A sign near the door of this bakery promises all goods are free of gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, tree nuts, and peanuts. What’s left? I’m forced to wonder.
3925 Fourth Ave, Hillcrest
Starry Lane Bakery originally opened out in Santee, developing a reputation for gluten free plus pastries, cookies, and breads, particularly pretzel rolls. A couple years back it responded to rising demand by moving to this larger operation in Hillcrest.
It’s still not very big. I barely noticed its blue and white striped awning, a couple storefronts north of University. But the added kitchen space allows the place to bake more items daily, including pies, cakes, and holiday candy. There were dozens of sweets on display within its glass counters, and while browsing I could only marvel that the gorgeous torts, cookies, and cupcakes within contained neither butter nor wheat.
In fact, Starry Lane is a strict allergen free zone. In addition to the aforementioned, the bakery and its ingredients are one hundred percent free and clear of all the country’s top ten food allergens. While it typically goes without saying that baked goods remain free of fish or shellfish, these also remain free of recent additions to the allergen ranks, mustard and sesame. So dedicated are the owners to the sanctity of their space, they prohibit all outside food and drink, lest there be unintended crumbs, spills, or misunderstandings.
Zeroing in on a tray of cinnamon rolls ($5.50), I discovered at least two ingredients the bakery is not afraid to use: cinnamon and sugar. A thick, surgery glaze atop the rolls make them incredibly sweet. While I missed the earthy, nutty taste of wheat to balance it out, I was pleased to discover that the best part of a cinnamon roll, its moist center ring, proved every bit as gooey and doughy as I’d hoped.
Even better was a large, chocolate chunk cookie ($2.50). It had a touch more chew than crumble, and tasted of oats, but otherwise I would not consider it much different from the products of a conventional bakery. Starry Lane’s web site notes it (currently) uses processed sugar, which some vegans apparently disavow because it’s filtered with animal bone char. I’d say that fact alone keeps these from being the best vegan cookies I’ve ever eaten.
Also not bad: the cupcakes ($4.50). Again, the icing proved very sweet (I recommend eating all of the above with coffee or whatever milk/milk substitute you might keep at home). However, the cake was moist, with a decent bit of crumble. I opted for a s’mores cupcake, topped by a marshmallow, itself quite an allergen free accomplishment.
I’ve certainly had better cake in my life, but then I’m luckily not averse to gluten, eggs, or dairy. Were I determined for any reason to avoid such things, I’m not sure I could do much better than Starry Lane.