In a Bite
In Hillcrest, baking goddess and chemistry wizard Jaime Schwartz meticulously creates scrumptious bakery classics without gluten, eggs, butter, or any of the top ten allergens.
Schwartz understands her customers, because of her own experiences with food allergies.
After graduating from culinary school, Schwartz landed a terrific job and well-earned accolades. Then one day she was in the kitchen working with marzipan when her throat closed up. She was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with a severe, adult-onset food allergy to almonds and cashews.
“I was a hermit, too afraid to go outside. All of us have something we turn to when times get rough to make them happy. For me, it’s always been baking.” She started experimenting with nut-free recipes. “That was easy. Then I moved on to gluten-free, dairy free, and egg free baking. It was a challenge, but that’s exactly what I needed.”
Since opening the bakery in 2011, love and diligence have gone into everything Starry Lane bakes.
In 2017, Starry Lane moved from Santee to Hillcrest. The new, larger location allows the menu to continue to expand and provides the flexibility of more storage space, which is vital for a bakery committed to sourcing each ingredient in bulk from separate vendors, while keeping the prices reasonable and products safe from cross-contamination.
Friendly staff patiently answer questions in the cheerful space where quotes proclaiming Dessert makes everything better float like clouds on periwinkle blue walls. Around shabby chic tables, families laugh as they share bites of their goodies.
I watched through the window as a family of four skipped arm in arm toward the bright blue and white striped awning. I understood their smiles. For those used to doing without because of food allergies, Starry Lane is a haven of inclusivity, a place to have your cake and eat it too, without fear of getting sick.
“Safety is non-negotiable,” explained Schwartz. “I look parents in the eye every day and tell them sincerely I know where every ingredient is sourced and that their child will be safe here.” Her dedication to quality ingredients is meticulous. “I don’t trust websites. I require iron-clad written statements from each supplier before using their products.”
No outside food or drink is allowed on the premises in order to keep the space completely free from allergens.
A glass case brims with brownies, cookies, muffins, tortes, petite bundt cakes, beautifully piped cupcakes in seasonal flavors, and shining glazed fruit tarts. “We’re going a little crazy with fresh fruit right now,” Schwartz said, explaining her excitement at having recently found a vendor who handles produce completely separate from nuts.
Schwartz believes that customers shouldn’t have to sacrifice taste, no matter their dietary restrictions, so her team tests many of the recipes for years in order to get them right before putting them in the case for customers to taste. At any given time, a dozen new recipes are usually in development.
Her seasonal items ensure customers can fully participate in the holidays. For Easter, she is offering egg-shaped tortes in lemon or sweet strawberry and her renowned dinner rolls, which are so laborious to make that they only appear three times a year, will be available for Easter on Saturday, April 20.
Schwartz is used to concerns and questions. She so she provides brochures that list every ingredient for every product on offer.
What to Order
According to Schwartz, other customer favorites range depending on food allergy.
For gluten-free patrons, pretzel rolls are king. The dark rolls, cut at the top and sprinkled with pretzel salt, offer an addictive mix of the chew of soft pretzels and warm dinner rolls. Lift one to your nose and take in the almost sourdough smell.
Another favorite are the generously sized cinnamon rolls. Only available on the weekend, the rolls are twisted with cinnamon and topped with a just-right drizzle of glaze.
Those with egg allergies find lemon bars a surprising delight. Cupcakes topped with light, fluffy buttercream are most ordered by people who can’t eat dairy, along with the lemon raspberry torte, a springy cake topped with lemon and a pink drizzle of raspberry compote.