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Just Baked grows to include a savory and sugary brick-and-mortar bakery in downtown Paso Robles

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Founded as a cookie delivery business famous for its flagship chocolate chip cookies, Just Baked expanded last summer into a one-stop shop for almost everything dessert.

It bustles in downtown Paso Robles as a brick-and-mortar bakery dishing out not only cookies but also macarons, cupcakes, cakes, sweet and savory pastries, and even a breakfast spread.

"We changed the flagship chocolate chip cookie a little bit," owner Libby Ryan said. "When I purchased the bakery, it did come with a few of the recipes. But obviously, we've added recipes along the way. I do have a very talented pastry chef and a team of chefs too."

Ryan bought Just Baked in 2016 after its founder Annie Farrell had to move unexpectedly and her business partner, Megan Hoetker, left the company to raise her kids. The downtown Paso Robles location isn't the bakery's first physical store but it's the biggest one. Under Farrell, Just Baked operated as a tiny Santa Margarita kitchen and pastry bar until Ryan took over and expanded the client base through her local connections and know-how as the creator of her own business, She Makes Cakes. In 2020, Just Baked began serving Paso Robles at the Paso Market Walk.

NEW AND OLD Just Baked graduated from a delivery business known for its flagship chocolate chip cookie to a bakery that dishes out a plethora of seasonal cupcakes and other desserts—all made from scratch under the leadership of head chef Whitnie Burke. - PHOTO BY BULBUL RAJAGOPAL
  • Photo By Bulbul Rajagopal
  • NEW AND OLD Just Baked graduated from a delivery business known for its flagship chocolate chip cookie to a bakery that dishes out a plethora of seasonal cupcakes and other desserts—all made from scratch under the leadership of head chef Whitnie Burke.

Last summer, she opened the spacious downtown Paso Robles shop that also serves as Just Baked's kitchen headquarters and runs both locations with the help of her 23-member staff.

On the afternoon of Jan. 25, Ryan appeared ready for the Valentine's Day crowds. Dressed in a brown sweater flecked with large red hearts, complete with red heart-shaped earrings, Ryan leaned into the bakery's love theme. Disco balls with pink taffeta hung from the ceiling; wall art bearing candy conversation hearts greeted customers by the front door; and the color pink dotted the bakery in the form of glowing lights, candles on the fireplace mantle, and flower vases.

The themes are seasonal, Ryan told New Times, and change practically every two weeks.

"Valentine's Day is huge for us," Ryan said. "Valentine's Day rivals Christmas. Christmas is an entire month—Valentine's Day is just one day, but Valentine's Day sales-wise rivals Christmas for us."

This Valentine's Day, Just Baked will host a "Galentine's Day" event on Feb. 13. Along with sweet specials like a shareable tiramisu for two, patrons can choose to get permanent jewelry from Infinity Metals SLO, which will set up a pop-up shop in the bakery. They can also purchase $35 to $50 bouquets from MDL Events, which will be in the store on Feb. 13 and 14.

Just Baked also offers other love-themed treats, available for pre-order now, including heart-shaped cakes with vintage-style piping, chocolate-covered strawberries, French macaron gift boxes, iced cookie sets, cannoli, cake bars, and even custom friendship bracelet cookies.

Beyond the Valentine's Day thrill, hungry customers throng daily to Just Baked for its newly added breakfast menu and coffee with house-made syrups. They can go down the sweet route with a pain au chocolat or take the savory way with a buttery spinach and artichoke pastry that comes with a boiled egg center.

SWEET COMMITMENT Just Baked owner Libby Ryan goes all out for every holiday and matches the bakery's Valentine's Day-themed interiors with her own heart-centric fashion. - PHOTO BY BULBUL RAJAGOPAL
  • Photo By Bulbul Rajagopal
  • SWEET COMMITMENT Just Baked owner Libby Ryan goes all out for every holiday and matches the bakery's Valentine's Day-themed interiors with her own heart-centric fashion.

All desserts and breakfast items are created by head chef Whitnie Burke and her team of chefs. Once the owner of Paper Cake Events and described by Ryan as probably her only competition in the wedding scene, Burke left her business to work for Just Baked.

"I'm a savory chef first before pastry," Burke said after pulling out a tray of macaron shells from an industrial oven. "But I went back to pastry when I moved back to the Central Coast. There's not really a huge market for fine dining anymore, and pastry was kind of just calling to me. So I went back to it."

ALL THE RAGE Just Baked offers heart-shaped cakes with vintage-style piping and glitter cherries as a Valentine's Day special that's available to pre-order now. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JUST BAKED'S FACEBOOK PAGE
  • Photo Courtesy Of Just Baked's Facebook Page
  • ALL THE RAGE Just Baked offers heart-shaped cakes with vintage-style piping and glitter cherries as a Valentine's Day special that's available to pre-order now.

Burke and Ryan are excited about menu collaborations, too. Just Baked's breakfast menu received a bagel addition as of Jan. 26 thanks to Brian Stein of the former Stein's Deli in Atascadero.

"He actually came out of retirement for us," Ryan said. "So we're going to be the only people that can carry Stein's bagels."

Burke will be experimenting more with bread the rest of the year. She's served up dinner rolls in the past and is keen to play with sourdough in the future.

"We put extra effort into our breakfast spread, so there are a lot of cool, seasonal things that are unique to the Central Coast," she said. "In my opinion, if you really like food, it's interesting to see that stuff."

Just Baked, according to Ryan, fills a craving in the Paso Robles area.

"We do everything here and in-shop. I think a lot of the other bakeries that are in town don't do that," she said. "We refer a lot of people over to Angela's; she does a lot of Hispanic pastries that we don't offer. But some of the other bakeries that are in town, don't [make it] fresh or made in-shop.

"Our stuff is all from scratch, and I'm really proud of that." Δ

Staff Writer Bulbul Rajagopal can eat pain au chocolat for days. Slow her roll at [email protected].

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