I had heard about Crave Bake Shop from a friend in the North West who swore that Crave’s cupcakes were better than any others in the universe – and that clearly, owner Kyra Bussanich had sold her soul for some kind of G-Free baking secrets. After I saw Kyra mow down the competition on Food Network, and I found out that she ships anywhere in the US – I thought I’d better get in on the scoop. After talking with the Le Cordon Bleu grad about ManCakes, kitchen lessons, Cinnamon Rolls and Cream Puffs, I’m seriously considering moving to Portland to be her new best friend. That’s not weird, is it?
You lucky Portland folks can visit her new store at 460 SW Fifth Street, Lake Oswego, OR 97034. The rest of you should order online. Right now.
Tell me about Crave Bake Shop! Are you feeding all the G-Free Foodies in Portland?
I’m feeding all the G-Free Foodies, and a lot of gluten-eating foodies as well! People will be at an event eating my cupcakes or cinnamon rolls and ask for cards and then place orders for their parties and celebrations. Half the time, they weren’t even aware that what they were eating is gluten-free. They just thought it was a delicious little treat.
It was very difficult going through the Patisserie and Baking program—and making breads, cakes and pies— that I couldn’t even eat. Most days, I’d come home hungry, since I hadn’t been snacking on our projects all day, and I would try to recreate whatever we had been making in class, but with a gluten free twist. Having the Le Cordon Bleu background was key in teaching me the functions of specific ingredients (like the gluten in flour) and it gave me a great understanding of how to effectively substitute ingredients without sacrificing flavor or texture.
It was very surreal. I am a Food Network addict and had seen the show multiple times so it was strange to actually be there in person. The kitchen is a whole lot larger than it looks on tv!
Candice Nelson, the Founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes & Cupcake Wars Judge, said “I think you guys are magical Gluten Free elves…I can’t even tell these are Gluten Free” when she tasted your cupcakes. How did it feel to get a review like that from the Grand Dame of the current cupcake craze?
I was absolutely twinkling when she praised my cupcakes! I had been very nervous—I know my products are good, but you never know how someone who can eat gluten will react—especially since so many gluten-free products have a bad reputation. As soon as she started to speak, though, I was grinning from ear to ear and felt more relaxed. It was very validating to hear the Queen of Cupcakes laud MY cupcakes!
We definitely offer dairy free options. My favorite is the Hot Chocolate cupcake: dairy free moist chocolate cake topped with housemade toasted marshmallow meringue. You don’t miss the gluten OR the dairy! We do use dairy (and eggs and nuts) in our other products, though we are very careful and thoroughly clean and sanitize every piece of equipment after each use.
Well, as soon as we figure out a good, refrigerated method of shipping, I’ll have to send you some! Yes, we are shipping cupcakes and cinnamon rolls (and are working on better shipping and packaging methods so that we can ship more of our products).
We are playing with several more exotic flavors: Tres Leches, Green Tea Pomegranate, Thai Tea, Mexican Mocha. We are also working on a boozy ManCake (for those aged 21 and up). In the non-cupcake side of things, we have bar cookies (Chocolate Hazelnut, Peanutbutter and Jam), cookies (Chocolate Vanilla Creme sandwich cookies, Skinny Minties), baked doughnuts, and Angel Rolls which are truly divine! Sweet roll dough filled with a dot of cream cheese frosting in the center, spread with housemade raspberry jam and rolled up and baked and then glazed. I try not to make them too often because I end up eating a half a dozen by myself. We are playing with some savory rolls as well.
Mushrooms sauteed in a little white wine and garlic over polenta with a side salad. I usually just use the storebought tubes of polenta and sauté slices in a little butter and olive oil. Fantastic and fast! I should add that my husband makes the best salads: the key is to add whatever you have in the fridge for dimension and depth. We usually add slices of apple, dried currants, chopped almonds or pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and chevre or parmesan and then drizzle the whole thing with a homemade vinaigrette.
Gerolsteiner (sparkling German mineral water). The minerals in it keep me energized and the effervescence just makes me happy.
I can’t narrow it to just one or two, so how about five very important ones?
#1: When trying a new recipe for the first time, always read through the entire recipe before you begin baking. I remember one time making arancini (Italian risotto balls, usually stuffed with cheese and pan fried or deep fried) for a party and was on a tight timeline. I finished making the risotto and poured it into a pan and then realized that I should have let the risotto sit in the refrigerator overnight. Oops. We ended up eating the best hot risotto instead.
#2: Preheat the oven to the correct temperature before you start measuring. Which brings us to
#3: Always pre-measure your ingredients before you start mixing so you know if you are short on an essential ingredient. It’s also very helpful to have your butter and eggs and milk at room temperature because they incorporate into the batter more easily. Additionally, cold eggs won’t whip up as well as eggs that are room temperature.
#4: Check your baked goods before the timer goes off (I always say: “Check early and check often.”). Ovens are rarely consistent and you’d much rather pull something out early and have it be perfectly baked, then wait until a recipe tells you your cake should be finished.
#5: And to tell if your baked good is finished, I like the spring test as well as the toothpick test. For the spring test, use your (clean) ring finger to lightly touch the center of your cake or baked good. If it leaves an indentation, or is still wet, the product needs more time in the oven. If it springs back, then I check with a toothpick or wooden skewer. Straight down and straight out. The toothpick should be clean, with no batter clinging to it.
And for a bonus 6th tip: Don’t be afraid to experiment and play! Trying new flavors, and adding unexpected ingredients, is how I came up with Lavender Outrageous, Orange Tarragon, and Lemongrass Basil cupcakes and Angel Rolls.