The Baker's Dozen

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Is it just us, or are bakeries having a moment in Columbus? In the past few years, some of our favorite home-bakers have opened their own shops, joining the ranks of beloved pastry institutions like Pistacia Vera. No two shops are alike, crafting confections from croissants to birthday cakes, cinnamon rolls to chaussons. And, as we found, no two bakers at any of these 13 shops crave the same treats. Here, they divulge what goods they love to create and eat.

Russian Cream Cake

The one item I can't resist I don't make that much. It's a Russian Cream Cake. I've only made it 18 or 19 times since I started making it in 2003. You talk about cheesecake-forget about it. This is made of lady fingers, vanilla cream and topped with mandarin oranges and a drizzle of chocolate. It's a troublemaker for me. I could eat the whole thing by myself. The flavor of the vanilla combined with the citrus and orange-I am a vanilla guy. I am an orange guy. It's so light, you can eat it without feeling guilty. It's not overly sweet, but the flavor is outstanding. –Didier Alapini, owner, L'Appat Patisserie & Café

Creamsicle Cookies

This is my most hated question. For a while I asked people if they have kids or grandkids. Now I ask people, "Which is your favorite lung?" But if you are really pinning me into a corner, I'd go with any of our cream-filled sandwich cookies, which we do kind of seasonally. In March, we did a brownie with mint buttercream, and then a carrot cake cookie with cream cheese. Our Creamsicle Cookie (a summer special) is two orange, cake-y cookies filled with mascarpone cream-that cookie-icing combo, that is irresistible to me. Cookies are awesome already, and then you put icing on them. I don't even have the words, it's so delicious. –AJ Perry, owner, Sassafras Bakery

Citrus Lavender Muffin

The Citrus Lavender Muffin is where my head goes first. And it kind of has a little history. I got the recipe on a trip to London from a bakery called Cake Boy. It took some work to translate [the recipe to be gluten free]. What I like about it is that it's naturally dairy free and not super sweet. We started making it as cake first, then we turned it into a muffin. I wanted it as a little meal for people, something they can get quickly to go. We take lavender and grind it into the flour, then add orange zest. We make it every day, it's so popular. –Geri Peacock, owner, Cherbourg Bakery

Glazed Doughnut

It's our glazed doughnut. Our glazed doughnut hot out of the fryer. Don't eat it right away. Wait about 10 or 15 minutes, and then eat it, and it will just melt in your mouth. It's like if your mom makes a cookie at home-if you can get anything when it's still warm, there's just nothing like it. We have 200 to 300 kids coming in at 1 in the morning to get our fresh glazed doughnuts and a drink for $1.25. Those just taste so much different. We make the dough from scratch, cut it by hand, fry it by hand. There is no machinery involved. –Jeff Hamler, owner, Schneider's Bakery

Tollhouse Cookie

I can't resist when we have Classic Tollhouse Cookies out of the oven. It's a chocolate chip cookie with organic walnuts. They are amazing. I always end up eating one, even though I try not to. It's one of our first recipes. It was my favorite cookie as a fan coming in and getting treats for myself. It's a soft cookie. The walnuts give it an extra something a regular chocolate chip cookie doesn't have. Jennie [Scheinbach] developed the recipe from the classic Tollhouse cookie that comes on the chocolate chip bag. Then she vegan-ized it, and it became one our favorites. -Sarah Bryant, co-owner, Pattycake Bakery

Those fresh Tollhouse Cookies, when they are hot out of the oven, they are irresistible. But for me, it really depends on my mood and the day. I can't resist the Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes. That is my can't-resist-it. -Jennie Scheinbach, co-owner, Pattycake Bakery

Mango Mousse Cake

If I eat sweets, I like to eat something that makes me happy. If I eat from the bakery, I'm eating to feel happy. Our bakery makes bread and cake in the Japanese style. We bake bread with filling inside, like red bean paste that tastes sweet. It's popular with our Japanese customers. Our cake is what I recommend to our American customers. It looks like American style, but it tastes lighter, not too sweet. It's made with sponge cake and whipping cream and fruit. Our sponge cake is very soft. Many people pick up our Mango Mousse Cake-it tastes just like biting into a fresh mango. –Makoto Yamamoto, head baker, Belle's Bread


