UI freshman perfects vegan cupcake


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University of Iowa incoming freshman Erica Parlee was known at her high school as "the cupcake girl."

And considering the 18-year-old has sold cupcakes for almost a year, created original such flavors as PiƱa Colada, and baked for customers more than 100 miles away, the nickname is warranted.

The general-studies major has owned her own online vegan cupcakery, Miss Dolly Cakes, since she was a senior in high school.

The businesses name was a nickname her father gave her when she was just 2 weeks old.

For Parlee, baking has been a part of her life since she could walk. She said she recalls pressing a stool against the counter, allowing her to help her mother.

"I like the end when it's all done, and I can look at [the cupcakes], and they're all pretty," she said.

Though she loves baking, the Urbandale, Iowa, native doesn't intend to make a career in the kitchen.

Last year, Parlee began working as an assistant in a chiropractic office, where she has charmed many with her cupcakes, including her boss.

"I don't like cake, but her [cupcakes] would make even a person like me ask for one more," said boss Heather Yost.

Yost said she thinks non-vegan cupcakes don't even compare with Miss Dolly's Cakes, which use rice milk and exclude eggs.

"I think it's good she calls them gourmet, because I think when people hear the word vegan you think you are chewing on a carrot," she said. "Her plain vanilla is just awesome."

The cupcake connoisseur's devotion to veganism didn't start until March 2010.

"Food is really fuel for your body," she said about why she switched to vegan foods.

In addition to making healthy choices, Parlee also became a vegan to support animal rights after she read the book Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer.

"I do love that when I know I'm putting fruits and veggies into my body, I can be positive [animals] weren't harmed," she said.

The blond-haired, blue-eyed baker is known by her family and friends as someone who goes out of her way for others. Once in a while, Parlee cooked for her entire high-school class. The meals, of course, included cupcakes.

"She's always willing to help people, and she's very generous, too," said friend and former classmate Tyler Dreher.

As Parlee transitions into college, she said, her cupcake business will most likely slow down, but she will take orders during breaks or for special occasions.

Though she originally wanted to go to the UI for nursing, she plans to go to chiropractic school in the future.

"She's 10 steps ahead of every other kid her age," Yost said.

The freshman, who moved into Slater on Monday, said she's looking forward to living with a friend she has known since she was 3.

"I [chose the UI] because I already had a roommate," she said. "Plus, black and gold looks good on blondes."

Parlee said she will continue to bake for the rest of her life, it just depends on how she manages her time.

"I can have my cupcake and eat it too," she said.

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