The treats from Bake Me Happy are not your average cookie. Two staples put twists on classics. The Peanut Butter Burner finishes with a kick of heat and a crunch turbinado sugar. Traditional chocolate chip cookies are amped up with a sprinkle of salt for a best-of-both-worlds sweet and salty treat. Oh, and both are gluten free.
That last part sometimes comes as a surprise for those that encounter treats from the certified gluten-free bakery.
“We like to not just replace a gluten-free cookie, we like to bring it to another level that it’s going to be interesting,” says Owner Wendy Miller Pugh.
In the world of gluten-free, many products are meant as replacements, but Pugh asks why the gluten-free crowd shouldn’t get its own unique thing?
While Bake Me Happy adds a little something special to its lineup of baked goods including cookies, pies, cakes and scones, they also make sure the gluten-free crowd doesn’t miss out on the classics.
“We do a lot of remakes of nostalgic treats,” Pugh says.
Speaking from personal experience, she says that once gluten-intolerance is a part of your life, you realize just how many treats you can’t have. Maybe that oatmeal cream pice isn’t a culinary masterpiece (and perhaps you wonder why you ate it the first place) but, “Even though it wasn’t the best tasting thing, it’s the feelings behind it,” Pugh says.
Bake Me Happy recreates those treats to not only taste better, but be gluten-free. The bakery offers a nostalgic lineup of Spongies (aka Twinkies), Oatmeal Creme Clouds, King Dongs, SnoBalls and Moon Pies.
Spongies kicked the whole thing off about 10 years ago.
“Bake Me Happy started kind of out of necessity for myself,” Pugh says.
She realized she wasn’t feeling well, and her partner in life and now, the bakery, Letha (who’s also a nurse) got the wheels turning that maybe Pugh needed to eliminate something from her diet. That something was gluten.
Baking provided a new outlet for Pugh’s creative energy. Friends and family were the lucky test subjects for those first rounds of Spongies, many not realizing they were gluten-free until after the fact. Her support system encouraged her to turn it into a business and Letha agreed.
Letha had always been an entrepreneur at heart, and after she started and sold another business, she told her partner it was time to turn their baking into a business in January of 2013.
The bakery bounced around to a few commercial kitchens, growing enough to warrant its own space.
“Essentially we were just looking for production space, we never had the intention of really having a storefront,” Pugh says.
However when they found their home at 116 E Moler St. in Merion Village, the plan evolved. A large, raw space, they were able to design the 2,800 square feet to fit their needs. The space serves primarily as a kitchen but does allow for customer takeaway of its treats. Six work stations also made it ideal for classes.
With the rise in popularity of collaborative cooking over the last few years, Bake Me Happy has opened up their space to classes baking pies to building gingerbread houses around the holidays. Pugh finds the chance to help gluten-free kids experience something ‘normal’ like building a gingerbread house (a feat they probably couldn’t enjoy with a normal kit) extra satisfying.
Their goodies aren’t just satisfying the gluten-free, though.
“The neighborhood is so receptive to us,” Pugh says.
Bake Me Happy is attracting destination diners and neighbors that don’t even adhere to a gluten-free diet.
“We feel like every week we get a flurry of people that are like, ‘It’s my first time and I’m so excited!'” Pugh says.
To keep those flurries coming is part of the reason Bake Me Happy joined Experience Columbus last year.
“That was one of our big motivators, people go to Experience Columbus if they are visiting and I would probably be searching gluten-free on there,” Pugh says.
She knows from personal experience that all too often that search comes up empty. The owners love seeing people from out of town that are excited to be there and hear their stories.
“Everyone has a story about how they realized they can’t eat gluten,” Pugh says.
To create a place where people can share those stories, and find a high-quality treat that’s not just a replacement, “That’s very satisfying for us,” Pugh says.
A membership with Experience Columbus is also helping Bake Me Happy work towards some of its what’s next goals by raising local awareness.
“We do want to appeal more to the corporate side, the catering side, the holiday trays for customers,” Pugh says. “We want more of that because our items can reach across if you have to be gluten-free or not.”
Joining the Experience Columbus has not only been fruitful for reaching a wider audience, but the bakers are now connected to a network of business owners ready and willing to help.
For more information, visit bakemehappygf.com.