.Special Recipe

Tales of two triumphant Santa Cruz bakeries earning regional and national affection

Fans of Black China Bakery (216 Fern St., Suite A, Santa Cruz) can be forgiven for not paying attention to the outgoing voice message. They’re too giddy with anticipation of, say, the German chocolate cake or the banana chocolate chip scone.

“People don’t listen,” owner-operator Katelin Brightman says. “You can’t just call and get something the same day!”

Black China, in other words, has gotten popular enough that it can focus entirely on wholesale operations. Brightman and her cheerful and tight-knit team will happily make a vegan chocolate peanut butter cake for your special occasion. You just have to plan (and call) ahead.

There is welcome relief, however: Locally grown and sown Black China stocks all the area’s Whole Foods and New Leaf markets with indulgent dairy-free treats until they sell out.

Way back in 1983, when Brightman’s mom launched Black China Bakery with a friend, vegan was a fringe consideration, and BCB’s inventory reflected that. Now more than 90 percent of its production—whether red pepper rosemary olive scones or double chocolate-sea salt cookies or sour cream raspberry cakes—is plant-based.

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Meanwhile Brightman can keep discerning vegan appetites happy without the demands of a 9-to-5.

“We’ve done a cafe and storefront, which was great, and I love the creativity of that,” she says, “but I love the fact I don’t have a set schedule.”



Beckmann’s Bakery of Santa Cruz (1053 17th Ave.) makes a mean sourdough, and has since the ’80s, when Peter Beckmann delivered his first loaves by bike. But it was BB’s pies that took the prize at the National Pie Championships. The American Pie Council hosted the 2024 competition in Florida at the end of last month, and Beckmann’s earned three blue ribbons this go round. They’ve also made the podium in years past for everything from pecan to pumpkin pie; this year Beckmann’s grabbed top honors for its berry bomb, cherry and peach, which are all available at scores of local grocers, a few dozen farmers markets and beckmannsbakery.com. “It’s a celebration for Santa Cruz, getting a hometown product recognized on a national stage,” Beckmann’s Business Development Operations Manager Tony Stumbaugh says. “We’re famous for tourism and skateboards in Santa Cruz, but it’s nice to be known for food too.”


Hindquarter Bar & Grille (303 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz) provides a solid happy hour(s) 2:30-5:30pm Monday-Saturday with $6 drinks and $6 bites, thehindquarter.com…New Santa Cruz Mountains outpost Domaine Eden (23000 Congress Spring Road, Saratoga), sibling spot to storied winery Mount Eden, is now open for tastings on weekends with advance reservations, domaineeden.com…Legendary community resource Love Apple Farms (5311 Scotts Valley Drive, Scotts Valley) is changing hands, but its legion gardener following can take comfort that it’s staying in the family, with Cynthia Sandberg handing the trowel to her son Zach Geske, growbetterveggies.com…“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature,” Alfred Austin once said. “To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.”


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