Batter Bakery is the newest tenant in the beautiful brick building on the corner of Eighth and Carleton, in Berkeley. Joining La Noisette and Standard Fare, Jen Musty’s bakery was previously based in San Francisco. East Bay residents trekked to the city to buy her scones, muffins and cookies at a downtown kiosk, the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market or at Batter’s café and kitchen on Pine Street (now closed).
In its new Berkeley incarnation, Batter doesn’t have a street-facing kitchen, but on Wednesdays and Fridays, from 9am to 2pm, the bakery sets up a couple of tables outside for visitors to peruse, ogle and purchase an array of baked goods to the right side of Standard Fare’s entrance. Customers can also preorder online for Monday-Saturday pickups.
“I had no intention of moving,” Musty told me when we spoke on the phone. “The opportunity came up.” One of the kitchens in the building opened up, with a higher-capacity oven that could better accommodate the wholesale production side of the business. “It’s also time to expand our reach to the East Bay,” she said. Some of the customers she’s met are new, while others have said they’ve tried Batter’s products before via Good Eggs or at grocery stores. Now, they’re excited to taste them fresh from the oven.
Musty said that after sharing commercial kitchens since she started Batter, each business in her new building has its own kitchen. “Having your own kitchen is super important as a business,” she said. “But having the food community here, where there are many kitchens adjacent to each other, people can share resources—whether it’s shipping and delivery, wifi or just knowledge and support.” She added that her new neighbors have all been friendly and willing to help out.
Customers familiar with Batter have their favorite items, but the bakery is famous for its cookies. Brownies are also popular. “Breakfast-wise, I’d say our scones are definitely one of the standouts ‘scone fiends’ come for, especially at the farmers’ market,” Musty said. “And approachable, cozy breakfast goods like quickbreads, coffee cakes and muffins.” Batter doesn’t make yeasted breads, laminated doughs or elaborate desserts.
Musty started as a home baker before she became a professional. “It was stuff I grew up with, and then I expanded that into more interesting flavors and nutritionally specific stuff for everybody, whether they’re vegan, gluten- or dairy-free,” she said. Graduating from college with a degree in accounting, Musty began baking on the side. But her friends say that even as far back as high school, she was always coming up with ideas for things to bake.
“I really love baking and was just fiercely committed to doing it,” she said. After running Batter for a couple of years as a side project, Musty decided to take the leap to open a full-time bakery in 2008. The learning curve, she noted, was steep: “I’d never worked in any sort of bakery, kitchen or café. It was a very naive time where I said, ‘I’m going to open this bakery, and we’ll show how it goes.’”
Operating a food business is not for everyone, Musty said. “You get punched down and you come right back up, over and over and over again.” Since opening Batter, many people have told her they’d like to open their own bakery. Some of her former employees have gone to open bakeries all over the country. “And I have people say, ‘This was a wonderful experience and it’s absolutely not for me. I love home baking, and that’s where I’d like to keep it,’” she said.
Fifteen years later, Musty maintains her enthusiasm for baking, albeit with some adjustments. Six months ago, she became a mother. “Physically, I couldn’t be doing those lengthy hours and lifting,” she said. “But I found myself really missing baking and recipe development, which is one of my favorite things.”
She continues to feel inspired by her work in the kitchen, just not in the same capacity as her 24-year-old self, who worked 17-hour days, seven days a week. “There’s still such curiosity around food and ingredients, even though it’s very different from when I started,” she said.