BLACKSBURG — Sharon Kyanka is a master of substitutions.
Her vegan, gluten-free bakery stand at the Blacksburg Farmers Market sells out almost every week, with staples like orange marmalade carrot cake and brownies she swears taste better than traditional recipes.
Standard cow milk becomes almond milk. Eggs become flax meal. Traditional flour becomes her own mix of various gluten-free alternatives. Maple syrup and apple sauce are juggled to achieve the right texture.
The Arizona native attended culinary school in Colorado and interned at a gluten-free bakery in Phoenix before she launched a market stand in Blacksburg a little over a year ago.
And now, Kyanka is graduating to her own full-fledged store on College Avenue.
Sweet Rebellion will fill the vacant downtown storefront that used to belong to cupcake shop Gobble Cakes.
That business belonged to Jill Justice, the daughter of West Virginia Governor and The Greenbrier resort owner Jim Justice. Before winning public office, Jim Justice named his daughter president of the resort in 2016. For a time, Jill Justice led both The Greenbrier and her Blacksburg cupcake shop, but she eventually let the latter go.
Kyanka said she was able to purchase all of Gobble Cakes’ equipment when she took over the storefront. All it needed was a little gluten-free flour, of course.
In culinary school, Kyanka said she had a class assignment that involved forming a business plan. Looking back, she noticed she described a gluten-free, vegan bakery in a college town — long before she discovered Blacksburg.
Kyanka moved here when her husband got a job in the area. She set up the farmers market stand just to see how things would go. When her treats started selling out, Kyanka said she was blown away by the local appetite for vegan and gluten-free treats.
“If I look back at my paper, it’s almost prophetic,” she said. “It was our goal, and then it just kind of happened. It’s surreal.”
Sweet Rebellion plans to sell the same baked goods that performed well at the farmers market, but it’ll also add dishes like wraps and possibly fruit smoothie bowls. It will carry savory items like croissants and flat bread, as well as donuts and cream puffs.
Everything will be 100 percent vegan and gluten-free, she says.
“The gluten-free part I kind of had down because I did my internship at the gluten-free bakery,” Kyanka said. “The vegan part is the tricky part, to be honest with you.”
The secret, she says, is experimentation.
“You just find the right substitute and play around to find out which one is going to work best,” Kyanka said, “whether you use maple syrup in one of your recipes or apple sauce to get the right texture and consistency.”
Kyanka still does most of her cooking out of her Montgomery County home right now, which has been certified so she can sell her treats at the farmers market and local eateries.
This weekend, she plans to fire up the ovens in her new store for the first time. She plans to celebrate a grand opening in April.
“When we got the tour and I walked into the back, it’s perfect,” Kyanka said of the former Gobble Cakes space. “It’s absolutely perfect. It’s even exactly how I would decorate it.”