Cupcakes, cake balls, cookie dough bites — there are so many amazing sweets making their way around the Austin food scene. Recent years have seen an explosion of delectable desserts being crafted in and around the Lake Travis area. One of my favorite bakeries to visit lately is Better Bites Bakery, Austin’s only certified gluten-free bakery. But that’s not their only selling point.
For too many years, cooking for the allergy-challenged has come at a great cost: from taste to price, very few gluten-free/dairy-free/vegan desserts seem to come close to comparison to their buttery brothers. That’s where Better Bites Bakery comes in, filling the empty wheat-free shelves of Austin with delicious after dinner sweets.
Leah Lopez, owner and head baker at Better Bites Bakery, had imperative to cook without these common ingredients, so readily found in everyday foods. Most people don’t think twice about the composite ingredients that go into what they eat, but for Leah and her family, there was no other choice. When her youngest son was just a toddler, he was diagnosed with severe food allergies to dairy, eggs and wheat — three food groups ubiquitous in baking. The news of her son’s reactions to these things forced her into many new aisles in the grocery story in search of foods that he could safely digest. Instead of finding edible alternatives, she was left wanting.
“One of the things was I loved to cook and I was like everybody else — I cooked with butter and eggs and gluten and didn’t really know a lot about non-GMO foods and things like that. I just really liked to eat … so when I went to go to the store to buy him stuff it would either be gluten-free and full of dairy or vegan and full of gluten, so that’s where the challenge began.”
Working in physical therapy at the time, she always had a keen interest in cooking, putting the idea of cooking school on the back burner until the kids grew up. But this turn in events led her in a new direction, a decidedly sweet direction.
“I was like, ‘you know what, I’m gonna figure this out.’ And I want something that’s fun and exciting and makes you feel that you’re not missing out, that you actually get to celebrate that event with food and family and friends.”
So she took her passion and started cooking from a friend’s kitchen, measuring out new and cutting-edge ingredients in the pursuit for the perfect cupcake, the most tempting desserts that even the most allergic of eaters could enjoy.
It wasn’t long until she was getting orders from friends for cakes and other sweets. A big jump in business happened when Peoples Rx asked to carry their products, then another when Whole Foods Market contacted Better Bites to offer them exclusive spots on their shelves in the region. By this time she had outgrown three kitchens and now faced a big decision: was it time to go “all in” and run her own certified gluten-free kitchen?
Grabbing her recipes, kitchen gear and passion for all things sweet and wheat-free, she found a spot in Southwest Austin off 290 and set up shop. That was a year and a half ago, and business is still booming.
A trip out to the quaint spot is a scenic drive from Lake Travis, where I took the back roads through Hamilton Pool Rd. to Crumley Ranch Rd. and then to Fitzhugh Rd., ending in the quiet commercial park off Circle Dr. next to The Art Garage and Bearded Brothers. You know you’re in the right spot when you see their logo on the door, “All the taste without the worry”. You can visit the shop or check their ever-growing list of locations where you can find Better Bites.
The facility is not only gluten-free but peanut-free, as well. On my visit to the shop I got a firsthand look at all of their newest and best-selling products. From cookie dough bites to pumpkin cake balls so perfectly timed for Fall, you can purchase a smattering of sweets at the store. If you’re in the market for a dessert more personal, or if you have dietary restrictions — I’m looking at you Paleo foodies — you can get your custom order handled here with the help of Leah and her bakers on staff.
For the holiday baking season there are several open houses scheduled to happen at the bakery, where you can sample a wide array of their cakes and sweets, and place orders for upcoming events just in time for the holidays. Check their Facebook page for updates and new events.
From weddings to corporate events, Better Bites Bakery is ready to customize, decorate and deliver, all with an allergy-free guarantee. They are ardent in their search for the best ingredients and steadfast in their translation of tried-and-true desserts, so you never have to feel like you’re “doing without” if you have a food allergy. Leah is here to help.
And to anyone who has attempted to navigate the minefield of allergens that is a restaurant’s menu — or even worse, been accidentally served what they are allergic to — this is a welcome glimmer of hope in a sea of potentially dangerous foods.
After attending several friends’ birthday parties where multiple children had to reconcile conflicting food allergies, Leah saw a dearth of tasty dessert options, but Austinites now have a solution. The health benefits of going gluten-free are well documented, and it all pays off when she sees the joy in a child’s eyes who hasn’t been able to enjoy the simple pleasures of a cupcake or piece of cake at birthday parties for years.
“We just truly try to help people with multiple food allergies … the number one thing is to be able to get a product that’s safe to people that don’t feel like they can have a product with integrity.”
Better Bites Bakery (map)
11190 Circle Dr Ste 350
Austin, TX 78736
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