Restaurant: Bake Me Happy, Columbus, Ohio
Okay…technically this is not a restaurant. There is no open seating, no tables, no hostess…none of that. This is a bakery. Not just any bakery though. This bakery has huge kitchen space to work out of, and in turn, offers up quite a lot of gluten-free goodies in their store.
Bake Me Happy was started by the lovely Wendy and Letha, committing themselves to making each and every bite that you have from their products the most decadent thing you’ve had since sliced bread. Sliced bread, however, is not on their menu. After being self-diagnosed with gluten intolerance in 2006, Wendy immediately felt relieve from a life of digestive issues. The only problem was…the gluten-free food choices available lacked flavor and texture, seriously limiting what she would be willing to consume (and who can blame her!?). After many years of self-study, she decided to take the plunge and signed up for an immersion course at the Culinary Institute of America, experimenting with recipes and trying them out on unsuspecting friends. Soon, both friends and family began requesting her treats for parties, and none of them were gluten intolerant. From there, Wendy expanded and began offering her products to the public. And from the huge response she got from her goodies…Bake Me Happy, the bakery, was born. And because Wendy understands what it is like to have a food intolerance , you can guarantee that she takes great care and pride in the products that she puts out for the public. Not only does she understand the importance of what she does, she also knows that a perfect recipe cannot be rushed and that the best things in life are worth waiting for.
Just over a month ago, I wrote up a review on Bake Me Happy’s Cream-Filled Spongies (think Twinkies), which I found in the freezer at Raisin Rack in Columbus, Ohio. While they were…okay…they didn’t wow me. And in response to my post about their product, the owners very kindly invited me to check out the bakery the next time I was in the Columbus area. As one of my best friends lives in that area, I make the trip there numerous times a year. And…this past Halloween weekend…that was where you found me. And, I recalled their invite to check out what fresh goodness they had at their bakery, instead of a freezer at a natural foods store…so…that morning after breakfast, my friends and I journeyed over to their Merion Village retail location to check out what fresh goodies awaited.
First of all, I was completely blown away by the amount of space they had in there. HUGE location. I am so accustomed to my gluten free bakeries being little, tight spots that have a few seats and a small kitchen. Not to say they don’t turn out quite a lot of products (Annie May’s Sweet Cafe and Cherbourg Bakery, I’m looking at you!), but this kitchen space was unbelievable. You step inside and it’s just open and not congested, even if there is a line. It was nice. Their storefront contains a counter that was jammed full of fresh baked goodness, and a smaller fridge that kept items like their cheesecake bars and other dairy-based goodies chilled and fresh. It was organized. It was adorable. And I already knew I wanted one of their soft t-shirts before I left. HA!
So, after going back and forth on a few items (I really wanted one of the huge Apple Dumplings, but the roomie, who I was splitting everything with, was less enthusiastic), we finally got our turn at the counter and we made our selections, keeping it reasonable and promising to return to try more. So, four items. It was hard to narrow it down. In the end, we ended up going with a Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mummy Tart, a Pumpkin Spice Donut Muffin, a Lemon Blueberry Bundt, and (not pictured above because I devoured it on the car ride home) a Almond, Coconut & Chocolate Chip Scone. In addition to that (and for a later blog) I purchased a box of their Take-And-Bake scones in the Blueberry, Goat Cheese & Basil flavor (roomie’s choice!).
So, let’s start with what I ended up eating first. The (not pictured) Gluten Free Almond, Coconut & Chocolate Chip Scone ($3.50) sounded like a dream to me. Like…a baked treat version of an Almond Joy. Delicious, right? Absolutely right!! This is the first time I have had a gluten-free scone that lived up to the scone name. I make scones, but none of them get the layers of pastry, and that flaky and crumbly texture to them. This one had exactly that. It was the most perfect scone I have had since going gluten free. It had that hard outer layer and inside was a dry, crumbly, but not dense. More biscuit-like. I was in love. And the blend of the sweet coconut and chocolate with the nuttiness of the almond made for more love and praise than I can even convey in words here. Needless to say, the scone was devoured in record time. And I loved every single bite. I might have licked my fingers clean too. You can get Bake Me Happy’s Gluten Free Scones in the following flavors: Almond, Coconut and Chocolate Chip; Ham, Cheese and Chives; Maple Cream, Bacon and White Cheddar; Blueberry, Goat Cheese and Basil; Jalapeño, Pepper Bacon and Pepper Jack Cheese; Apricot, White Chocolate and Macadamia Nut; and Dill, White Cheddar and Stone Ground Mustard.
