I’ve harbored a twinge of anxiety about Cake Flour on Market ever since it opened on East Market Street back in 2008. Part of my concern was location. Back then it seemed almost too delicate a business to thrive in a part of town where window shoppers and walking traffic are in short supply.
Sure, if it were in the Highlands or Crescent Hill, those displays of scones, quiches, cinnamon rolls and muffins would have folks lining up at the door. But five years ago, Cake Flour was on the far eastern boundary of what’s become one of Louisville’s best dining districts.
And then there’s something vaguely seditious about Claudia DeLatorre’s approach to baking. Her style doesn’t celebrate sugary, fatty indulgences. She’s a master of the subtle textures and interwoven flavors that demand attention.
Cinnamon, nutmeg, berries, fruits and fine cheeses are her tools. And she wields them with exacting techniques.
Her quiches might attract your attention because of their ingredients — locally raised eggs from pastured chickens are always the base, with a filling, of, say, spicy andouille, fresh broccoli and Gouda. But it’s the shell that will win you over. Biting into one of her quiches is probably as close as a normal mortal will ever come to knowing what it’s like to kiss, oh, Grace Kelly.
I guess my anxiety about this business was misplaced. Five years on, Cake Flour is still flourishing and expanding. Nowadays there’s room for 40 or so patrons in a brightly windowed dining room with lofty ceilings; a graceful green tint; friendly, efficient counter services; and a mix of comfortable seating.
The place still opens early to serve breakfast pastries and quiches, but now there’s a short, nicely executed lunch menu that’s outstanding right now and serves — I am told — as a harbinger of things to come. In a post-visit phone interview, manager Joe Phillips (formerly of The Silver Dollar) said that plans call for Cake Flour to develop a full-fledged three-tiered tea program — and based on what Cake Flour is doing right now, that day can’t come soon enough.
Even with a mere handful of sandwiches on offer, DeLatorre, Phillips and company are turning heads (and hey, beyond the sandwiches, whatever quiche is on hand makes a pretty delectable lunch offering as well, and all through the day there are plenty of choices available for vegetarians and vegans).
Cake Flour’s roasted veggie sandwich ($8) packs more flavor and aroma into a single bite than you might think possible. It starts, of course, with the bakery’s own house-made white bread; squeezed between those slices you’ll find a smear of Kalamata tapenade, roasted bell peppers — red and yellow — and baby portobello mushrooms that have soaked in a wash of balsamic vinegar. It’s a colorful, savory delight — and, like every sandwich, it comes with your choice of fresh fruit or a gem-like salad of colorful mixed greens.
If your taste tracks sweet, there’s a marvelous sandwich on toasted brioche made with a mix of fig jam and bacon jam (repeat: fig jam and bacon jam) with creamy mascarpone cheese and red onions ($9.50).
Smoked turkey breast (from Indianapolis-based Smoking Goose, which is earning a national reputation for its sausages, salumi and smoked meats made from heritage breeds and artisanal techniques) is dressed up with aromatic walnut pesto for another sandwich ($8.50).
If you crave a sandwich of utmost simplicity and satisfaction, there’s one made from Kenny’s Farmhouse Havarti; here the creamy, tangy cheese pairs up brilliantly with buttered rye ($7.50).
And there’s something comforting and civilized about Cake Flour’s made-to-order egg salad sandwich, made with Chelsey’s Eggs, house-made mayonnaise and finely diced apple and celery ($9.50).
Breakfast or lunch, you can give yourself a caffeine boost with a cup of drip coffee or a French press — but even if you’re not peckish for a sandwich, the house-made sodas are amazing ($2.75). Flavors change from day-to-day. You might find yourself sipping on a soda made from blackberries one day, or strawberries and cream, but no matter the flavor, it’ll give your palate a frizzy tickle.
You can email freelance restaurant critic Marty Rosen at email@example.com.