Last weekend I traveled to Columbus, Ohio for two friends’ wedding. Per usual, I scoped out what gluten-free goodies I could find there. I was only going to be there for two days (before flying to San Francisco for wedding #2 of the weekend), but I was going to have a reasonable amount of free time on Thursday afternoon and Friday day.
A lot of the gluten-free options that have become more common the last few years popped up, like gluten-free crust at pizza joints and gluten-free pasta at Italian restaurants. Thanks to a Yelp search the options got far more exciting when I came across not one, but two!, gluten-free bakeries- Cherbourg Bakery and Bake Me Happy. Luckily both weren’t too far from where I was staying in downtown.
Bake Me Happy is just south of the German Village, which is an area I wanted to explore, so I left that for Friday. Once I landed on Thursday I planned to head over to Cherbourg Bakery for a late lunch. I didn’t eat much that morning to try and save space in my stomach for as many gluten-free treats as possible. I had followed both bakeries on Instagram and their posts were insanely mouth-watering.
I Uber’d over to Cherbourg Bakery, which is in Bexley. Bexley seems like a quaint and charming suburb a little bit west of Columbus. It was about a 10 minute drive from downtown. I saw a historic theater about a block away from the bakery and what looked to be an old-school ice cream counter across the street.
Cherbourg Bakery continues the charm as you head inside, but the food is instantly the focus of anyone’s attention. I was very very worried about my self-control prior to my trip to Cherbourg. Generally when I scope out a gluten-free bakery’s website I want a lot, but am eventually able to narrow it down. That was not the case with Cherbourg’s…
When I walked inside I kind of forgot about all the things I had pre-selected to get, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have trouble deciding what to buy. I asked for them to walk me through everything available. There were a wide range of dessert baked goods, sweet baked goods, and then a number of savory items. The variety was really impressive.
On the dessert end were the usual appear-ees of cookies, cupcakes and brownies. They also had a number of bars. They shared that the lemon bar was their best seller and I also recognized their S’mores bar from the online menu. The sweet baked goods were things like muffins and scones. For savory they had a cheesy jalapeno bite (described as a savory Madeline) and then mini-loafs of their white bread. I really liked how the woman at the counter (not sure if it was the owner) spoke about everything. You could tell she was proud of what they were offering and knew what was delicious, but it was in a matter-of-fact way (though they certainly could have bragged like crazy).
My first order (yes there were multiple) I went for a jalapeno cheese bite, chocolate chip cookie, lemon bar, a S’mores bar, and a “Black Tie” cupcake without much trouble. For my final item I was deciding between a blueberry muffin and their sugar cookie. The sugar cookie that day came with a special raspberry frosting, which sounded pretty awesome. Gluten-free muffins are something I haven’t come across a lot though. I asked for advice and the answer was that both were really good… I usually would lean towards the sugar cookie, so I decided to instead go for the blueberry muffin (especially after being told it was stuffed with blueberries).
I got all of it on a big tray and sat at one of the small café tables in the front. I went for the lemon bar first. I’ll be honest while I was ordering I was a little confused as to why this was their best seller. Things like chocolate or caramel seem to me like they’d win over people’s hearts (and stomachs) before lemon. After trying it though I could see why people love it. It’s obviously very moist overall from the lemon filling, which is most of the bar. The thin crust at the bottom perfectly holds it up and gives it some of the crumbly “crunch” and richness. The lemon flavor is very powerful and rich and light at the same time. This felt like the right way to start in pacing myself to eat my platter, which had the sugar equivalent of a small child’s birthday party.
Next up came the S’mores bar, which was my favorite of all the sweets. It had a ton of cinnamon taste for the graham cracker part. Combined with the rich flavor of marshmallow and chocolate, it was a great combo. The texture was also excellent. A mix of gooey and crumbly like a bar should be (in my opinion). I think anyone- gluten-free or otherwise- would go nuts over this bar. I overheard a woman later say it was her husband’s favorite and the woman at the counter said it was one of their richest items. I thought it was rich in flavor, but not the overly “sugary” rich that would make you only want a few bites. I wanted lots and lots of bites! I will be craving this for a long time to come.
