Halloween Fun: Haunted Gingerbread Houses, GingerDead Men, and More!

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Whimsical Haunted Gingerbread House

Throughout the Santa Ynez Valley there’s a strong sense of harvest during the month of October. Our local apple orchards host hundreds of school children who pile out of their yellow busses to snag a juicy gem straight from the tree. Exhausted vintners can be spied around town, marked by their crimson stained hands and tired eyes. A drive along Alamo Pintado Road is accented by  flaming orange pumpkins set against rich green corn stalks. If you venture into town, you’ll be greeted by creative scarecrows guarding local shops. Solvang and Los Olivos feature a Scarecrow building contests and proprietors fiercely compete for the blue ribbon. It’s a glorious time to visit.  The days are warm, and nights are crisp and cool.


Halloween is the Santa Ynez Valley is likely strikingly similar to when you were a child. Little ghouls, Luke Skywalkers, princesses, and firefighters stream through neighborhoods squeaking out, “Trick-or-treat!”  Most of our neighborhoods are still small and friendly. Parents are often invited in for a quick respite…a respite that might include a quaff of one of our lovely local wines. Invariably, someone hosts a family Halloween party…and thank goodness…we’re able to get a bowl of chili into a costumed tummy before the onslaught of sugary goodies start pouring in.

Halloween decorating is always fun…boundless thematic options allow creativity to run wild…


halloween-ghosts-175halloween-pumpkins-175We love to assemble our Halloween Haunted Gingerbread Houses.  They’re colorful and kooky; adorned with pumpkins and bug-eyed bats, and ghosts, and crooked windows. Our greatest challenge is to stop. It’s too much fun to keep playing with them!

halloween-cookie-decorating-kit-the-solvang-bakery-500Another fun family activity is decorating cookies with the kids.  We’ve put together a Halloween Cookie Decorating Kit that’s perfect for shipping to faraway grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or for school or at-home Halloween parties.

We found a fabulous little cookie cutter for making GingerDEAD Men. It cuts out a conventional gingerbread man shape, but the back side is for imprinting a skeleton onto the dough. Whip up some royal icing, and voila, a GingerDead man is born (…not sure a dead man is born…). We are selling and shipping these devilish little guys, but we’re also selling the cookie cutter for your own Do-It-Yourself (DIY) fun.  Find GingerDead Cookie Cutters here.

gingerdead-men-cookie-cutter-the-solvang-bakery-300Of course you can always just use your own traditional gingerbread man cookie cutter at home and create your own anatomy. Susan shows you how to do both in our video How to Decorate Halloween GingerDead Men – click here.  You can find this cookie cutter and others on Amazon (click on the photo).

Oh, and here’s our recipe for gingerbread cookies in case you need one. Chef Maili (Melissa’s sister and Susan’s daughter, wrote this up…you can find the original post and lots of other great recipes and cooking tips here.) Remember, you’ll need to roll your dough a little extra thick if you’re using the GingerDead Cookie Cutter (it’s deep), and you’ll want to set the temperature a little lower so that you can cook them a little longer.

The Solvang Bakery Gingerbread Cookies Recipe

Use royal icing to decorate them. We have a simple video on how to make and use royal icing – click here.  You can buy powdered egg whites if you are concerned with using raw egg whites. Be aware that royal icing will harden when exposed to air so be sure to keep it in piping bags in plastic or in some kind of airtight container until you use it.

Unbleached Flour, 5 cups
Baking Soda, 1/2 teaspoon
Ground Ginger, 6 teaspoons
Ground Cinnamon, 4 teaspoons
Ground Cloves, 3/4 teaspoon, optional
Freshly Grated Nutmeg, 1 teaspoon, optional
Ground Allspice, 1 teaspoon
Salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons
Unsalted Butter, 2 sticks (1 cup)
Dark Brown Sugar, 1/2 cup firmly packed (light brown sugar can be substituted)
Granulated Sugar, 1/2 cup
Unsulfured Molasses, 1 cup
Egg, 1
1. Have butter softened and at room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a bowl combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until fluffy and pale yellow. (About five minutes at medium-high speed.) Add the dark brown and granulated sugar and beat for 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low and add the molasses, beating until well combined. Add the egg and beat until well combined.
4. Add the flour and spice mixture about 1 cup at a time. Beat in each addition before you add more. Scrape down sides of bowl with spatula if necessary.
5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into four sections and mold them into thick disks (flatted ball of dough.) Wrap each disk of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to 3 days.
6. Roll cookies out with a rolling pin to desired thickness. Dip cookie cutter in flour and cut out the cookies. Use a spatula to transfer cookies to the baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake in a 350 oven for 8-10 minutes. (Check your oven. You may want to bake for 12 minutes but they truly taste better when not overbaked.) Transfer to cooling racks. Decorate after cookies have cooled.


