.Full Belly Bakery Expands Beyond Cakes

Eva Allen opens new shop in Oakland’s Montclair village

In 2017, Eva Allen started Full Belly Bakery as a breakfast concept before taking a permanent detour into full-time baking.

“I was trying to figure out what path I wanted to take,” Allen said in a recent phone interview. After gleaning as much baking knowledge as she could from videos online, she reached a plateau. “I thought, what better way to learn than to go back to school.”

In 2020, Allen went to the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. There she learned about the science behind baking—why sugar cooks the way that it does, “the whole bread side of things” and the best way to temper chocolate.

“Pastry school helps to connect the dots,” Allen said. “It forced me to try things that seemed really daunting, but when I was actually doing it, it wasn’t that hard. You just need to know the steps.”

Until she went to culinary school, Allen had only made Swiss meringue buttercream. After learning how to make the Italian version, it became her default buttercream.

“You make a sugar syrup that gets poured over egg whites,” she said. To make the more complicated Swiss buttercream, “you cook egg whites and sugar over a double boiler. You have to constantly keep the mixture moving so that you can cook the egg whites without scrambling them.” In her opinion, it’s easier to control the flow of sugar with the Italian method.

Allen established the Full Belly brand by focusing on baking cakes. “I want a cake that’s enjoyable, flavorful and different from a French bakery,” she said. “We make a sponge cake that you won’t find in any pastry book because it’s my own adaptation.”

Full Belly also doesn’t make traditional cakes like German chocolate or princess cakes. For her own birthday last year, Allen made a passion fruit baklava cake.

When Allen opened her retail storefront in October, she realized she’d have to diversify. “I would love to just offer cake all the time, but people need other things,” she said.

In addition to cakes, Full Belly also sells cookies, scones and a gluten-free cheesecake. The new shop is located in Oakland’s Montclair village, where people in the neighborhood have already put in requests for bread and breakfast items.

“We started out doing a Saturday and Sunday bread menu, but that will likely change to a weekly one because there’s been a really positive response,” she said. “Our menu is going to be seasonal.”

During the holiday season, Full Belly will be selling lemon, lime and sweet potato tarts. “As we get comfortable with the space, we’ll definitely have new offerings and flavors,” Allen said.

On the road to opening Full Belly, Allen first had to make the transition from baking at home to contending with the ins and outs of managing space in a commercial kitchen.

“It’s hard to find a [commercial] kitchen that has everything,” she said. Allen found that some commercial kitchens offered a great sense of community but weren’t particularly clean or came with challenging building managers.

To choose one location to start baking in she had to ask herself, “What do you pick, the lesser of two evils?” For bakers seeking commercial kitchens, Allen expressed a need for a “well-managed, very clean, organized commissary” in the Bay Area.

“If there is one out there, I’d love to know where it is so I can advertise it for people,” she said.

She added, “If I was to go back and do things differently, I would have stayed [baking] in my house for a little longer. For a small business, as soon as you get into a commercial space, you automatically have overhead from paying rent and if you decide to hire an employee.”

Allen’s advice is to move out of a home space when a baker is producing goods in a kitchen that’s operating at its maximum capacity. “If you can pay yourself and the rent and food costs, then totally go out to find a commissary,” she said.

Full Belly Bakery, 2087 Mountain Blvd., Unit A, Oakland. Open Thu-Fri, 9:30am to 6pm; Sat 9:30am to 4pm; Sun 9am to 2pm. 510.214.2507. fullbellybakery.com.

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