Full disclosure: Kyra Bussanich, owner and pastry chef extraordinaire of Crave Bake Shop, and I are friends. But it’s not what you think. I don’t write about Kyra because we’re friends; we became friends because I couldn’t stop writing about her amazing desserts. (She probably thought I was stalking her and figured it would be easier just to befriend me.)
Kyra and I met late in 2009 when she was running Crave Bake Shop as a special-order bakery from her certified gluten-free home kitchen. She brought me a sample pack of some of her cupcakes, and upon tasting them I rushed home to write the following for my column, “Gluten Freedom”, in the January 19, 2010 issue of the Oregonian:
“A friend recently introduced me to Crave Bake Shop, and now I’m hooked on some the most delectable gluten-free cupcakes I’ve ever had. Among the huge selection of creative and successful flavors, my favorites include the Chocolate Hazelnut, Lemon Meringue, and Hot Chocolate (the latter topped with dairy-free toasted marshmallow crème).”
A year and a half—and about 200 cupcakes from various sources—later, I stand by this statement. The cupcakes are so good that Kyra was invited to compete this past December on the TV Food Network’s series “Cupcake Wars” as the show’s first ever gluten-free baker.
Partly due to her success on the show, demand for her goodies skyrocketed. As a result, Kyra and business partner Jamie Hogland opened the first Crave Bake Shop storefront last Friday morning to a lined-up crowd. Customers clamored for a first taste of the cinnamon rolls, which sold out in just over an hour. Also on-hand were buttery orange-currant scones, frosted doughnuts, and an assortment of cupcakes.
Crave Bake Shop continues to make custom-order cakes, but it’s worth a special trip to the storefront to sample the rotating selection of sweet treats such as pie bites, tarts, cookies, and my personal favorite, Angel rolls (think gooey cinnamon rolls, but with homemade raspberry jam and cream cheese frosting). A little birdie (Kyra) told me they’re even working on developing some savory recipes, such as garlic knots, rolls, and pizza dough. Everything in the shop is gluten free, and there will be at least one dairy-free selection per day as well. I recommend that you go in, taste for yourself, and make the call. I know you’ll be pleased.
CRAVE BAKE SHOP
460 Fifth Street
Lake Oswego, OR
Current hours: Tuesday – Friday (10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.) and Saturday (10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.).
As an added bonus, I decided to ask Kyra a few questions so you could get to know her better:
LbR: What led you to become a gluten-free baker?
KB: I’ve always loved to bake. When I was 6, my mom worked early in the mornings so our neighbor would watch me until the school bus came. I always showed up at their house groggy, but the enticing aroma of homemade bread baking lured me out of my daze. The smell of the bread, still warm from the oven, with butter melted over the top, began my love affair with baking. I love creating desserts from scratch and watching people enjoy them, and so for years I always gave gifts from the kitchen as Christmas and birthday presents. I learned each family member’s favorite (honey cake for dad, chocolate mousse pie with a meringue topping for mom) and year after year, created something special for the celebrations.
I didn’t become a gluten-free baker until my mom was diagnosed with Celiac disease about 7 years ago. Suddenly I had to create a version of the same pie with a gluten-free crust! I experimented with many different options before discovering a winner. Of course, once I found out that I needed to follow a gluten-free diet just a few years later, I widened the scope of my recipes. One delicious, rich pie recipe was simply not enough.
LbR: You were recently the first ever gluten-free baker to compete on the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars”. What did you learn from that experience?
KB: Mostly I learned that my recipes could compete head to head with traditional gluten-full recipes. My cupcakes were deemed better tasting and with a lighter, fluffier texture than the traditional flour-based cupcakes. The whole experience was very validating and a big confidence booster.
LbR: In the past, you ran a special-order online bakery. What will change now that your storefront has opened?
KB: We have more than 60 cupcake flavors so when the bakery was custom-order only, we had to limit our customers to one cake flavor per dozen cupcakes, with a dozen cupcake minimum. Naturally, most people want to try a variety, which was difficult. There were days when I had to make 15 different kinds of cake and 40 different fillings and butter cream just to satisfy the orders. Because of that, I wasn’t able to also create some of the other pastries that will grace our menu, such as scones, tarts, pie bites, cake bites, cookies, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, and Angel Rolls.
Now, I’m thrilled that I’ll be able to offer a few set cupcake flavors, as well as a rotating array of the other desserts. Additionally, people can stop in at their leisure—no pre-ordering necessary—and buy a few of each item, instead of a whole dozen. And because we offer different specials every day, like Angel Roll Wednesdays and Doughnut Fridays, you can come in every single day and never get bored!
LbR: Can you leave us with one great gluten-free baking tip?
KB: This may sounds trite, but the very best tip I can share is to experiment. If you find a recipe you like, try playing with it. Instead of blueberries in a gluten-free muffin, try adding flax seed and marionberries, or dried apricots and pistachios, or chopped macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips. Some of my very best recipes evolved from mistakes. When I was first trying to create a shortbread cookie, I added too much butter. What I got was not shortbread, but a very nice pie crust! Change the name and serve it with a smile!