Spring Renewal – Easter Gingerbread Houses and Other Yummy Goodies


bud-5Spring is knocking on our door in the Santa Ynez Valley. The lilacs are blooming, the roses are budding, and gangly grape vines are bursting with budbreak in acre upon acre of vineyards. Following a week of much needed rain, our charred hills are finally turning a bright verdant green.

easter-gingerbread-house-the-solvang-bakery-easter-side-300-tallIn the spirit of following nature’s signals of renewal, we’ve decided to update our Spring Gingerbread House. The deep brown roof that’s so warm and comforting in the dead of winter, is not particularly bursting with the enthusiasm of spring. So we’ve swapped it out for a bright and cheery yellow roof made from sturdy short-dough. It’s seated in a bed of light green royal icing ‘grass’, then trimmed with your choice of pink, green, yellow, or blue royal icing.

Nature’s baby creatures welcome you at both the front and back door, and colorful edible flowers and bulbs are blooming in the garden.  The roofline is adorned with eggs, with side featuring the hand-iced names of family or friends. We’ll also hand-inscribe a greeting for you such as, “Happy Easter”, “Happy Spring”, or “Welcome Friends.”

Just as with our Gingerbread Houses for Christmas and Hanukkah, our Spring Gingerbread Houses make unique holiday gifts for Easter – order them online and we’ll ship them to your door or to family and friends across the country.

easter-basket-the-solvang-bakery-175We also have beautifully decorated egg-shaped Easter cookies, abundant Easter baskets, and our steadfast offerings of pastries (including hot cross buns) that are perfect for Easter brunches and breakfasts.

We hope your spring is filled with new exciting new adventures for you and your family, and trust that your Easter or Passover holidays are filled with the pleasure of family and friends.

(PS – apologies to our friends on the East Coast who are still enduring winter weather – sending you warm thoughts!)


Sweet Love at The Solvang Bakery – Valentine’s Day and Gingerbread Houses


Love is an emotion we know well at The Solvang Bakery.  Whether we’re putting the finishing touches on an elegant wedding cake for an anxious bride, or icing the words, “I Love You” onto short-dough cookies for a grandmother, we have the pleasure of observing the many flavors of love in our customers’ lives.

This last Christmas, our little shop played host to not one, but two engagements!  One of the couples, Jenn and Rob, have shared their story with us.  Here it is:

“December 8, 2012 will be a day I will never forget and made all the more special by all the lovely ladies at Solvang Bakery. My now fiance schemed with Melissa to create a proposal that was not only special but unique. We built a lovely gingerbread house at the bakery and when we were finished, Melissa thought there was just one thing needed to make the house perfect. She brought out a covered plate concealing a very special cookie with the words ” Will you marry me Jenn?” Of course once I uncovered the message I couldn’t believe what was happening and was completely overjoyed. I eventually said “YES!” after a lot of disbelieving “shut ups” and we are planning a our wedding for late 2013! Thank you so much Melissa and everyone for making this a day Rob and I will never forget!”

jenn and rob engagement - The Solvang Bakery

With Melissa and Billy coming up on 20 years of marriage, and Susan and Paul at 48 years, we are deeply honored that Rob chose our bakery as the locale for this momentous occasion.  Many thanks to Rob and Jenn for sharing their story!  Our other groom-to-be hid the engagement ring inside a gingerbread house…talk about a surprise!

Are you plotting something special this Valentine’s Day?  We’ve created a special Valentine’s Love Shack for 2013.  To achieve those pretty pink walls and roof, we used short-dough rather than gingerbread.  As always, you may personalize it with names on the roof…or perhaps a message…or a question…  We also created a Valentine’s Love Shack Kit.  Build and decorate one together – it serves as a tasty metaphor for things to come!  (Of course, your children and grandchildren will love them too)

valentines gingerbread house love shack solvang bakery

valentines gingerbread house kit love shackvalentines cookies solvang bakerythe-solvang-bakery-valentines iced cookies gift box

Gratitude Wreaths – Giving Thanks


Gratitude Wreaths from The Solvang Bakery

Gratitude Wreathes are the most favorite thing my Mom
and sister make at their bakery.  Or click here for the recipe to
make your own.

“In everything, give thanks.”  –St. Paul

NOTE: This is a guest post written by Susan’s daughter, and Melissa’s sister, Maili Halme Brocke.  It was originally posted to Chef Maili’s blog, The Maili Files here.


