through the pages of the cookbook, one can sense the journey through time it offers. "Luke has always been a storyteller, and this cookbook is a testament to that. Every recipe, every anecdote transports you back to our days in Iowa, to the garden where he'd dig for worms or the pranks he'd play. It's all there, captured beautifully."
However, Joyce also highlights the evolution Luke has undergone over the years. "From our little kitchen in Iowa to the bustling streets of New York, it's been a remarkable journey. I've seen him grow, adapt, and yet, through it all, he's never lost touch with his roots," she says, her voice brimming with pride.
Among the array of delightful recipes, there's a special place for Happy Joe's iconic North Pole sundae. "It's more than just a dish," Luke says, a nostalgic gleam in his eye. "It symbolized winter, the holidays, and the sheer joy of indulgence."
When I asked Joyce about her favorite part of the cookbook, Joyce's eyes light up. "Oh, the North Pole sundae, without a doubt! It's not just a dessert. It's a celebration of winters, holidays, and those little joys that life brings."
Concluding our chat, I couldn't help but admire the Glass Slipper Mirror Glaze recipe in his cookbook. A challenging endeavor, it's a nod to his company, Cinderly, and his love for fairytales. "Cinderella taught us that dreams come true, and with this cookbook, I wanted to share a piece of my dream with everyone."
From the early days in Iowa to a successful Kickstarter campaign and beyond, Luke Stoffel's journey with his "Easy Bake Unicorn Cookbook" is a testament to the magic that happens when you blend memories, passion, and a sprinkle of unicorn dust.