When it comes to cupcakes, cookies, and even granola, finding nut-free, gluten-free, or vegan options that taste amazing once seemed like an impossible task. This hasn’t been a problem since 2010 – thanks to The Cake Box.
Run by Ridgefield residents Jordan Gregory and Robert Byrnes, The Cake Box is meticulous about everything they do; from the aesthetics and branding of the store to the beautifully decorated baked goods to their transparency about their ingredients, eschewing nuts or products with nut warnings in anything they make. Gregory and Byrnes created the bakery as a labor of love and they are delighted their food brings people joy – especially those with dietary restrictions.
“We once had a full-grown adult start crying at the counter because they hadn’t had a cupcake in years due to diet restrictions. You get a tear in your eye. Then it’s ‘I’m not crying–you’re crying,” Byrnes says with a laugh.
I highly recommend the “Old School,” which is basically a trip down memory lane – where the classic Hostess chocolate cupcake lives – only this one is so much better. The vegan chocolate cupcake is the ultimate winner with vegans and omnivores alike. It is fudgy, yet not overly sweet. The carrot cake, which is both spicy and sweet, with a rich cream cheese frosting and a big punch of flavor, is another tasty choice.
“We can make any of the flavors in the shop gluten-free. You have to try Jordan’s chocolate chip cookies,” Byrnes says proudly.
He’s not kidding. They are everything a chocolate chip cookie should be—and the perfect treat to bring to a nut-free classroom party. The oatmeal raisin cookies are chewy, reminiscent of an old-fashioned molasses cookie.
Whether you have dietary restrictions or just love well-made baked goods, you can satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to The Cake Box at one of two locations: 427 Main Street in Ridgefield or 10 Bay Street in Westport.
Rising to the Occasion
If you’ve got a craving for a doughnut, you’re in luck. Rise Doughnuts, located at 28 Center St. in Wilton, is a best-in-CT winner.
Famed culinary artists and restaurateurs Hugh Mangum and his wife Laura Malone, known for many gastronomic feats, have now focused their talents on crafting award-winning doughnuts. What first started as tinkering with doughnut recipes in their Wilton home during the pandemic quickly grew into a thriving business that has customers waiting in long lines every weekend.
At the owner’s recommendation, I order one of each flavor. What I notice first is an unexpected lightness. The texture is bread-like, with a crisp exterior that yields to a tender, buttery interior infused with just the right amount of natural flavor. “Our doughnuts feature a brioche dough, plus they go through a longer proofing process than usual, so they are lighter and easier to digest,” Mangum explains.
The lemon poppyseed, with a glaze that includes tiny bits of lemon zest and the brightest, freshest flavor, was delicious. But the brown butter vanilla…was glazed doughnut perfection. It lives up to Mangum’s description of his doughnuts by offering “the simplest, truest distillation of flavor.” Weekends promise legendary apple fritters with a warm
“We make everything in here—from the cookie crumbles to the smoked vanilla beans. The flour, the butter, the eggs, and the vanilla are the best you can get and sourced with intention,” Mangum explains. Malone, is particularly interested in supporting women-owned businesses.
Local doughnut lover Barbara Rockefeller cannot contain her exuberance. “I have friends visiting from out of town. I must introduce them to Rise Doughnuts; they are to die for!” she says.
There’s Always Room For Pie
When the holidays come around, some of us like to spend our time cooking, some of us like to spend our time baking, and some of us? Some of us just want to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor. If you fall into the latter camp, head to Village Market in Wilton, where they offer holiday pies that are freshly baked and bursting with flavor. “Apple and Pumpkin Pies are our best sellers during the holidays,” says co-owner and President Tim Dolnier.
In addition to their in-house confections, the bakery features Whistle Stop Apple, Pecan, and Pumpkin Pies, as well as Lulu’s Southern Chess, Key Lime, and Chocolate Pecan Pies. You can also find legendary Whistle Stop Pies at their location at the Branchville Railroad Station in Ridgefield.
“We have a limited quantity of pies, so it’s best to order them ahead,” Dolnier explains.
As far as holiday pies go, I consider myself a traditionalist. You simply cannot beat a good Pumpkin Pie with a dollop of whipped cream. However, Lulu’s Southern Key Lime Pie is so velvety and luscious, tart, and satisfying that I often find room for one on my holiday table. Pardon me while I go place my order. •