I love that we have a holiday that revolves around giving thanks.  For all of the hardships and challenges of life, I’ve always found gratitude prayers to be the most transforming.  I may pray for peace or calm or healing or many other things.  But I’ve found that when I start saying prayers of gratitude for the things I’m thankful for that I’m filled with an overwhelming sense of healing and joy.
thanksgiving-gratitude-wreath-sunflowers-vertical-the-solvang-bakery-500-wideDuring this month of giving thanks I try to write down three things I’m thankful for each day.  There are a number of ways to do this:   some people prefer to keep a gratitude journal while others make a family “gratitude jar” and each family members writes something they are grateful for each day and puts it in the jar.  Others just keep a running mental note each day of what they are thankful for.


This morning Julie Farrell put a post on Facebook at 6:00 a.m. saying that if anyone in the valley was awake at the moment that we should step outside to see the moon and the stars because they are phenomenal right now.  I put on my slippers and walked outside and caught that magnificent beauty.  If not for her post I would have been inside with the blinds drawn, unaware of what was just outside my window in plain view.  And that is the point of looking for joy and looking for gratitude:  it is often right there in plain view if you just stop and take the time to look for it.


And as always, I think of those who are in pain and how the holidays somehow magnify that pain.  I was listening to a man speak in Houston on Wednesday night.  In 1960 he was a young boy and his father was changing the tire on their family car.  The tire burst and his father died within the week.  53 years later this man could barely speak through the tears because the pain of such a great loss was still with him.  He told the story of how his widowed mother, with three young boys, told her sons “I know we’re all hurting right now, but there are others who are hurting more than we are.  So we’re going to give Christmas away.”  And that is what they did.  They went out and gave to people who had less then they did.  This man now gives hundreds of bikes away every year during the holidays.  He took unspeakable pain and turned it into giving.


iced-gratitude-wreath-the-solvang-bakery-500Last year Randall Day told the story about Helen Keller and her article from the January 1933 issue of The Atlantic Monthly.  It was titled Three Days to See.  “In the article she outlined what things she would like to see if she were granted just three days of sight:  friends, nature, art, and the movement and bustle of New York City were among her choices.  She concluded:  “I who am blind can give one hint to those who see:  use your eyes as if tomorrow you were stricken blind.’  Keller is also widely quoted as saying:  ‘Is there anything worse than being blind?  Yes, someone with sight and no vision.'”


Thanksgiving is a time of giving.  It is a time of feeding others, sharing our bounty and giving thanks.  It is a time of stopping to appreciate the simple beauty of nature that exists for us each day in abundant harvests, changing leaves, in the earth retreating to rest and renew itself.

I know the holidays can become overwhelming, frantic and busy.  I challenge each of you to pause for a moment to find three things that you are grateful for.  I found my first thing in the stars and the moon this morning.  And now I find myself looking forward to the day instead of dreading my “to do” list because I know somewhere in this day are two more things to discover that I will be grateful for.

Blessings and JOY to all of you.  Maili



You can choose anything you want to be grateful for from a favorite
family trip to a beloved pet to something simple that you are grateful for.

Traditional Danish Kransekage – Marzipan Cakes and Cookies

Away with the joint-stools, remove the court-cupboard, look to the plate. Good thou, save me a piece of marchpane, and, as thou loves me…

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 5

danish-wedding-cake-2-500Kransekage, or Kransekake (Norwegian) is a traditional dessert dish in Scandinavia. The Danes prepare it for special occasions such as weddings, New Year’s Eve, and birthdays.

The origin of Kransekage and/or marzipan for that matter, is challenging to hunt down. Most sources attribute the origin of marzipan (almond paste) to either the Persians or the Spaniards, but the Germans and the Italians also lay claim to its creation.

Even the etymology of the word marzipan is opaque. The pan portion likely refers to bread, but the marzi / march/ marza portion is a source of considerable debate. It’s attributed to such disparate origins as March (as in March bread), to Marcus (the patron saint of an Italian town), to Marcip (the last name of a German chef), to Marz (meaning border or boundary in Persia).

Whatever the case, we do know that the Danish people love kransekage, which translates to wreath cake or doughnut cake. Evidently, it was originally called overflødighedshorn (try saying that three times fast), which translates to horn of plenty or cornucopia. It was essentially like today’s kransekage wedding cakes, but it laid on its side, with chocolates and other yummy treats spilling out of it. Kransekage wedding cakes today are formed by stacking ring upon ring of this marzipan (or marchpane) based delicacy atop each other.


kransekage-cookies-inside-vertical-the-solvang-bakery-400Kransekage is made from marzipan, which is created from ground almonds, sugar, and egg whites (so it’s gluten free). We form it into rings, which are then baked. The result is an outer crust that is hard to the touch, but soft to the bite. Inside is a delicious soft almondy paste. The final touch is decorating the baked marzipan with a royal icing drizzle. Because the rings are sturdy, they’re relatively easy to stack into a cake tower, which is often adorned with Danish (and sometimes American) flags.

jenga-with-kransekage-cookies-the-solvang-bakery-300People often ask us for kransekage pieces or cookies. We offer them by the half-dozen or dozen so that you can get your marzipan fix without the fanfare of a whole kransekage cake…or if you’re up for a game of edible Jenga! They’re also a great means for augmenting the traditional cake if your wedding party or New Year’s Party list has grown.

