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SLO’s Madonna Inn bakery facing pink chocolate shortage

A pink champagne cake in the Madonna Inn’s kitchen. Madonna is facing a pink chocolate shortage and has been using cream-colored shavings and crumbles to garnish cakes.
A pink champagne cake in the Madonna Inn’s kitchen. Madonna is facing a pink chocolate shortage and has been using cream-colored shavings and crumbles to garnish cakes. lholden@thetribunenews.com

Some Madonna Inn customers may be having a “Where’s Waldo?” moment.

Except instead of searching for a bespectacled man in a red-and-white-striped shirt, they’re looking for the bright pink chocolate shavings on their favorite cakes.

Two of the San Luis Obispo restaurant and inn’s most-beloved desserts — pink Champagne and apple spice cakes — are looking decidedly less colorful these days.

Guittard Chocolate Co., the Madonna Inn’s vendor, decided to abruptly revamp its dyes, including a pink hue that was created specifically for the restaurant, said Amber Russell, the inn’s bakery manager.

At the inn and eatery famous for featuring all-pink everything — the interior looks as though the Cheshire Cat and the Pink Panther were hired as decorators — customers aren’t happy about the change. After all, Madonna pink has been a signature element of the inn since it opened in 1958.

Owner Phyllis Madonna once said she and her husband, Alex, chose the color for the walls, carpeting, restaurant booths, cake toppings and just about everything else at the inn because “it makes everyone look good. It takes off 10 years.”

The pink Champagne cake has long been the Madonna Inn’s most popular flavor — Russell said the bakery receives about 30 to 50 orders for the cake every day. Bakers make an additional 30 just for restaurant diners.

“People are very upset, very disappointed,” Russell said.

Decorators shave long strips of chocolate from 10-pound bars to create the curls that garnish the top of the inn’s cakes. The remaining chocolate crumbles are used to decorate the sides and parts not covered by the curls.

Madonna’s signature color of pink, in addition to the need for large chocolate bars, makes it tough to find a solution to the shortage. Madonna Inn staff members are working to restore the missing hue and plan to resolve the shortage quickly.

In the meantime, Russell said the cream-colored chocolate has exactly the same flavor as the pink, even though customers “swear it tastes different.”

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