How did Dave Hansen come to start his own dessert business?
"I’ve tried everything else," he told OnMilwaukee.com. And as a lifelong entrepreneur, baker and lover of finely-crafted treats, people had been telling him to start his own bakery for years.
"I just enjoy making my own stuff," he said. "It just tastes better. It pays to be a good cook. My love of cooking came out of my love of good food."
His brand-new endeavor, Hansen’s Dessert Creations is a labor of love launched this past November. He’s starting small, offering five tried-and-true original delicacies made only with local products and without additives (the only exception is imported Mexican vanilla).
His signature offering is the Triple Temptation Treat, which Hansen said he has been creating in one form or another since the age of 10 – a rich, dense pound cake fused to velvet chocolate cake and dipped in chocolate ganache.
He also offers "Fridge" chocolate chip cookies with imported Mexican vanilla, mocha-chocolate cheesecake, velvet chocolate cake with cocoa butter cream frosting, and (Almost) bite-sized drizzle cakes.
Creating a product that is completely natural and locally made is important to him. The cheesecake recipe calls for crunched-up Oreo cookies, but Hansen refuses to take such shortcuts. He uses graham crackers with Penzey’s cocoa instead.
"It just tastes so much effort than having a cookie that you crumble up," he said. "It's no extra effort. It's totally worth it."
His favorite treat on the menu, of course, is the velvet chocolate cake.
"I use high-fat cocoa from Penzey’s, as well as their triple-blend vanilla – a lighter vanilla than the Mexican vanilla," he said.
He shops at Woodman’s and even the butter and eggs used in the recipes are produced right here in Wisconsin.
Hansen has a long history of entrepreneurship, and prides himself on being ahead of the curve. He has extensive experience in the beer industry, having started the state’s first contract brewery, Vienna Brewing Co., (later changed to Ambier). He later worked for Miller and Widmer Brothers and spent time selling brewing equipment – and as a beer columnist for OnMilwaukee.com some years ago.
Hansen owns his own company, Lake County Energy, promoting energy efficiency with users of LED lighting and installing electric charge mobility stations.
Despite his passion for his other work, Hansen relishes the simplicity that baking brings to his life. "All I need to worry about is getting my Mexican vanilla!" he joked.
Though he is looking to expand Hansen’s Dessert Creations as much as possible, he also feels that the company’s strength lies in its local appeal.
"I want to focus on the local stuff," he said. "I’m part of Local First Milwaukee, a group where members own and operate their own businesses within the five counties. I really think that’s where the future is going to be – handmade, small batches."
He hopes that one day his three grown sons might join him and make it a family business. "This is something that, when they were little kids, I was talking about," he remembered.
Hansen hand-delivers all his orders as of now, and customers can place their orders online or by calling (414) 881-6789. Prices range from $2 for a single drizzle cake or "Fridge" chocolate chip cookie to $44 for an entire mocha-chocolate cheesecake.
Hansen dropped off a sampling of treats for the staff here at OnMilwaukee.com, and of all the goodies it was the mocha-chocolate cheesecake that won out as the clear office favorite.
Sportswriter Jim Owczarski tried it with coffee. "It was a great combination," he said. "It was thick and rich – but not too much – and sweet. I also liked the fact that one piece was ‘just enough’ so there was plenty to share around."
OMC web programmer Brandon Kelly called it "amazing" and said he would definitely consider making a purchase for a special event.
Colleen Jurkiewicz is a Milwaukee native with a degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and she loves having a job where she learns something new about the Cream City every day. Her previous incarnations have included stints as a waitress, a barista, a writing tutor, a medical transcriptionist, a freelance journalist, and now this lovely gig at the best online magazine in Milwaukee.