What about you; are you a marzipan fan?


Sweets for the Sweet? Careful!


Valentine’s Day is a treasured holiday at The Solvang Bakery – it makes us take pause and reflect on how fortunate we are to be in sustained relationships.  Susan and Paul have been married for 49 years and Melissa and Billy have been married for 20 years. We thought we’d poke around to better understand the history of this paramour’s holiday.

be-mine-cookies-the-solvang-bakery-300It seems the origins of Valentine’s Day are nearly as inconclusive as who shot Kennedy. There appears to have been several St. Valentines…at least one of them was allegedly beheaded on February 14 in the north of Rome. He may have been a priest who secretly presided over wedding ceremonies for soldiers so that they wouldn’t have to go to war…thereby inviting the wrath of Emperor Claudius. Or he may have been a priest who helped Christians escape prison in Pagan Rome. Falling in love with his jailor’s daughter, he signed a note to her, ‘From your Valentine.’

Valentine’s cards have been around for centuries. The first written valentine on record was written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife, whilst he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415.

EstherHowlandModern American Valentine’s cards were the brainchild of Esther A. Howland, a Mount Holyoke College graduate, who in the late 1840’s whipped up a dozen sample cards made with imported lace and paper from England. Thinking she might get $200 worth of orders, she received an astounding $5,000.  Eventually, she grossed $100,000 year and is now known as the Mother of the American Valentine…and interestingly, Esther never married…she does look rather stern.

One thing we do know for sure is that long-term marriages take care and feeding. Did we say feeding?

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but we’re pretty sure that tasty morsels will make a child’s heart glow as well.

valentines-cookies-gift-box-open-sm-heart-solvang-bakery-300As we looked into the origins of Valentine’s Day and the giving of Valentine’s, we came across a number of phrases associated with love and lovers. Perhaps one of the most commonly misused phrases at this time of year is sweets for the sweet. It’s a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet – the Queen is placing funeral flowers (the sweets) on the grave of Hamlet’s now deceased lover, Ophelia (the sweet). The whole scene is rather disturbing for a number of reasons…and it certainly has nothing to do with a lover handing a delicious treat to his betrothed!

new-gingerbread-love-shack-gold-hearts-300So, in sharp contrast to Shakespeare, our Valentine’s Day offerings are truly edible sweets that someone whom you find sweet will swoon over. You’ll find our edible Valentine’s gifts on our Valentine’s Holiday page at a variety of price points.

We’ve updated our Valentine’s Gingerbread Love Shack to include options for gingerbread sweethearts or gumball/candy sweethearts. We also thought the Gingerbread Man could use a girlfriend…the bakery gets lonely at night…so we have a pair of sweethearts that will keep your own paramours and little sweeties content over the three-day weekend.


new-gingerbread-love-shack-2014-the-solvang-bakery-300Our Valentine’s Gingerbread Love Shack Kit will bring some lovable moments with your children…or between a boyfriend and girlfriend. It might even be fun to hide a ring in one of the candy containers…just sayin’.

However you decide to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and whatever its authentic origins, make sure you let those you love know you love them!






Find Fido a Home: Gingerbread Dog Houses from The Solvang Bakery

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We’ve extended our Christmas/Hanukkah gingerbread line to include the family dog this 2013 holiday season. Why? Because they asked for them! AND, for each Gingerbread Dog House sold in 2013, we are donating $5 to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals, the ASPCA®.

ike-gingerbread-dog-house-6-1000We’ve accumulated some amusing stories over the years about dogs taking a particular interest in our holiday gingerbread houses. Perhaps the most entertaining anecdote was the massive Rhodesian ridgeback that ate not one, but two, of our Large Gingerbread Houses in one Christmas season. We thought maybe it was time to let the dogs have their day with their own gingerbread dog houses.

