Meet Sweet Laurel, The Bakery Behind L.A.’s Healthiest Floral Cakes
It was a sunny afternoon in Los Angeles when Laura Braun and I first paid a visit to the cozy bungalow where Laurel Gallucci—one-half of Sweet Laurel Bakery—showed us how she makes one of her company’s signature layered flower cakes. It was January at the time, and one of things we had been discussing on our walk through the neighborhood en route to Gallucci’s house was the rising demand for well-made baked goods. “Gluten-free” and “sugar-free” have long been buzzwords in the increasingly paleo and vegan-centric food world, but cakes adorned with flowers and herbs—a symbolic nod at the plant-focused ingredients that desserts can be made from—is a very compelling idea in 2016.
Sweet Laurel Bakery publishes new recipes on their website every Friday– a practice that has earned them favorable recognition from likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Martha Stewart. Since Southern California was the birthplace of the “whole foods” movement, it seemed only fitting that we’d pay a visit to a baker who we felt was doing really exciting work and sourcing very high quality ingredients (think: organic eggs, organic almond flour, Himalayan pink salt, and frosting that is both paleo and vegan). Plus, we loved the floral decorations that often top Sweet Laurel’s cakes, as this is currently one of our team’s design obsessions.
“Before Sweet Laurel Bakery, I had been working as a school teacher, and my partner [Claire Thomas of The Kitchy Kitchen] was tired of gluten-free brownies that tasted like cardboard,” Gallucci tells us on the day of our visit, mixing a bowl of beautiful red jam that she soon spoons over each layer of her cake. “She was like, ‘Wow, your chocolate cake actually tastes like chocolate cake’”– no small feat considering that Sweet Laurel’s confections are all grain-free, refined sugar-free, and dairy-free. They only use coconut, almond, and hazelnut flour, and everything is organic– always. (“If we can’t get organic almonds,” Gallucci tells us, “we use hazelnuts. We’re really strict about that…”)
“Cakes adorned with flowers and herbs—a symbolic nod at the plant-focused ingredients that desserts can be made from—is a very compelling idea in 2016.”
Part of this has to do with the accessibility of high quality food alternatives like almond meal and coconut oil– items that didn’t really exist in the popular lexicon ten years ago, which now have become household ingredients used by foodies worldwide. Sweet Laurel, however, takes this attention to epicurean detail a step further: “All nut extracts have gluten in them, for example, because they are made with vodka, which is 80% wheat,” Gallucci tells us. “So we use tequila, which comes from agave, so our vanilla extract is the only vanilla extract you can buy that’s from alcohol and not vegetable glycerin that is also 100% gluten-free.”
Gallucci, who came to the world of grain-free, sugar-free baking after being struck with an aggressive auto-immune disorder, was sporting a floral apron and a friendly smile as she welcomed us into her home. She had done the baking portion of her cake assembly before our arrival, and her vintage-styled living room smelled like sweet, delicious almonds.
“I feel like we were at the right place at the right time,” Gallucci recalls of her decision to found a wellness-focused bakery, “because the Wellness Industry is poppin‘ right now,” she laughs. “And people really love eating treats that are healthy,” she continues.
In the course of our visit we also get into a surprisingly deep conversation about health, during which Gallucci reminds us of all the studies out there that suggest that 90% of most illnesses are caused by inflammation and stress, which is a humble reminder to us that’s always worth remembering– in any conversation about food and healthy eating– that quality and comfort matter. You can’t ignore your health. We like Sweet Laurel’s cakes because they’re beautiful and they appeal to our floral sensibilities, but ultimately, the ingredients are thoughtful and the quality is never compromised, which is what brought us into the kitchen in the first place. We’d support anything that Sweet Laurel makes– so when Gallucci asks us if she should add more rose petals to the top of the cake, naturally, we said yes.