CakeBar & Bakery specializes in cinnamon rolls, croissants, muffins, cupcakes and other pastries
Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune The veggie sandwich is served over freshly baked focaccia at CakeBar in Medford.
Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune Homemade potato salad was a recent side dish with the chicken salad sandwich at Medford’s CakeBar.
Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune Broccoli salad was a recent side dish at Medford’s CakeBar.
Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune A red velvet cupcake was a recent sweet option with the “lunch box” at CakeBar in Medford.
Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune A slice of lemon bread was a recent sweet option with the “lunch box” at CakeBar in Medford.
Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune A full order of homemade cookies and gravy is $8 at Medford’s CakeBar.
Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune Cinnamon rolls are a staple at Medford’s CakeBar.
More sweet and savory treats than the name suggests await you at a west Medford bakery.
CakeBar & Bakery opened in late October on West McAndrews Road modeled on offering portions of cakes to match with choices of icing and other garnishes. But chef-owner Cassi Leland is struggling to keep up with demand for muffins, scones, danishes, croissants and her cinnamon rolls. It’s not uncommon for the bakery that opens at 7:00 a.m. to sell out its most popular items at 10:00 a.m.
So Leland sweetened the deal for late arrivals and started serving lunch last month. The selection is small — a few sandwiches and a few sides — but Leland maximizes quality. And the price of its “lunch box,” which includes a sandwich, side dish and dessert for $12, is hard to beat. Bottled and canned drinks are available between $2 and $2.75.
The promise of snow peas, fennel, and feta seasoned with a passion fruit vinaigrette lured me to CakeBar one weekday for a long-awaited ladies’ lunch. I knew Leland’s veggie sandwich would appeal to my sister, who prefers lighter meals. And I’m a sucker for the classic chicken salad on a croissant, the other choice of the day.
Alas, a minor calamity had befallen the croissants at CakeBar earlier in the day, Leland explained. She had a new batch in the oven, but they wouldn’t be ready for at least 20 minutes if we wanted to wait. With errands to run after lunch, my sister and I agreed to sample the chicken salad over Leland’s freshly baked focaccia instead. Planning to split each sandwich and share both sides, we asked for one of each.
We hoped our instructions were loose – it didn’t matter which salad went with which sandwich – but both plates came out with potato salad. Specifying that we wanted to try the other salad, Leland said she only needed a few minutes to mix it up.
It should be made clear to potential customers that CakeBar is essentially a one-man show. Leland’s teenage daughter provides help at the counter, but Leland’s hands are mostly the ones on each item.
Baking professionally on and off for over 20 years, Leland transplanted the CakeBar concept from Silverton, where he operated for less than a year before his family moved to Rogue Valley. Before she could put together her own storefront — painted bright turquoise — Leland was selling baked goods at Central Point’s Pine Street Marketplace and Palms Cafe.
Of her story as a baker – a calling she found at age 10 – Leland says, “I can’t not bake. I love him so much!”
With an attitude just as sweet as his recipes, Leland jokes around with regular customers and makes newcomers feel immediately at home. Even Leland’s potato salad reminded us of Mom’s.
Combining tender, thin-skinned red potatoes with plenty of hard-boiled eggs, the chef keeps the other ingredients finely chopped and the seasonings decidedly salty and salty, brightened with fresh dill. The recipe was just how I like it – without a trace of the sickly sweet pickle relish that some people prefer. My sister agreed wholeheartedly.
A vegetarian sandwich, Leland’s curation, is also impeccably fresh and distilled to its essentials. Layering juicy tomatoes and crunchy cucumbers with just the right amount of alfalfa sprouts and a leaf of leafy green lettuce, the sandwich was enhanced with a sensible layer of cream cheese and a slice of bell pepper. We asked for red onion slices on the side.
The cheese-enriched bread, itself, was so fresh, moist, and pleasantly yeasty that almost any assortment of ingredients would do. Nonetheless, Leland was by far the best cold veggie sandwich I’ve ever had that didn’t rely on tofu, tempeh, or another alternative protein. I surprised myself and even ate the lettuce.
Although I felt a slight pain for the croissant in the chicken sandwich, I still enjoyed another serving of focaccia. Leland’s Chicken Salad was also impressed with soft, finely diced add-ins, except for the whole green grapes that were tossed in with generous chunks of chicken.
By the time our side salad arrived we were almost done, but Leland wisely delivered a double serving in a take-out container. A look revealed it wasn’t snow peas as advertised, but florets of broccoli and raisins in a sweet, creamy dressing. I brought it home, along with the treats from our lunch boxes: a red velvet cupcake and a slice of lemon bread.
Promising my son’s pastries for a Saturday treat, we returned the following week in time for the last serving of Leland’s popular cookies and gravy. Priced at $8, the large order of two cookies whole, split and smothered in homemade sausage sauce fed me and two young children with the addition of a large CakeBar Cinnamon Bun ($5 ) covered with icing. A single cookie with sauce is also $5.
It’s hard to innovate when it comes to an American mainstay like cookies and gravy. But my boys and I loved the hint of green chili in Leland’s version, lightly spiced without detracting from the flavor of the dish.
While the consistency is perfect, we wish the sauce — ladle out of a countertop slow cooker — was a little hotter. We will plan a return visit when the cinnamon rolls are warm from the oven.
Located at 915 W. McAndrews Road, CakeBar is open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. See facebook.com/Cakebarandbakery and follow @cakebarandbakery on Instagram for menu updates.
Contact Managing Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4494 or [email protected]