The Gingerbread Dog House is modeled after the dimensions of a typical all-American dog house. A gingerbread dog bone sports the name of the family pet (or family surname) above the door, and a gingerbread dog sits guard on the porch. Owners select from a black, tan, yellow, white, or black-and-white dog to match their pet’s fur.  They can also elect to have us make a custom dog for an additional fee. Dog names or family names may also be hand-iced on the roof. Incorporating only dog-friendly ingredients, all features are edible. As with all of our gingerbread houses, everything is crafted by hand. The base model starts at $99.

We’ve been incredibly fortunate to have a loyal and growing following for our holiday gingerbread houses, and we’re so grateful for people like Kelly Ripa and journalist Frances Schultz for being vocal fans of our products. We’ve been shipping our gingerbread creations to Grammy winners, Oscar winners, Emmy winners, authors, members of the Forbes 400 and Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential people since 1995. We think of our own dogs as family members, and we know many of our clients do too, so we asked why should they be left out during the holidays?  And by supporting the ASPCA®, we are helping homeless dogs find homes of their own too…

postcard, DOG, just labs gingerbread dog house the solvang bakery HRRead the full Gingerbread Dog House press release here.

Read the full Gingerbread Dog House Supports the ASPCA® press release here.

Go ahead…put a little swag in that wag!

Summer Entertaining: The Solvang Bakery Style

Assortment of Summer Iced Cookies

Assortment of Summer Iced Cookies

And does it not seem hard to you,

When all the sky is clear and blue,

And I should like so much to play,

To have to go to bed by day?

Robert Louis Stevenson, Bed in Summer, A Child’s Garden of Verses

Ahhh, summer. No more carpools, no more nagging about homework, no more packing lunches. What a joy it is to just observe your kids being kids.  Whether watching them frolic in the pool, the lake, or the beach; or cruise off on their bikes with a pack of neighborhood children, or hear a pig squeal at the state fair, the sheer delight on their innocent faces can’t help but bring a smile to your face. All they want to do is play until the sun sets just as Robert Louis Stevenson so eloquently put it.

Gingerbread Beach Guys and Gals

Gingerbread Beach Guys and Gals

As a family owned and operated business, summer means juggling our schedules so that we can all drink in the joys of summer with our children or grandchildren. With the move to our new retail and commercial kitchen locations now a year behind us, we are able to visit family and friends across the country, and take pause to enjoy each other’s company.

BUT, that does not mean our creative juices stop flowing! Like you, we gather with friends for barbeques and summer parties. And like you, even though there’s no school bus to meet in the morning, there are still camps and sports activities and schedules to be kept. We’ve created a number of summer themed cookies that can offload some of your baking efforts. So if you find yourself in a pinch, we’re happy to help with hostess gifts or just covering the dessert for your party.

Here are a few of our favorites for this summer:


Colorful Beach Sandal Cookies

Colorful Beach Sandal Cookies

Beach Sandals Cookies: Fun in the sun! Available in a variety of colors, our hand-iced Beach Sandal Cookies add a colorful, playful element to any party.

Beach Sandal Cookies with Pizzazz

Beach Sandal Cookies with Pizzazz







California Cool Sunglass Cookies

California Cool Sunglass Cookies






California Cool Sunglass Cookies: We’re not sure we know anybody who doesn’t have a pair (or three) of shades here in California. They’re right up there with earrings and belts in terms of ‘must-have’ accessories. So in that vein, we’ve developed a couple of different sunglass styles to fit our  beach fashionista’s panache.

Sassy Sunglass Cookies

Sassy Sunglass Cookies














Beach Ball Cookies

Beach Ball Cookies

Beach Ball Cookies: Perhaps the only thing that’s more fun than tossing around beach balls is eating hand-iced short-dough Beach Ball Cookies!










Gingerbread Beach Guys and Gals: Melissa wanted to offer our delicious gingerbread cookies during the summer, but it just didn’t seem right to dress The Gingerbread Man in Christmas clothing when it’s 95 degrees outside! So she and senior pastry chef Barbara conferred and decided that The Gingerbread Man should do what everybody else does during the summer, don swim trunks and hit the beach!

Gingerbread Beach Guy and Gal

Gingerbread Beach Guy and Gal

Baking, Motherhood, and Memories

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What comes to mind when you think of your mom? Chances are it is not a single image, but rather an amalgam of sensorial facets that conjure pictures, smells, and tastes. Is it an expression that you’ve seen on her face when she looks at you?  The expression that acknowledges that you’re an adult, but behind it lies a thousand memories of you as a child. The expression that transmits both pride and the passage of time in one contemplative glance.

chocolate-chocolate-cookies-the-solvang-bakeryOr is your mind flooded with mental aromas when you think of your mom? Her perfume that lingers after a warm hug, or air filled with the smells of a favorite dish wafting from the kitchen? An aroma that says ‘I love you’ because she knows it’s the fare that will always bring a smile to your face. Perhaps it’s just the comforting essence of bread baking or cookies on the cooling rack…the smells that gently let you know that she is there.

