The legalization of cannabis in Illinois has provided plenty of ways to get high, but West Town Bakery is going back to the classics with pot brownies, part of a new line of cannabis-infused cake mixes.
The dried mix contains 50 milligrams of THC and can be combined with eggs and butter to bake a tray of 12 sizable brownies. Rather than being infused in oil like most THC products, the cannabis is sprayed directly on the dried goods meaning it will quickly be activated when combined with the fats it’s baked with, kicking in about 15 minutes after consumption. There are other mixes that produce cupcakes in flavors like devil’s food cake and rainbow sprinkles.
“That’s good because what tends to happen with a lot of these products is people will eat a brownie and say ‘I don’t feel anything’ and then they eat another one and then eat a third and before you know it they’re really high and in the corner talking to themselves for a while,” says Chris Teixeira, food & beverage director for the Fifty/50 Restaurant Group.
The Fifty/50 Group opened Okay Cannabis, Illinois’ first cannabis consumption lounge, in Wheeling in February. The lounge neighbors an outpost of West Town Bakery serving sandwiches, coffee drinks, and brunch. The bakery and dispensary are operated as separate entities under one roof, but the bakery has a liquor license. While laws prevent dispensaries from obtaining liquor licenses, the setup in Wheeling between the bakery and bar with cannabis sales next door lends to unique synergy.
Wanting to make the best use of the kitchen for the customers at the dispensary, Teixeira designed a menu filled with snacks that people enjoy while stoned including Buffalo wings, tofu tacos, and a munchie mix made with Cap’n Crunch, marshmallows, and gummy bears.
Fifty/50 would open follow with a dispensary in West Town where customers regularly combine their visits with a trip next door for a beer from Roots Handmade Pizza or cake balls from West Town Bakery, earning points or rewards at each location through the group’s loyalty program.
“It’s been great,” Teixeira says. “If you’re at (West Town Bakery’s) diner you can preorder next door and then by the time your brunch is ready you can go grab your bag. Even though the dispensary isn’t a restaurant, it’s become another part of the group.”
The brownie mix will be sold later this month at both Okay Cannabis locations alongside a vegan confetti cake mix and a vegan and gluten-free devil’s food cake mix. Each uses the same recipes for the versions of the popular treats sold in West Town Bakery.
“Seventy to 80 percent of the cake orders we get at West Town Bakery are vegan or gluten-free, so I wanted to make sure that if we were going to offer this that it was still available for people with dietary restrictions,” Teixeira says. “I’m not vegan — I’m a big advocate of butter and eggs — but I wanted to develop a vanilla cake that I didn’t know was vegan.”
Teixeira wanted to make at-home preparation as easy as possible, only involving common ingredients like soy milk and cooking spray and packaging the mixes with a 9-inch-by-9-inch baking tray. The line underwent thorough testing, starting just with having employees try preparing the mix at home without any cannabis.
“I’m at a bakery with a convection oven so I bake a brownie in 35 minutes,” Teixeira says. “When we did the first initial test with the same batter, it took an hour and 15 minutes. That’s a long time for someone to wait to eat a brownie. We had to go back and forth figuring out how much batter we were able to offer and what temperature to use in the oven at home”
The mixes will also be available at a third Okay Cannabis expected to open in Evanston in late December or early January, which will have its own West Town Bakery counter. Beyond that, Teixeira hopes to spread them to more dispensaries throughout Illinois and start developing a cannabis-infused cookie mix.
Even as he makes it easy for people to partake at home, Teixeixa is brainstorming ideas to provide more refined cannabis experiences.
“I like the idea of being able to take this new cannabis adventure that Illinois is on and really expand it into food and beverage, offering cannabis dinners or dinners that pair well with cannabis,” he says. “It’s a flower and like a wine it has properties based on where it grows, how it’s cultivated and what it’s next to. Is there a way that we can partner with local growers and offer a truffle dinner similar to how people go to a dinner with wine pairings? I think that’s the next evolution.”
The Okay Cannabis Wheeling consumption lounge already regularly hosts events like comedy shows, cannabis and painting sessions, and a farmers market where local vendors set up in the parking lot.
“We’re really engaging with the community, really thinking about ideas that bring people together,” Teixeira says. “It’s similar to a restaurant. What activates a restaurant is the idea of being around other individuals and everyone enjoying the same thing. Cannabis is not as taboo as it was before and as it’s become legal, people want to get involved in the experience.”