(Terri Castelaz/Daily News photos)
IRON MOUNTAIN — It was 13 years ago when Melissa Boyles, owner of Dulce Nulla Gourmet Desserts in Iron Mountain, was compelled to get creative in the kitchen.
Boyles and her husband, Stewart, learned their 2-year-old daughter Ariana, now 15, had severe food allergies.
“She couldn’t eat anything,” Boyles said. “She was allergic to 75 of the 96 foods that were tested — including wheat, dairy, nuts, eggs, soy and most fruits and vegetables.”
So Boyles began to experiment on ways to make recipes gluten free.
“The internet is a fantastic source,” she said. “I would take a recipe and modify it to make it my own.”
The California native moved to Iron Mountain with her family six years ago and started a photography business.
“I finally got it into my head that maybe someone else needed to eat like my daughter did,” Boyles said.
She began selling her gluten-free baked goods under the cottage law and made in the licensed Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Woodland Kitchen in Aurora, Wis., for about 3 1/2 years.
Edelweiss Coffee of Iron Mountain was her first commercial account. “They took a chance and ended up selling 1,000 muffins within four months’ time,” she said. “There was a want that needed to be filled.”
Given the demand, Boyles decided it was time to expand into a store front. On Dec. 1, Dulce Nulla Gourmet Desserts opened in Suite 6 at 415 S. Stephenson Ave. in downtown Iron Mountain.
Boyles also was the winner of the Downtown Development Authority’s Business IDEA Contest, which earned her a year rent-free at her new location. The contest was made available to serious entrepreneurs ready to take a business idea to the next level. The DDA’s goal was to promote economic growth downtown by bringing in new businesses and filling vacant storefronts and spaces.
The name, Dulce Nulla, roughly translates from Latin to “sweet nothings.”
“It was a joke that I could make something out of nothing for my child that couldn’t eat nothing,” she said.
Boyles said she got her “knack” for baking and creating desserts at a young age from her grandmother and mother.
“I feel like it took me a long time to get here, but this is more where God helped me to be,” Boyles said.
She loves to share her love of baking and kitchen skills with her three children — Ariana, 11-year-old Kaia and 5-year-old Elliott.
Boyles said she also has good intuition on which ingredients can be substituted for others that make it safe for people with gluten sensitivity — and, more importantly, tastes good.
She runs her shop as a gluten-free zone, meaning nothing with gluten comes through the door.
The gourmet bakery features a variety of sweet treats that include cakes, cookies, cupcakes and muffins.
For July, Boyles will add red, white and blue and strawberry cheesecake muffins to the menu. Regular flavors include blueberry, raspberry white chocolate, banana chocolate chip and s’more.
“I try to keep four different varieties — two gluten free and two vegan — at all times,” she said. “We sell a lot of muffins.”
Signature cake flavors are almond raspberry, cookies and cream, death by chocolate, funfetti, red velvet and vanilla bean. “Almond raspberry is our best-selling cake, hands down,” she said.
Decorated birthday cakes are available by special order.
“I want to add picnic cakes for an easy-to-grab-and-go treat this summer,” Boyles said.
Cupcakes are sold separately or by the dozen and available in almond raspberry, chocolate, funfetti, red velvet and vanilla.
“We thrive on custom orders and it often drives what’s in the cases,” she said. “If people request certain flavors of items, I’ll make more to sell out of the case.”
Her black and white cookies have become popular, along with her regular chocolate chip, oatmeal, peanut butter, snickerdoodle and sugar cookies.
Boyles has recently added a new piece of equipment that will enable them to offer photo images on cookies. “It’s going to be big for special events and businesses and a lot of fun,” she said.
Boyles ask for a week’s notice for custom cakes and about two weeks for cookies. She noted customers can always call to see what is available.
Dulce Nulla bakes bread once a month. Current options include garlic herb, marble “rye,” pumpernickel, sourdough and white sandwich. She plans to add hamburger buns.
Boyles also makes cinnamon rolls fresh every Saturday. “You can get them hot out of the oven that morning and available frozen the rest of the week,” she said. “I have people tell me that they thought once they went gluten free they would never be able to have another cinnamon roll.”
On occasion donuts appear in the case, including paczki for Fat Tuesday.
Pies are another sweet options for special gatherings. “I plan to do some apple pies for the Fourth of July,” she said.
A fun addition is 16 different flavor of meringue cookies and meringue pops. Boyles rotates the flavors of the gluten free and egg free, which are made with aquafaba, so each of the customers can try them all.
“I’m currently working on a sugar-free meringue,” she added.
Some cool treats for the summer months include her gluten-free ice cream sandwiches, as well as a vegan version, a sorbet sandwich.
Boyles next hopes to expand the pastries to include cream puffs, danishes and eclairs in the near future. For the fall Octoberfest, she will be offering gluten-free pretzel bites. Some of Dulce Nulla’s savory options include chicken pot pie, broccoli cheddar pot pie, vegan pot pie, pasties and quiches.
“I’m trying to add more savory for the gluten-free community, but my happy place is sweets,” she said.
Boyle says it’s worth coming in once a week or so to see what’s new in the case.
She also stressed that customers shouldn’t shy away from calling with special requests. “There is very little that I haven’t been able to make work,” Boyles said. “I have been called a wizard in the kitchen.”
In addition to gluten free and dairy free, she offers dairy- and nut-free options.
“I will do no sugar on occasion, but we are a sweets bakery,” she said.
Dulce Nulla strives to offer products that the gluten-free community can’t get elsewhere, adding she has many regular customers who drive from Marquette, Gladstone, Escanaba and parts of Wisconsin.
“People are willing to travel if it’s safe food,” she said.
The bakery this summer has an outside booth during Out to Lunch events on Thursdays, offering muffins, desserts, cookies, occasionally sandwiches.
“I hope to add pasties on Thursdays in the near future,” she said.
Dulce Nulla summer store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
To place orders or questions, contact Dulce Nulla Gourmet Desserts at 906-828-1442 or on the Facebook page at Facebook.com/dulcenulla.
Terri Castelaz can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 241, or [email protected]