Marcel Proust deftly put the notion of taste and memory to paper in his novel In Search of Lost Time. When biting into Madeleines, the protagonist realized that it bore, “…in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.” That is, the taste of the confection overwhelmed his being with memories.

At The Solvang Bakery, memories of ‘Mom’ are intricately woven with the tastes and smells and actions of baking.  For Melissa, Maili, and their brothers, the bakery was a second home during their childhood. Birthdays included an ingenious cake created by Mom Susan that struck just the right note for both child and age. Now the grandchildren are the beneficiaries of the same treat.

Not having grown up in a bakery family, thoughts of my mother are not so terribly different. They are inextricably tied to food. In our house, a cookie wasn’t a cookie if it wasn’t homemade. As a December birthday girl, I remember Mom helping my gal pals and me make our own candy canes (my creation suffered from a bad case of scoliosis).  After school, my sisters and I would frequently be greeted with the rich aroma of freshly baked wholewheat bread. Mom had purchased a grinder and we would be dragged in our paneled station-wagon out to a dubious little shop to buy the bulk wheat. Now as an adult, my boys can’t wait for ‘Baba rolls’ when we trek up to Oregon for the holidays. Like a textbook grandma, Mom sneaks a couple of rolls to the boys before dinner, spoiling their appetites, but reveling in the joy that they bring to the boys’ faces.

boys-baking-the-solvang-bakeryThough I don’t expect to reach my mother’s level of competence in the baking arena, and I certainly know I won’t reach Susan’s, I do love to bake.  And like all moms, I hope that some little part of what I do will be remembered affectionately by my children; whether it’s the act of baking, baking with the boys, or the final product itself.  I recently leafed through a cookbook that our son’s second grade teacher had put together for the class.  In it, each child was asked ‘your favorite thing about your mom.’ My son’s answer, “My favorite thing about my mom is she makes cookies. I like to help my mom make cookies because it is fun.” With two teenage boys now, these are magical words to read again.

The job of mother is a long protracted career; one with no annual reviews, and an 18 year product cycle.  ven at product launch, you’re not entirely sure whether or not you’ve been successful. But those small moments, when a child somehow acknowledges those special efforts on your part, makes it all worthwhile.

i-love-mom-the-solvang-bakery-500As you celebrate Mother’s Day this year, we honor the time you’ve spent in the kitchen with or for  your own children. And if you’re not a baker, we hope that you can reflect on some delicious moments devouring confections with your mother or your children. Drink in the those mental smells and tastes and feelings, and savor them today.

Happy, happy!

-Julie F.  – Team Solvang Bakery

PS – We’d love to hear some of your great memories!

Gluten Intolerance – Why Now?

If you’re like us, you may be wondering why there is so much talk about gluten these days. After all, haven’t we been eating wheat, barley, and rye products for millennia? How did an entire population suddenly become gluten-intolerant seemingly overnight? We decided to do a little research to better understand this new trend.

Separating the wheat from the chaff

wheatFirst of all, it’s important to separate the groups of people who are eating gluten-free diets.  Celiac disease is a serious medical condition, and according to The Mayo Clinic, “People with celiac disease who eat foods containing gluten experience an immune reaction in their small intestines, causing damage to the inner surface of the small intestine and an inability to absorb certain nutrients.”1 A 2012 Mayo Clinic study suggests that nearly 1% of the U.S. population is afflicted with celiac disease, but that only about 20+% of them know they have it.  Conversely, nearly 1% of the population is on a gluten-free diet.  Why are they on a gluten-free diet?  There is a population of people who have what is rather opaquely defined as gluten-sensitivity.  These folks suffer from symptoms such as bloating, tiredness, and irregular bowel movements when not on a gluten-free diet, yet they do not have celiac disease.  Simply put, eating gluten-free makes them feel better.  Some of these folks have sought medical advice for their symptoms and some have not.  Anecdotally, we have friends who fall into the gluten-sensitive category, and eating a gluten-free diet has made a marked difference in their lives. The study also determined that there is indeed an increase in celiac disease since the 1950’s…it’s not just a case of it having been formerly under-diagnosed.

Why the increase in celiac disease?

Two theories are suggested for the increase in celiac disease.  The first is that people are eating more processed wheat products such as pastas and yes, baked goods.  These items tend to have higher gluten content.  The second may have to do with the cross-breeding of wheat that began in the 1950’s.  By creating hardier plants that can help us better feed the world population; we may have inadvertently modified the gluten making it more challenging for the human body to process.  It appears that more research is needed on this topic.2

So what foods contain gluten?

