Cookie Casa Bakery in West Hollywood is closing this Saturday. At first glance, this doesn’t seem like particularly sad or even noteworthy news:
- One less artisanal bakery with a silly name in a city full of artisanal bakeries with silly names.
- One more open retail space to be filled with a pressed juicery in a city that already has far too many pressed juiceries.
- One more failed dream in a city that’s lousy with them.
But a first glance doesn’t tell the whole story, and Cookie Casa isn’t just another artisanal bakery with a silly name. Okay, the name is pretty goddamn silly (we’ll get into that later), but this is no ordinary bakery and this is no failed dream.
Because for the last three years, Cookie Casa has been making some of the most delicious cakes, cookies, brownies I’ve ever tasted.
And in two days it’ll be gone forever.
Erin Zabel has operated Cookie Casa from day one — first from her home kitchen and later from a brick and mortar location in West Hollywood. Now, despite cultivating a devoted following, massive popularity, and an almost aggressively adorable Instagram feed, the pastry chef has decided to step away from Cookie Casa to spend more time with her family. Because the time and energy and love that is required to build a massively popular bakery with a devoted following, are the exact same time and energy and love that her family (and especially her young daughters) need from her right now.
And for Erin, Cookie Casa has always been about family.
It’s a commitment evident in the molasses ginger sandwich cookie:
With two molasses cookies baked from her grandmother’s recipe sandwiched around the bakery’s signature vanilla frosting. This cookie tastes like everything that is wonderful about a Little Debbie sandwich cookie, without any of the (much longer) list of Little Debbie awfulness.
Or the peanut butter cookie:
Which Erin based on a recipe her mother used to bake for her when she was a girl. Unlike most peanut butter cookies, these actually taste like peanuts, and not peanuts being described over a bad phone connection.
Even the name of the bakery–whimsical alliteration aside–is an homage to her Spanish heritage.
See? It all circles back to family.
But of all the amazing pastries at Cookie Casa, the best (and soon to be most missed) is the vanilla cake.
I first tried this cake at a wedding. That piece of cake was my strongest memory from a delightful wedding full of good people, and an open bar, and a girlfriend who regarded my dance moves with the quiet respect and dignity they so rightly deserved.
The cake was sweet, but salted with enough precision that the sweetness wasn’t overpowering. The layers of vanilla frosting were flavorful and so obviously packed with butter and eggs and sugar that you could taste them in each soul nourishing, artery-punishing bite. But more than anything, what made the cake special was the texture.
Sheet cake, and especially the kind found in wedding cakes, is usually a beautiful square of spongy, easily forgettable nothingness. But the vanilla cake at Cookie Casa is–and this will sound weird, but please stick with me–decidedly al dente. And not al dente in the common usage of “maybe no one will notice I effed up the pasta if I start talking like Roberto Benigni.” I mean al dente in the actual sense: this cake is to the tooth. The texture of the cake is at the forefront of every bite, dense and moist and wonderful, and it stands up (both in structure and flavor) to the insane decadence of the frosting. The density of the cake is almost too dense. It very nearly crosses over from “toothsome goodness” to “sugary mouth brick,” but no matter how closely it edges toward the abyss, it never stumbles.
That tightrope walking mastery — between the fully perfect and the almost terrible — is what makes this the best cake I have ever tasted.
Trust me, I’m a chubby artistic type who is prone to emotional eating; I know a few things about cake. This cake is amazing. This cake is unforgettable. And you can only try it for three more days.
Erin and her staff will be taking orders and baking until the final minute, and the store will be selling every item in the display for $1 during their farewell bake off on Saturday. That means you can still taste one of the greatest cakes in Los Angeles (along with some of the greatest cookies and brownies) for only 100 American pennies.
As much as Erin, and everyone else at Cookie Casa, wants the farewell bakeoff to be a happy event for their friends and customers, I know it will still be a sad day. Erin is closing the bakery for a good reason, but she is still closing the bakery. It’s easy to forget the people who run our favorite restaurants are actually people, with their own wants and desires and dreams. As much as it hurts, those dreams might not always involve stuffing our faces with delicious food.
So when you find your own Cookie Casa–that restaurant, or place, or even person–that makes the good moments great, and the bad moments tolerable, try to enjoy it as much as you can, for as long as you can. Because as annoying as it is to write a cliché, it’s even more annoying when that cliché so perfectly describes a situation that it must be written:
Nothing lasts forever.
So before your favorite bakery closes, or your city is devoured by a sinkhole, or your doctor insists you stop murdering yourself with cookie dough, enjoy those good times (and that cookie dough) while you still can. Because nothing lasts forever.
Not youth…not beauty…not even delicious cupcakes.
Cookie Casa will be open from 9 a.m. until the last pastry is sold on Saturday, February 27.
Then there will be one less artisanal bakery with a silly name in Los Angeles.
If you’ve tried their cake, you know exactly how sad this will be.