On the Road

Baker and Chef Adrian Lipscombe Tells the Story Behind Her Red Velvet Cookies

We talk to Adrian Lipscombe about red velvet cookies, Juneteenth, and what she’s up to now.

Published June 19, 2023.

Our Stuffed Red Velvet Cookies are inspired by the cookies that our editor in chief, Toni Tipton-Martin, received as a gift from baker and chef Adrian Lipscombe at Uptowne Cafe and Bakery in Wisconsin (which has since closed). These memorable treats made a lasting impression, so we reached out to Adrian to catch up with her and find out more about her recipe, which we have now adapted for the home cook. 

In our exchange, Adrian, who is not only a baker but also a mother of four and a city planner, goes on to share a bit about her Texas roots; her family’s deep and abiding relationship with food, including their Juneteenth feast traditions; how she became the chef-owner of the café and bakery; and what she is up to now that she’s moved back to Texas. 

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My first impression of these cookies was delight at how big they are. Why did you decide to make them this size?

I love large cookies. It’s appealing to the eye but also never-ending. I come from a large family and sharing is something we are used to doing. I remember when my mom made cookies she would let us choose what size cookie we wanted, and I always chose to make a big one because I could. Also, who does not like a big cookie?! Save the rest for later, maybe?

Whole-wheat flour could be surprising to some in a cookie recipe. Why did you include it in your recipe?

I think whole wheat gets a bad rap and is underused in desserts. The whole wheat provides a richer taste and an amazing texture. 

What are the roots of this recipe for you? We’re used to seeing red velvet cake, but how did it become a cookie? 

Cookies are one dessert that everyone knows. I love taking recipes and making them even more extravagant. Red velvet cake is one of my favorite desserts, and finding a way to make it a cookie that tasted just as good was key. I did not want to put icing on the outside of the cookie; I wanted to find a way to stuff the cookie with icing. 


Stuffed Red Velvet Cookies

We explore the deep Texas roots of this unique take on the beloved red velvet cake.
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You’re a native of Texas. Can you tell us more about your roots there and how they led you to become passionate about food?

I am originally from San Antonio and am a sixth generation Texan. My family is from what is known as Central Texas and the Hill Country. My passion for food comes from my elders, who used food, as many families do, as our bridge to bring us together. Many of my family members are nicknamed after food. I even have an Aunt Cookie. 

My Nana is the family member who cooked for every occasion and for everyone, especially desserts. You could always guarantee there would be a cake or cookies at her house, and you would definitely be leaving with a to-go dessert, wrapped in foil. She has fed every single family member cinnamon rolls, pound cakes, cookies, and more. She was also the editor of the church cookbooks and an avid cookbook collector. I spent many summers in front of her bookcases looking at cookbooks and listening to her talk to friends and sisters about recipes. My grandfather was a sous chef in his youth and Great Aunt Jo went to culinary school and made wedding cakes for over 30 years.

I love the idea of the red velvet cookie joining a Juneteenth celebration table.

Our family never wrote down recipes; we learned by watching when we were young and participating when we got older. It was said that, as you became an adult, if you forgot a recipe or an ingredient, it must be time for you to come home and cook it with your elders.

La Crosse, Wisconsin, is a long way from Texas. What drew you there? How did you become chef-owner of Uptowne Cafe and Bakery? 

Moving to the Midwest was never in my plans. Before moving I was already operating a wholesale bakery in Austin, going to school, and working a full‑time job. I was in a chapter of my life where I had theories about revitalization and was ready for a change. 

I was working on a city planning project about revitalization, and in the La Crosse area, there was a vacant restaurant. It was very serendipitous how things worked out, being able to work with the landlord and the community to open a restaurant. I was able to create a community impact space to revitalize the community, provide amazing opportunities for the community to come together, and shape an amazing farm-to-table restaurant that allowed me to tell my story through food.

As you transition back to Austin, what’s next for you? Is baking still in the cards? 

I am very happy to be back home, and baking will always be part of my plans. I hope to focus on telling the story of Black Texas chefs, advocate for farmers, and maybe open another restaurant. Also, making amazing cookies with a twist is a must for me. 

Red foods are traditional for Juneteenth celebrations. What are your thoughts on making these red velvet cookies for Juneteenth? 

I love the idea of the red velvet cookie joining a Juneteenth celebration table. Even before Juneteenth was a national holiday, I always took time off to be with my family. Our reunions centered on Juneteenth. 


Hibiscus Tea Cocktails

A beautiful infusion of a bright-red flower, and a heartfelt celebration of those who came before.
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Being from this part of Texas, there are certain foods you would see that would show the cultural diversity of Black and Hispanic culture in our food. The food that surrounds our table varies from fruit (watermelon, strawberries, and melons); red drink or red punch (Big Red for the kids); assorted tamales; rice and beans; pan dulce; carne asada; and fajitas with freshly made tortillas, salsa, pico, tortilla chips, and guacamole. And there’s smoked BBQ: hot guts (aka sausage), brisket, and beef ribs. There’s smoked chicken, fried chicken, pound cakes, potato salad, macaroni, pies, and of course cookies.

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