The protein gluten is found in “grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).”3  So breads, beer, cakes, pies, cereals, cookies, crackers, pastas, and many other foods contain gluten.  As you might imagine, eliminating wheat for a baker is not a simple task.  That said, there are some yummy treats that do not contain these grains, and never have.

Gluten-free* baked goods at The Solvang Bakery

coconut-macaroons-300Two of our favorite treats are made with gluten-free recipes.  Our moist coconut macaroons contain no whole grains, and you can elect to eat them plain or dipped in rich chocolate.  Meringue is another non-grain based confection that makes for a delicious dessert.  Again, we can make them plain or dip them in chocolate.  Fill our meringue nests with fresh whipped cream and fresh berries or peaches for a refreshing gluten-free finish to your meal.  We are being asked more and more frequently to make gluten-free wedding cakes and specialty cakes.  For one recent wedding, the bride’s new mother-in-law had gluten-sensitivity, so she ordered her main wedding cake plus a miniature gluten-free version.

Yes, but how do gluten-free cakes taste?

Have you tasted a few gluten-free foods that you’d rather forget? We have; cardboard springs to mind. Rather than telling you that our gluten-free cakes are actually delicious, we’ll let a customer tell it to you straight. Here’s a quote from a Santa Barbara bride whose wedding was featured in Style Me Pretty.  Click here to check out the wedding.

Rebecca, Santa Barbara:

wedding-cake-gluten-free-lo-glare-300 solvang bakeryI am gluten free and Solvang Bakery took on the challenge to make me my dream wedding cake, gluten free, and no one would know the difference. Boy did they deliver. This was the best wedding cake I had every tasted, and most of our guests said the same thing. Solvang Bakery made up about 10 different gluten free cakes for us to taste and we settled on a chocolate ganache covered layered dream.
Not only was their cake amazing, they were so willing to help me, and so great to work with.

Click here for the link to this quote.

Whether you suffer from celiac disease, have been diagnosed as gluten-sensitive, or just find that eating a gluten-free diet makes you feel better, we can help you find a sweet solution to your dessert dilemmas. Give a call at (805) 688-4939 or email Melissa at and we can discuss options that fit your needs.  Until then, be well!

* – These products are made with ingredients that do not include gluten.  Our bakery does, however, produce other baked goods which contain gluten in our facility.


1 Mayo Clinic Staff, Celiac Disease, Definition,

2 CBS News Staff, Gluten-free diet fad: Are celiac disease rates actually rising?, July 31, 2012,

3 Mayo Clinic Staff, Nutrition and Healthy Eating, Gluten-free diet: What’s allowed, what’s not, . Dec 20, 2011,


May We Do You a Favor? Party Favors from The Solvang Bakery

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Have you ever left a fundraising event with a party favor that you didn’t really want? You know the one, you stashed it in your handbag, and lo and behold, months later, there it was all ready to go to the next party.  Or perhaps you’re still pushing it around with your to-file stack – feeling too guilty to toss it in the bin? paper-bag-300

Or what about your children?  They roll home from a birthday party with a sack of cheaply made toys that will be played with once, then be the source of that strange noise in your vacuum cleaner.

Why not go with a favor that is tasteful (pun intended), and won’t clutter anyone’s home?  A party favor that your children can happily devour the day after you’ve spent a lovely evening out…

At The Solvang Bakery, we have increasing requests for elegant party favors that are edible and personalized; party favors that reflect the theme, essence, or personality of the party or host.  Ranging from fundraisers to birthday parties to bridal showers to baby showers, we relish the opportunity to unleash our creative energy on these projects.

Here are a few of our favorites:

We had the pleasure of replicating the extraordinary tile work found in Santa Barbara’s Casa del Herrero for their annual fundraiser.  Guests were given a cookie as they departed at the end of the evening; a delicious reminder of what they were helping to preserve for their community.



Birthday party ideas abound. From cameo favors of that embarrassing teen perm for the now elegant 50 year old, to the sporty cupcake cookie favors for an energetic 10 year old, there’s no limit to the possibilities.


We recently provided both cake and party favors for a landmark birthday with a hippy/flower-child theme.  We thought they were perfect for Baby Boomer party favors.



Depending on your budget, we can expand the favor theme to something more elaborate. The party pails below included colorful candies and treats, along with hand-iced short dough cookies in the shape of the number 13.

For bridal showers and weddings, we’re often asked to provide wedding cake-shaped favors featuring the bride and groom’s names.  Another favorite is replicating the couple’s stationary/crest on a cookie.











