By TRILBY BERESFORD | Reporter
Photography by RICH SCHMITT | Staff Photographer
“‘Cake for breakfast,’ that’s sort of … our motto,” shared a smiling Claire Thomas, perched in front of the generous sampling that Sweet Laurel: Cake, Coffee + Tea had just provided to the Palisadian-Post at its first retail store in Palisades Village.
She and her co-captain, Laurel Gallucci, do recognize that cake is not traditionally a breakfast food; its presence as an option in the morning ritual is made possible by the fact that Sweet Laurel cakes are free of dairy, grains and refined sugar.
“We believe in using ingredients that work for you,” Thomas clarified. The website explains their mission perfectly: “It’s about loving the food you eat instead of punishing yourself for craving it.”
Childhood friends Thomas and Gallucci grew up in Santa Monica and frequented Pacific Palisades during extracurricular activities. “We were history nerds,” Thomas recalled, adding that they were especially interested in Los Angeles history and the personal histories of impactful women in their families and friend circles.
Sweet Laurel came into existence after Gallucci, who began her career as a schoolteacher and Pilates instructor, was struck by an auto-immune disorder that required a dramatic change of eating habits. “I found healing through food,” she said. This healing journey involved making cakes that were devoid of refined sugar—surprisingly, they proved to be a hit with everyone who taste-tested them.
Thomas, who had been working as a personal chef, food stylist and food blogger, was one of the guinea pigs. They quickly seized the chance to collaborate. “Cake is her love language,” Thomas said, referring to Gallucci and the significance of her culinary discoveries.
Included in our sampling (that took place at the late breakfast time of 11 a.m.) was the Chocolate Caramel Cake, referred to by Thomas and Gallucci as “the cake that changed everything.” It was perfectly moist and flavorful without summoning the nasty heaviness that often occurs after consuming chocolate cake.
This was followed by Lemon Coconut Cake with layers of lemon curd (my personal favorite) and a Lemon Poppyseed Muffin, both scrum-diddly-umptious.
As the menu is partly inspired by their enjoyment of tea parties, a pastime they share with their mothers, Sweet Laurel offers a comprehensive coffee and tea program in collaboration with local roaster Caffe Luxxe.
Included in the caffeine department are an array Superfood Lattes, a standout being the Collagen Breakfast Coffee with drip coffee, homemade vanilla date syrup, cinnamon and coconut milk. Gallucci swears by this concoction, noting that the date syrup serves as a natural sweetener that blends seamlessly in the coffee.
The coconut milk as an alternative to dairy is also a very conscious choice. “Coffee is high in antioxidants [that are essential for our body to fight illnesses], but when you add dairy milk, it decreases the antioxidant effects,” Thomas explained.
Among the tea options is decaf Hibiscus Rose, which appears as an aesthetically pleasing hot pink tea. “We love floral flavors in food,” Thomas expressed proudly.
One of the most thoughtful aspects of Sweet Laurel is its entire menu configuration: Children and adults with nut allergies, gluten-free requirements and diabetic dietary restrictions are able to choose numerous food and beverage items on the menu, as well as breastfeeding mothers.
For those daring souls who feel inspired to attempt baking their own cake, kits with 100% Cacao Chocolate, gluten-free Vegan Caramel, Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Mix and Grain Free Vanilla Extract are available for purchase.
Looking ahead to Sweet Laurel’s bright future, the team is focusing on becoming a morning destination with assorted muffins, such as Vegan Banana Choc Chip, accompanying the gourmet tea and coffee.
Fall-specific items will appear on the menu starting Nov. 1, with their version of a pecan pie with dates and maple, among other goodies.
As a follow-up to their cookbook, “Sweet Laurel,” Thomas and Gallucci are releasing a savory cookbook in spring 2020. We can look forward to sandwich breads, dinner rolls, bagels, cheese boards and a section on feasting with full meal recipes.
The dynamic pair, color-coordinated against the gentle roses that adorn the white walls of their store, expressed great pleasure at being situated in Pacific Palisades, where their most loyal customers request items of the “secret menu,” sometimes with a newborn baby under their wing.
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