Sweet Laurel is a story of friendship and passion, told not through words, but through cake. It’s our story.
Let’s back up. Baking has always created memories for us. Laurel’s love of baking started when she was four or five years old. She made banana bread with her mom, and tasting the batter, was instantly hooked. Her nanny let her help make homemade snacks, and with her grandfather she made stacks of pancakes that were so tall, she couldn’t see over them. Baking became her hobby, and soon she was old enough to gain freedom in the kitchen.
Ten years later, Laurel had shelves of cookbooks and stacks of culinary magazines, the covers threadbare from flipping pages thousands of times. But her love for baking came to a dramatic halt when her life was rocked by the derailing diagnosis of an autoimmune condition, Hashimoto’s disease, and a digestive disorder. The doctor told her she would never eat chocolate cake again. But Laurel’s desire to bake remained, so she refused to accept that answer. How could she enjoy the life ahead without grains, especially gluten, dairy, and refined sugar? After all, nearly all Laurel’s homemade recipes contained at least one of these now-forbidden ingredients.
Laurel’s distress did not last long. Soon she learned the beauty of whole food ingredients: almonds, coconut, cacao, organic eggs, dates . . . and many more she never imagined could play a role in baking. She began making treats with the foods that nourished her, keeping the recipes simple. Laurel found that when working with nutrient-dense foods, fillers, thickeners, and other undesirable additions were not necessary. With just seven to ten staple ingredients, Laurel created recipes that brought back memories of her childhood baking, but they were so much more nourishing.
A few months later, Laurel shared a grain-free, refined-sugar-free, dairy-free chocolate caramel cake with her friend Claire. Laurel was an educator and home baker and Claire was a food blogger, so we had connected over a love of emotional baking. Claire has no food allergies or sensitivities, so when Laurel offered her the slice of cake, she didn’t provide any context. While Claire was licking her fork, Laurel smiled and asked, “So, you liked it?”
Then Laurel dropped the bomb. This delicious chocolate caramel cake with fudge frosting was completely devoid of what Claire thought were her favorite ingredients. It was wholesome, nutritious, and autoimmune friendly. Claire was floored—she had been constantly disappointed by gluten-free or vegan baked options, and was a self-described carb snob. The textures and flavors always seemed a bit off, like a photocopy of a photocopy of the thing they claimed to be. That was the moment when we knew we had to do more with that chocolate cake.
With our mouths full and plates clean, we decided to start a bakery together: Sweet Laurel.
The next few months were spent baking, tasting, and then baking some more. Inspired by the simple recipes Laurel had developed, Claire began decorating the cakes with small bouquets of edible flowers. Anything too fussy or polished just didn’t feel right. Our naked cakes, with luscious frosting, fresh jam, or gooey caramel dripping down the sides, were topped with a few organic roses, blossoming herbs, or whatever we could find at the farmer’s market. The Sweet Laurel Look—simple, feminine, and a bit romantic—was set.
But at that point we were still just two girlfriends and a bunch of cakes. We discovered what would set Sweet Laurel apart at a lunch hosted by designer and tastemaker Jenni Kayne. We weren’t just going to drop off some cakes for the ladies to enjoy; we were going to teach a class as well. Claire had done some demos at Jenni’s before and Laurel’s previous career was as a teacher, so we figured this experiment would be fun. We were an intimate eight sitting on kitchen stools around Jenni’s counter, making it more like hanging out with girlfriends than a typical class. As the class went on, we were peppered with questions: What’s the benefit of using coconut oil? Is grain-free the same as gluten-free? Why doesn’t everything taste like maple syrup if we’re using it in everything? Laurel answered all the questions with ease. The women marveled at our simple two-step method for baking the cake, and passed slices around to taste. Leftovers were promptly wrapped up for them to share with their children at home.
As we were cleaning up, one of the guests stopped by on her way out. “Do you guys do private classes?” We glanced at each other and in unison replied, “Yes!” We hadn’t really discussed it, but as people asked us about sharing recipes, catering children’s birthday parties, and hosting private classes, we realized something important was going on. We weren’t opening a bakery for anonymous customers to grab a slice of cake; we were providing a service. You know what they say: “Give a girl a cake and she’ll eat for one day. Teach a girl to bake and . . .”
We discovered that education and empowerment were becoming the cornerstones of our business. Without them, Sweet Laurel would just be another bakery—one that happens to be grain-free. It’s our constant interaction and relationships with customers, their needs, and their questions that define who we are as a company. This cookbook is a continuation of that dynamic. For everyone who can’t make it to a workshop or a private class, we have collected our recipes and knowledge in this book. Our secrets, our tips, our experiences—they’re all here.
From the beginning, Sweet Laurel has been about making sweet things simple. We aim to take the drama and judgment out of the healthy living experience by providing our customers with beautiful, delicious, and satisfying desserts; our followers with easy recipes and tips; and our community with workshops and classes. Our goal is to create an empowering, transformative, and sweet experience that makes you excited to take your next bite. Our food is indulgent yet healthful. It’s about loving the food you eat instead of punishing yourself for craving it.
Our book will give you an outlet to enjoy great-tasting grain-free, gluten-free, refined-sugar-free, dairy-free, gum-free, soy-free, and filler-free recipes that benefit your body. All of our treats are paleo, and some are vegan, raw, or nut-free as well. We’ve marked those that are vegan and nut-free with symbols at the tops of the recipes: V and NF. Most of the recipes revolve around five core ingredients, and none of them are the wacky additives you find in most “healthy” desserts. Whether you’re looking for a simpler way to bake, a better approach to dessert, or a solution to an allergy that has prevented you from enjoying sweets, we want to change the way you bake.
Copyright © 2018 by Laurel Gallucci and Claire Thomas; Foreword by Lauren Conrad. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.