In some recent posts about gluten-free cupcakes I’ve shared that I’ve come to realize I always go for very chocolate-y cupcakes, but I don’t like chocolate that much. I’ve tried to change that more recently and go for less chocolate-y, but I still went for the black tie cupcake because it is a dark chocolate cupcake with a cream/chocolate chip center and buttercream frosting. That was enough non-chocolate stuff I think to create a more complex taste. I thought it was a good cupcake and very high quality from the buttercream frosting, but a lot of the other things excited me more.
The chocolate chip cookie was a very good one. I liked that it was a nice mix of crispy and gooey that will appeal to a lot of cookie eaters. The texture was quite spot on and it looked almost too good to be true. It had a lot of cookie dough taste, which I liked.This would be a dangerous treat to have readily available, because once all the flavors set in and it’s all gone you start to find yourself with cravings for more bites…
I took a few bites of the blueberry muffin and they were not kidding… it was stuffed with blueberries! I liked that this helped me balance out the sugar of the more dessert baked goods I just had. I don’t have tons of experience with muffins, but if I’m using the Costco muffins as my comparison (there were always tons of those on road trips and camping trips in college, so sometimes I would partake out of hunger) then I would say this muffin was excellent. It was the tiny bit crispy on the outside, crumbly in the middle, and then a few little sections that were more flour-y. Combined with the juiciness and softness of the blueberries, you had a bonanza of textures and flavors in a high-quality item.
The last thing I tried was something I was very excited about- a jalapeno cheddar bite. I had seen this on the website and knew I instantly wanted it. This did not disappoint. I do love sweets, but if I had to be stuck on a dessert island with only one, I would definitely go for savory baked goods no question. Taste was cheesy with a slightly jalapeno kick (more cheesy though). I can get that sort of flavor other places, but I have not found something that matches this texture except… well something made with gluten. You got some crisp on the outside and then the inside was sort of spongy. That word might give you the wrong impression (I don’t want to compare this delicious baked good to a household cleaning product), but it was moist and then soft in some parts and then slightly crispy in others. The inside reminded me kind of a honeycomb. The textures and flavors just made it a very savory and fulfilling item packed into about two bites (the only thing keeping me from scoffing it down in one bite was wanting to savor the flavors and texture more). I should have asked if they could heat it up, but it was excellent just regular.
I couldn’t have just one of the jalapeno cheese bites after that. Yes I already had already bought and eaten a lot, but I just do not have that kind of willpower (nor do I want to!). I went for two more of the jalapeno cheese bites. I shockingly wasn’t feeling terribly sugared out or insanely full at this point (I had saved most of the muffin, part of the cookie, and part of the S’mores bar for later). I decided to also throw in one of the sugar cookies with raspberry frosting I had been looking at before.
I ended up taking a Car2Go back to downtown. One of the jalapeno bites didn’t even make it past starting the car. The second didn’t make it to the end of the trip. The sugar cookie I had last. It was good and I liked the raspberry touch, but all the other items were just so much more complex in flavors and textures (truly something Cherbourg should be proud of as a gluten-free bakery) that the sugar cookie was so-so relative to everything else.
Cherbourg was such a treat! Multiple times I thought to myself wow these look too good to be true and the textures are too complex and spot on to be gluten-free. Everything is also nut-free for those with nut allergies. The place had a constant stream of visitors (mind you this was also midday on a Thursday), so I think regular gluten eaters would enjoy a stop when they are in Bexley. Gluten-frees should absolutely make a trip. Drive there, Uber it there, Car2Go it there, walk there. You’ll thank me later. If you’re a gluten-free living in Columbus and didn’t know about Cherbourg please don’t be that upset at me for your likely future addition. Probably any money, calories, gas, etc. expended to feed your Cherbourg addiction will be well worth it. Luckily I thought that it wasn’t that expensive relatively speaking considering how much I got and that gluten-free items usually have a premium surcharge. I won’t be able to say whether you should go to Cherbourg vs. Bake Me Happy (I think you should do both!), but Cherbourg has more of a cafe feel with seating inside if that’s what you’re going for. Otherwise I would make a decision based on what you want from their menus- both are incredible! In fitting with its name, Cherbourg has more of what I’d consider French/European pastries (Madeline cookies, bars, muffins), while Bake Me Happy has a lot of American goodies (oatmeal creme pies, zebra cakes, moon pies, spongies, etc.). You will not regret a visit to Cherbourg I am confident of that. If you’re gluten-free and in Columbus then you will very much regret NOT going. I think my pictures below will attest to that!
Cherbourg Bakery- 541 S Drexel Ave, Bexley, OH 43209