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Cake Bake Shop: An Old-Time Bakery with Modern Flair

Nov 12, 2014 08:59PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
Hankering for something sweet? You'll find classic old-fashioned cakes and pastries - and discover some new treats - at the popular Cake Bake Shop, a neighborhood favorite in North Manhattan Beach.

"This shop is basically an old-time bakery done with a modern flair," says owner and baker Laura Mandracchia, as she displays some of the bakery's new bombolini (Italian jam-filled donuts). Everything is fresh at the bakery - there's no freezer in the shop -  so items like blueberry scones only appear when fresh blueberries are in season. "If it's not fresh, we don't have it," she adds.

Mandracchia, a pastry chef and San Francisco native, worked at the shop before taking ownership in 2011. She now delights in teaching customers about classic baked goods and opening their minds to new tastes. "I feel like it's sort of my duty - a joyful duty - to make sure that people eat the best treat they can," she says with a mischievous smile. "I'll tell them, 'This is what an oatmeal cookie should taste like.'"

Mandracchia changes the menu around frequently, which she says is a reflection of both listening to people's requests and her desire to try new things. The croissants came about because she realized that no other bakers in the area were making traditional hand-made croissants. ("It's a 7-hour process," she notes.) After several rounds of experimentation, she invited her Twitter and Instagram followers to come in to the bakery for taste-testing.

She also rolled out the new bombolini after several customer requests. "People came in wanting a doughnut...I thought I'd give them something better," she says. "I'm the kind of person who's like, 'Let's just try everything.'"

The bakery also does a large amount of cakes for birthdays and other celebrations. One elegant cake was recently showcased on The Southern California Bride. Another whimsical birthday cake featured a basketball, broccoli, and kale (yes, broccoli and kale - created from fondant). "We're trying to be the local artisan bakeshop that does crazy custom work," says Mandracchia.

Cake Bake Shop appears to have earned a permanent place in the hearts of the tight-knit North Manhattan Beach/El Porto community, with a stream of locals and visitors stopping by throughout the day. "The community has been so awesome - embracing and learning who we are," says Mandracchia. Several neighborhood kids also help out at the store, under Mandracchia's watchful eye. "They stamp bags, they cut out fondant, one local kid taught himself how to use the iPad register...Kids feel very comfortable in here," she says.

And it's not just kids who feel comfortable in the bakery - Mandracchia has a dedicated following of customers who can tell from just a whiff of the scent coming from the bakery what she's been cooking that day. She'll even get texts from regulars asking if she'll hold a coveted cinnamon bun for them for the next morning. Just don't show up after noon on a weekend asking if there are any left - they'll have been gone for hours.

Cake Bake Shop is located at 3319 Highland Ave., Manhattan Beach, 90266. 310-545-2253.

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