If I had to eat one thing, it would probably be our sourdough. It's amazing to me-every day these loaves start as this blobby starter, just flour, water, salt. Every day it produces these beautiful, chewy loaves of bread. That being said, I am really funny about it because I'll only really eat it when it's warm. (Owner) Kent Rigsby started the sourdough in San Francisco. The thing about our sourdoughs now, it doesn't seem quite as sour. That's because it tastes like Columbus now. Bread starters will absorb the atmosphere around it. We're not going to have a pungent, powerful sourdough like San Francisco. That's just not the way our natural yeast tastes here in Columbus. I can deal without cookies and muffins and cakes. But the sourdough, that's so good. –Adam Poland, head baker, Eleni-Christina Bakery

Lemon Cake

What I love is not sexy. It looks really bland, but then again I am not a petit four person. It's our Lemon Cake. Each one has the zest of 12 lemons in it. It's very tart and there's no icing. It tastes like fresh lemons. It's absolutely my favorite desert. I had this idea in 1999. I made a lemon cake and didn't like it-it wasn't lemony enough. So I reworked the recipe. It was so tart and wonderful. It goes with almost nothing, except maybe a dollop of whipped cream. It's really strong, really intense, and that's the flavor I personally like. We sell it by the piece. People often think it's cornbread if they don't see the sign. If I'm sad, I want that lemon cake. It's something that makes you feel like you are eating summer. Lemon is one of the best flavors there is. –Amy Lozier, owner, Omega artisan Bakery


You think I would go with something sweet, but I tell you, my immediate response: If we have leftover scones, it's so, so hard for me to resist taking one off the tray. They are layered and moist, and we have a variety of different flavors, like maple cream, bacon and white cheddar. I don't indulge in our sweets so I can have a little savory treat-and my excuse is I can eat it for lunch. The ham, cheese and chive-that one I always hope there are leftovers. But I'm also guilty of taking one before they are all gone. We have one with cinnamon that kills me, too. I definitely have a love affair with our scones right now. –Wendy Miller Pugh, owner, Bake Me Happy

Cinnamon Roll

The Cinnamon Roll, always and forever. I grew up with all the women in my family, all of them made cinnamon rolls the Midwest way-really pillow-y and covered in icing. I grew up eating those. In our version, we use brioche dough, which I think makes it better. I like a very bready cinnamon roll. I don't like too much cinnamon, strangely, and, for me, there's this perfect period of time between when the cinnamon roll comes out of the oven and when it's cooled when you should ice it. I'm really not [a sweets person], but there was a period of time when I was having at least three cinnamon rolls a week. Every single day, when I am icing the cinnamon rolls and pulling them apart, I have this overwhelming urge to eat one. –Lauren Culley, co-owner and baker, Fox in the Snow Cafe

Cinnamon Sticks

Our cinnamon sticks. That's our No. 1 seller. It's a secret recipe we've been making since 1958. We still bake everything from scratch. Last year, we made 85,000. We ship them all around the country. It's like the best part of the inside of a cinnamon roll-the part you always save to eat at the end. They are chewy, layered and we make them fresh every single day. People would riot if we ever stopped making them. It's what we take to people. We take it for all special occasions. When someone walks in and says they have never been in before, we give them a cinnamon stick for free. They taste it, and then we have a customer for life. –Debbie Smith, owner, the original Goodie Shop


The one thing I absolutely eat every time is the Florentine. It's just so complex and beautiful and it invites you to eat it with these pistachios and cranberries and orange peel. It's supposed to look like these little mosaics. I have a love-hate relationship with them because it's really annoying to make. There's a sense of accomplishment, too. I candy my own citrus peel for it, and that takes a while. Back when I was baking out of my home, I did cookie boxes for friends. I wanted to do something with a whole lot of caramel that would last a while because I was going to mail some off. I upped the caramel and omitted some ingredients, and added the candied orange peel because I had some on hand. Then I had friends saying, "Why didn't you send me a whole box of that?" It became a signature, and now we sell it by the bag. –Jonas Laughlin, owner, Laughlin's Bakery

Rye Croissant

I gravitate toward food and pastry that has very few ingredients and is very technique driven-food that has a story, food that transports me somewhere. Croissants are handmade, a pastry that's done with care. Eating one transports me to France. It's something so simple; a little sweetness because of the caramelization, but it's so balanced with the salt content. I love our Rye Croissant probably more than anything. I think we're very true to tradition of the technique. We've taken the element out of a dark rye, almost pumpernickel bread, and incorporated it into the dough. It doesn't bastardize the texture but incorporates something a little unexpected. I always pair it with our orange apricot preserves. –Spencer Budros, co-owner, Pistacia Vera

Photos: Tim Johnson and Will Shilling