As I visited the bakery on Halloween, they had quite a few Halloween themed treats. One of these was the adorable Gluten Free Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mummy Tart ($3.50 (I think…)). I mean, come on…they are tarts that look like mummies. Eyes and everything. Bonus…pumpkin flavored. YUM YUM!! This was the first thing I ate the next day when I set out to devour half of each pastry (with my roommate, who is not gluten-free) consuming the other half and giving me her thoughts. I loved, loved, LOVED the light and flaky pastry that these tarts are made from. It reminded me of puff pastry…flaky, buttery, amazing, delicious, heavenly. And the pumpkin cream cheese filler was the perfect amount. Not too much. Not heavy handed. But just enough to make it feel like you were taking a bite out of an amazing pumpkin pie. I was in pumpkin-everything heaven, let me tell you!! So happy. The first thing I said to Cathy when I took a bite was, “OH MY GOD THIS PASTRY!” Blown away. This was the first pastry crust that has actually impressed me since I’ve been gluten free. Total win. Totally want another one…or ten.
The Gluten Free Lemon Blueberry Bundt ($4.50) was Cathy’s (the roomie) choice when it came to items that we selected. She is a sucker (see what I did there?) for anything lemon. So, I had a feeling when we were making our selections that she would go that route. Next time I want a flippin’ apple dumpling. Because I have never seen a gluten free apple dumpling before. But…no matter. The bundt cake was dense, but not heavy. I loved how moist and sticky good this little cake was. The blueberries brought a nice pop of sweetness. Cathy didn’t think there was enough lemon flavor in it, but I thought it struck a nice balance. The lemon was complimentary to the blueberry, not overpowering or underwhelming. Just right. I might have saved this for my last bite because, while dense, I found the texture quite light, airy, and amazing. And I thought the flavor was above and beyond what I expected. Crazy good.
And, last but not least, falling under the category that if it’s pumpkin I want to eat it…is the Gluten Free Pumpkin Donut Muffin ($3.00). Strangely enough, this turned out to be Cathy’s favorite thing that we bought at Bake Me Happy. I was shocked when she told me that. But, quite honestly, this was one of the most perfect gluten-free donut anythings that I’ve had in a long time. The texture was perfect. Not too dense, but not too light either. Perfect balance. The flavor was AMAZING. Seriously. It was pumpkin, and it was rolled in this fantastic cinnamon sugar topping that made each bite both savory and sweet and I loved it. I devoured each and every forkful. And I wish I had bought more of them. Pumpkin flavored or their standard donut muffin, it wouldn’t matter. This is the consistency of donuts that I’ve been searching for…for years now. Nailed it. And I loved it enough to lick the plate. No joke.
I have to say…fresh beats a freezer any day and Bake Me Happy sure did impress me with their fresh, made right there in the bakery, treats. There was so much to choose from and not enough room in my budget or stomach for all of it. That being said, I happily am ready to bake up some scones this weekend. And I can’t wait to add this place to my list of stops for every single time I visit Columbus, Ohio. I was beyond impressed. And the staff was so friendly and helpful. I didn’t get to meet the owners, as they were at the Celiac Conference that was going on (and that I didn’t know about until Friday as I was traveling), so hopefully next time I will be able to talk them up some.
If you are in or around Columbus, make it a point to drop by Bake Me Happy. Buy a shirt (they are SO SOFT!) and buy up their goodies. You won’t be disappointed. Not one bit. They certainly changed my tune. Fresh is best. And why not get some great gluten-free treats fresh out of the kitchen of a place that loves to bake up happiness?