Momma Rock’s Dessert Truck Sweetens On-Campus Dining Options

Michelle Rock, known as “Momma Rock”, brought her popular Kure Beach dessert business to the campus of University of North Carolina Wilmington at the beginning of the spring semester.

Several traditional food trucks make weekly stops to campus during lunch hours, but Rock’s is the first to carry confectionary creations.

In fact, Rock’s is the only full-service dessert truck in North Carolina.

One similarity Momma Rock’s Dessert Truck shares with the others is the acceptance of UNCW food dollars.

UNCW is not Rock’s first college location- she also vends sweets on the Cape Fear Community College campus downtown.

Her menu items include: salted caramel cake pops, signature banana pudding cupcakes, traditional red velvet cupcakes, and build-your-own brownies, just to name a few.

The chewy chocolate chip brownies are served in a cup and patrons can follow the urgings of their sweet tooth by adding toppings such as cream cheese icing, graham crackers, fruity pebbles cereal, and Oreo cookies.

No matter how customers choose to dress them up, all brownies are gluten free. Rock said she is aware of potential nut allergies while baking and keeps nut-containing items separate.

Rock also recognized that UNCW had specific demands when it came to the menu.

“Ya’ll have a large vegan population here, so I did the oatmeal energy cookies,” Rock said. “They have no dairy in them whatsoever.”

On Feb. 4, she released her newest item, Mac-N-Cheese Muffins. These 3-layered treats are served warm and are intended for lunch or a midday snack. A cheddar biscuit base supports a helping of homemade mac-n-cheese topped with even more cheese.

Rock described her cheesy creation as “a side-dish meal” that arose from her new time slot on campus.

“They asked me if I could start coming at noon rather than 2 o’clock on Mondays,” Rock said. “I thought, if I’m gonna be here at noon, kids are going to want something for lunch.”

Rock also serves up PB&J muffins, which she said are “baked like cupcakes with a white bread batter with peanut butter and jelly baked inside.”

These lunch-inspired muffins come in cupcake liners and are served with a spoon. Rock designed these foods with students in mind for easy eating on the go.

A seasoned baker, Rock said she typically freehands – using exact measurements is not her style.

As a child, Rock learned cooking by watching her grandmothers.

“When you’re really young, you don’t understand what three-fourths of a cup is,” said Rock. “I just eyeballed what they were doing and started from there.”

For now, Rock runs the show solo. She is responsible for all of the preparation work and baking for her business.

“I have been doing hand-decorated sugar cookies for Christmas gifts since I was 10,” Rock said. “I would bake my friends cookies and eventually I was doing 5,000 [cookies] a year.”

Rock said her New Orleans upbringing has had a significant influence on her baking style, explaining that baking is largely a social phenomenon in that region.

 “I started doing birthday and wedding cakes when people asked,” Rock said. “Then for two years I ran a late-night dessert bar at my friend’s coffee shop in Carolina Beach.”

Joe Pate, an original owner of P.T.’s Grille, gave Rock the idea to make the dessert business mobile.

“We were having lunch with Joe Pate, one of the original owners of P.T.’s, and we had been wanting to buy a PTs franchise,” Rock said. “And he had just sold P.T.’s truck franchise…Joe’s the one that said, ‘Why don’t you do your dessert business on a truck?’”

Rock said it took one year to outfit the truck, originally an RV owned by a traveling couple.

The truck also has history in the film industry, as it was originally sold to a man working on a film in North Carolina.

The truck has been running for Momma Rock’s Dessert since July 2014.

Rock paused to greet an approaching customer asking, “What yumminess do you want?”

“Can I get a red velvet cupcake?,” replied Chris Schammel, a UNCW film studies major.

Schammel said this was his third visit to the truck since its arrival on campus, adding, with a smile, “I usually get the red velvet. I’ve also gotten the caramel bacon maple cupcake, it’s really good.”

Rock reported that red velvet cupcakes are by far the most popular pick of UNCW customers.

“I sell out of them every time I’m here,” said Rock.

“True red velvet has cocoa and amaretto in it”, said Rock. “And that’s an Italian thing. I wanted to stay true to that. I’d rather people say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is really good!’, and presentation matters too, but when I make something, I want it to be gone. I don’t want to see my cakes half-eaten and left.”

Rock explained that the majority of bakeries in New Orleans are run by Italian families.

Also in the vein of Southern tradition, Rock says the spelling of her matriarchal moniker must use “o” rather than “a”.

Another hungry student approached the truck.

“I’m just deciding to treat myself with something good,” said Jasmine Stephens, UNCW elementary education major, as she glanced over the dessert menu.

Rock said business at UNCW “has been fantastic. I get more returning customers here than I do at Cape Fear.”

During the week, Rock caters to campuses while leaving weekends open for weddings and special events, such as The Cotton Exchange’s Mardi Gras celebration and Kure Beach’s Polar Plunge.

Momma Rock’s Dessert truck comes to UNCW from 12pm-5pm on Mondays, and from 2pm-5pm on Wednesdays. The blue and brown painted truck parks in the lot nearest the Fisher Student Center.