As a child growing up in Southern California, Adrianna Wiley was always curious, especially in the kitchen. At a young age, she started learning from an aunt who transmitted a love for cooking and baking to her niece. She might’ve transmitted too much. “You’ve got to step away ’cause you’re gonna hurt yourself,” her aunt would say. Wiley moved from Moreno Valley after high school to study English at Chico State. After graduating in 2019, she took a job at a preschool, but due to the coronavirus pandemic the school is closed indefinitely. To make ends meet, she’s turned to baking full-time with a small, home-based operation, Adrianna’s Bakery. Wiley makes cakes, muffins, burger buns, zucchini bread, fresh fruit jams, almond and oat milks—much of it vegan. It’s all available to order on her Instagram and Facebook pages, and though she doesn’t currently deliver, Wiley is equipped to ship all over the country.
What do you love about baking?
I love the feeling I get when I see people happy to eat my goodies. It’s like one of my love languages, I could say. Food makes me happy, so why not pass that on and share what I come up with? It’s also fun to hear people’s opinions on what I make because there’s always room to improve. Every time I make an order, I make sure to follow up and see how it was. I like that “wow” factor too, like if somebody’s reaction is, “This tastes amazing, how did she do this?”
I used to think of vegan baking as the diet soda of baked goods. How do you make your vegan options taste as good traditional recipes?
People avoid it because they might feel like they’re missing out on non-vegan goods and it’s not going to taste the same. That’s what I strive for with vegan baking—to make sure people don’t feel left out and for them to be able to enjoy regular treats without all that extra animal product. I honestly don’t know what I do to make them taste good other than trial and error. Vegan baking definitely is different. It can be complex because you have to find substitutes.
What’s your favorite thing to make? Most recommended?
Definitely the cinnamon rolls. They are 100 percent my number one favorite to make and also my favorite to eat. I think it’s the process. It’s not a quick thing but it’s therapeutic. And it’s an efficient recipe. You can get a lot out of one batch, plus it’s fun to roll ’em. I cut them down trying to get them all the same size even though I never do, but it’s fun. I think the zucchini bread is amazing, too. It’s probably the best zucchini bread I’ve ever had. Chico Chai said that as well, so I got the pass. It has no dairy, too.
You also make your own almond and oat milks?
I do. And I make my own butter. It’s honestly not hard. It’s crazy how simple some things are to make if we actually just looked it up, but butter takes 10 minutes to make. It takes a lot of arm work for sure, but all you really need is that and some cream. It’s kinda like ice cream, you just have to shake it. The almond milk is easy as well. You just soak them overnight and blend them up.
How has business been during the pandemic?
Being in my early 20s is confusing enough, so being in a pandemic in my early 20s is like, “OK, can we pump the brakes a little bit?” Early on, business was crazy. We can all remember people really wanted to support the Black community and the Black dollar. So I really felt that from our community. Business has died down a little bit, but I’m coming back strong.
Do you have any advice for other young people who are unsure about starting a business?
I would say just to do it. Don’t be afraid. You never know what’s going to happen. I took a leap and bought all the expensive machines and hoped that business could stay up. Even though that didn’t happen, I still feel grateful because I built something. You can build yourself, build your community, build your character if you start. That’s what life is about. Now is a great time to explore passions and hobbies. I think it’s worth the risk.
What goals do you have for the business this year?
I want to do more collaborative work here in Chico with other local shops. I also want to reinvent my menu. New year, new menu. Life just feels like it’s been on pause so I’m trying to take advantage of that while I can and bake.