If you’re seeking out sweets for the holidays — or really any time of year, check out the mouth-watering cakes, cookies and other goodies at Just Baked SLO in Santa Margarita.
Owner Annie Farrell has had a passion for food since childhood, but she didn’t immediately mix it into her career plans. Taking a page from her family’s printing business, she graduated from Cal Poly with a graphic communication degree, worked for a local design firm and co-founded a sign/graphics business.
In between those two jobs, she landed what she has called her “dream opportunity” — a gig as a line cook at a respected Central Coast restaurant. That position not only gained Farrell valuable culinary experience, but also a friend/co-worker with whom she would go on to launch Just Baked SLO in 2010.
“It started out as just a cookie delivery service to Cal Poly students,” remembered Farrell. When her business partner stepped away in 2012, “I just decided to run with it,” she said.
The cookie that started it all — still a customer favorite — is aptly named the Flagship Chocolate Chip. By no means a diminutive cookie, it’s chock full of semi-sweet chocolate, bittersweet chocolate and housemade toffee.
Until recently, Just Baked SLO operated out of the kitchen of a local catering company. Farrell leased the space by the hour. But as her menu expanded and the business grew, it was time to start looking for her own digs.
She found a suitable spot in Santa Margarita, tucked beside the Ancient Peaks Winery tasting room. After a six-month remodel to change it from a former microbrewery into a bakery, Just Baked SLO opened the week after Christmas in 2014.
Though Farrell is always coming up with new goodies for the Santa Margarita pastry bar, she maintains a “core menu” of customer favorites that are always available (unless they sell out that day). Leading that charge is the Flagship Chocolate Chip, and it’s flanked by classic lemon bars, salted caramel brownies and toasted coconut Rice Krispie treats with brown butter and sea salt.
On any given day, the rest of the Just Baked SLO treats might include Rainbow Brite cookies adorned with colorful sprinkles, chocolate chip cookie dough truffles, peanut butter brittle cookies and seasonal fruit scones or spiced oatmeal raisin cookies. This is a dangerous place to walk into when you’re hungry.
Farrell also offers Just Baked SLO retail products: a devil’s food cake and cupcake mix, Meyer lemon curd and blackberry jam. The lemons come from Birch-Hill Organics in Atascadero, and the blackberries from Hunt Family Farm in San Luis Obispo.
“I’ve always wanted to have my own line of products using local produce,” said Farrell. In the spirit of supporting other local food purveyors, she also sells Therabee Culinary Honey from Atascadero, Grrrnola from San Luis Obispo, and Spearhead Coffee from Paso Robles.
In addition to the retail pastry bar goodies, Just Baked SLO creates wedding and celebration cakes and cupcakes. (Holiday pies — caramel apple, maple pumpkin and honey bourbon pecan — will be available via pre-order as well.)
Custom orders are always welcome, or opt for such specialty cakes as a Mexican Mocha chocolate cake with spiced chocolate ganache and mocha buttercream frosting, a layered Chai Spice vanilla cake frosted with spiced vanilla buttercream, and a layered Belgian Waffle brown sugar butter cake with maple butter cream frosting.
“My cakes are refined, but vintage. I’m not doing themed or fondant cakes,” noted Farrell. She added that “everything is scratch baked right down to the fillings. It’s not smoke and mirrors. It’s just all good ingredients — real butter, fresh fruit, pure extracts and high-quality chocolate.”
Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at email@example.com.
Just Baked SLO
22720 El Camino Real, Suite A
Hours: Pastry bar currently open Thursday-Saturday 11 a.m.- 5 p.m., wedding and catering consultations by appointment.
The scene: The tiny retail space offers dozens of tasty sweet treats.
The cuisine: From-scratch cookies, scones, cupcakes and special occasion cakes, plus housemade products such as blackberry jam and devil’s food cake mix; holiday pies available via pre-order.
Expect to spend: Most cookies $1.25/each or $12/dozen, Flagship Chocolate Chip cookies $2/each, most bars and brownies $2.25-2.75/ea.; pricing varies on special occasion cakes.