And finally, as a big family, we love to create special party favors for baby showers. Brights or pastels, gender-specific or neutral, “Baby Smith,” or “Hayden” and “Kate,” we’ll craft something memorable and delicious for your guests.




















What about you: do you have suggestions for fabulous party favors?  Please do us a favor and give us a call to get started on your party favors.  You may call Melissa at (805) 218-2066, or email her at

Tis’ the Season for Gingerbread – Custom Gingerbread Houses and More


Gingerbread houses awaiting personalization


animal print gingerbread house solvang bakery

Custom animal print

We do love holidays at The Solvang Bakery; each celebration presents a new opportunity for expressing our culinary creativity.   But we must admit that the Christmas season has a special place in our hearts.  Back in 1995 we held our first gingerbread house workshop at the Buellton Parks and Recreation building, and since then we’ve been hooked.

We’ve shipped our cheery holiday gingerbread houses and gingerbread house kits throughout the country to celebrities and people just like your family and ours.  We’re honored to have our Hanukkah and Christmas gingerbread houses in the homes of sports stars, rock stars, movie stars, and TV stars.  Authors whose books sit on our bookshelves, and folks you read about in The Wall Street Journal celebrate the holidays with gingerbread houses from The Solvang Bakery.


Custom Gingerbread House for a Serious Yankees ‘Fan’


Not comfortable resting on our laurels, each year we make improvements to our standard designs.  They might include a slightly different window configuration; new characters perched outside the front door, or a whole new product like our Winter Hanukkah Gingerbread House.  Each gingerbread house is carefully crafted by hand in our Santa Ynez Valley bakery.

cherry-tree-gingerbread-house-700-px-2-solvang-bakeryWhile we take pleasure in creating our standard gingerbread houses, our Custom Gingerbread Houses represent the opportunity to unleash all of our artistic talents.  Customers call us requesting complete installations for their dining rooms.  They might choose to replicate their own homes or that of a friend’s.  We’ve reproduced barns for our equestrian-oriented customers to display at their ranches and plantations.  As our country changes, we adapt.  We’ve had several customers request gingerbread houses representing a merge of Hanukkah and Christmas as their families celebrate both of these wonderful holidays.


Custom gingerbread manor house

We hope you’ll find a holiday gingerbread house that interests you on our pages.  If not, just call or email us.  We relish the opportunity to create something new!

Phone: (805) 688-4939

Direct Line to Melissa: (805) 218-2066


Origins of Seven Sisters Cake (Almond Butter Ring)

“Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades…?”

We’ve been baking our Almond Butter Ring pastry for over 30 years.  Three decades may seem like a long time, but the Danes have been making it for over three centuries!  The more traditional name for this gooey pastry is Seven Sisters Cake or Sosterkage.

Sandwiched between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, Denmark ‘s geographic location meant that the Danish people couldn’t help but be seafarers.   Danish Vikings roamed the northern seas and beyond.   With no modern gadgets like GPS devices available, steering by the stars was the only means of navigation available.


Pleiades or Seven Sisters. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

So what does this have to do with our delicious Almond Butter Rings?  An open star cluster known as the Pleiades or Seven Sisters, lies in the Taurus constellation, and is particularly prominent during winter in the northern hemisphere.  In fact, it the month of November, it shines from sunset to sunrise.  Because it is one of the closest star clusters to Earth, is can easily be viewed with the naked eye.

Legend has it that the Seven Sisters’ Cake takes its name from the Pleiades.   According to Greek Mythology, the seven sisters were the companions of Artemis, goddess of hunting and the moon.  The hunter Orion (a nearby constellation) pursued the sisters.  Eventually through the predictable antics of the Olympians, both the sisters and Orion were placed in the night sky.  We like to imagine the Seven Sisters guiding Danish sailors of yore safely home.

Our Seven Sisters are safely nestled in a ring of six rolls circling one center roll (one of the seven stars disappeared during biblical times…a fact supported both historically and astronomically).  Made from pastry dough and layered with almond paste and custard filling, we top it off with a vanilla icing.  We like to think that any sailor returning from the northern seas in the last three centuries would be delighted to sit down to a slice of our Almond Butter Ring and a hot cup of coffee.

Sources: Pleiades Star Cluster: Famous Seven Sisters, April 2, 2012, Bruce McClure

Danish Cooking and Baking Traditions, Arthur L. Meyer, 2011 Hippocrene Books, Inc. NY, NY, Page 175. The Pleiades in Mythology,

Bible, King James Version: Job 38:31: “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades…?”


Happy Holidays from The Solvang Bakery!

  • We are closed to celebrate the holidays
  • We wish you and your family a wonderful end to 2018 and a joyous New Year!

Please visit us on January 2019 for more goodies!