Daphna Ron, owner of Cakelab, talks frosting, frustration, and using the right kind of flour. By Samantha Cummings.
Early bird or night owl? “I run the business with my brother Eyal. I would say we are both definitely night owls who just learned to be early birds. It took us six months, moving our schedules back a little bit, a little bit. We get up between 3 and 4:30 in the morning to get the stuff baked and ready to open at 9.”
Favorite accessory? “Frosting (my favorite is lemon zest-infused cream cheese) and our favorite accessory to the accessory is sprinkles.”
Favorite faux pas? “Making a cake that is too beautiful for someone to want to take a slice out of.”
Who is your dream customer? “The person who has had the option to go to restaurants that have gluten free menus, but the kitchen would still be cross-contaminated. They would be the people who come in here and feel totally safe and comfortable and excited about the options. We’ve had those people come in and say, ‘There’s nowhere for us to eat. The closest place is all the way up in Oracle.’ My customers are exactly me. I opened this place because there was no place for me to eat.
“I’m a cake decorator by trade and I was diagnosed with celiac disease about ten years ago. I had these instances where there would be flour in the air and I’d get sick. The doctor said I could wear a mask and other options to change professions, but that wasn’t really an option to me. So, I worked for a little while at Whole Foods over on Speedway and they let me experiment a lot with alternative baking. So when I felt ready and construction ended on 4th Avenue, we got this amazing space and decided to do it.”
If I weren’t the owner of Cakelab I would… “I play in a band, called Sock! Fight. I’d tour with the band, but I’m very happy owning Cakelab.”
If I could change one thing I would… “I would have tried to get a place with a bigger kitchen with more space to work, but at the same time, I don’t want to change locations and this was the only option.”
“We did all this preparation of baking and testing our breads to be exactly the way we wanted them and I’d say a good 20-30 percent of the people that come in say, ‘Well, what do you have that’s dairy free?’ Because I have celiac disease and not an allergy to wheat, it wasn’t obvious to me that milk and wheat are complimentary allergies that go together. So, people who have the allergy to wheat seem to have intolerance to dairy. If I had researched or known that, then we would be prepared with vegan or at least dairy-free options for these people.”
* Cakelab is at 402 E. 4th Street. As well as a variety of pastries, cakes, cupcakes, breads, sandwiches and soups – all gluten-free – it also features and sells the work of local artists, and presents live music on weekends. Visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Cakelabtucson.