The magic behind four Crave Dessert Company treats that always hit the sweet spot
By Jessica Koslow
When Red Bread closed its doors in 2014, regulars wondered what would replace the farm-to-fork breakfast, lunch and brunch spot on Washington Boulevard just west of Redwood Avenue. Few imagined life could get any sweeter.
But then Crave Dessert Company set up shop, offering brownies, bars, cakes, rice pudding and one of owner Heather Roseborough’s signature desserts: the Brown Butter Pumpkin Teacake.
Roseborough spoke to The Argonaut about the origins of these mouthwatering teacakes and some of her other popular baked goodies.
Brown Butter Pumpkin Teacake
Roseborough started playing around with the idea for this heavenly dessert when she was the pastry chef at Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City. She needed a gluten-free dessert and, as it turns out, the Brown Butter Pumpkin Teacake is better gluten free. Roseborough first made it at home for her daughter Esme. And when she introduced her teacake at Ford’s, it became the go-to dessert.
Of course it did: It’s a buttery brown teacake with creamy frosting, and topped with pecan-pepita crunch roasted in candied ginger.
Roseborough dreams up most of her creations the same way: She finds a recipe that she likes and then adjusts it. For the initial Brown Butter Pumpkin Teacake recipe she picked, the frosting lacked a brown butter taste. What a waste, she thought. So she began trying to get brown butter in the cream cheese frosting. Now her frosting has a touch of caramel.
And how does she get her gluten-free desserts to taste like real desserts? For cakes like carrot and pumpkin, the moisture in the ingredients absorbs into the brown rice flour as opposed to letting the dessert taste grainy.
German Chocolate Teacake
Roseborough loves coconut, nuts and chocolate. But most German chocolate cakes tasted sickly sweet to her. She hated the sugar aftertaste. She tweaked a recipe she liked to make it less sweet, so it was all about the coconut, chocolate and pecans.
The German chocolate cake also started at Ford’s for Cochon 555, a competition for porcine, from snout to tail, which Chef Ben Ford won that year. Everything, even the dessert, was required to include bacon. She added caramelized bacon in between the layers of German chocolate. Bacon German Chocolate Cake sold big at Ford’s. The bacon, however, didn’t make the move to Crave.
At first the German Chocolate Cake was not on Crave’s menu. But when someone from the neighborhood asked for it for his wife’s birthday and boasted about it on Yelp, all of a sudden Crave was selling six to eight cakes per weekend.
When Roseborough was thinking about opening Crave, she decided it would be best to have a theme: brownies. She started trying out different flavors with the same recipe, including one she found while attending the Culinary School at the Art Institute in Santa Monica. She wanted five types of brownies: German chocolate, peanut butter, chipotle, salted caramel and espresso.
It took Roseborough three years to get her brownie recipe right. The original recipe left butter at the bottom of the pan. So she made a shortbread crust underneath.
“If you have extra butter,” she says, “you might as well let it absorb into something.”
People either like brownies that are cakey or fudgy. Instead of trying to do both, Roseborough decided to offer the style she liked: fudgy. Today, her most popular flavors are peanut butter (or as she calls it, a Snickers bar on steroids) and salted caramel.
Even though she thought brownies would be her biggest seller because chocolate ships so well, it turns out that the neighborhood is intensely loyal and locals love the German chocolate and salted caramel cakes. Plus, all the office parties in the area are more than enough to keep her busy baking.
When she worked at Craft Los Angeles Restaurant in Century City, Roseborough was in charge of making granola. But she always knew that she would tweak the recipe once she opened her own place.
Roseborough sells her granola at both Crave and Espresso Cielo Santa Monica on Main Street. One of her secrets: She adds three tablespoons of ground espresso. The coffee is 49th Parallel, both the Old-School and Epic blends. Without this addition, the granola would taste sweeter.
Instead of molasses, she uses piloncillo (aka Mexican brown sugar). Piloncillo has a high molasses content, and she melts it in with the coffee and grapeseed oil. Then she adds plenty of nuts and oats, but no fruit.
And definitely no raisins — or as her daughter calls them, “Satan’s food.”