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Photo by Amy TheligIn 1994, husband-and-wife catering team Carmen and Carmela Cella began renting the kitchen at Beverly's Best Bakery in Fullerton for their nights of labor. Then, in the fall of 1995, Beverly's went up for sale. The couple faced a difficult choice.
"We didn't know what to do," Carmela now says, her petite frame wrapped in a flour-smudged apron, auburn hair haphazardly pulled back. The two had never run a restaurant before, and buying Beverly's would cut into their lucrative catering service. But the appeal of owning their own eatery—their own kitchen!—was too strong.
"I looked at my husband and said, 'Let's buy it,'" Carmela remembers with a laugh. "Little did we know what was to come."
3020 Brea Blvd.
Fullerton, CA 92835
The couple opened their doors in January of the following year, with just three employees and much to learn. What was to come were slow days of long hours and few customers, days that weighed heavily on Carmela.
"I cried the entire first day," she says. "I was so overwhelmed."
Today, pastry-lovers stream in from across the county to pick up loaves, nibble on cookies and linger in the small but inviting Fullerton bakery. In an era in which restaurant chains focus-group everything to manufacture a sense of Grandma, Beverly's Best is hominess with a brownie.
Carmen's cookies provoke most of the foot traffic at Beverly's. The macaroons are chocolate-dipped coconut dreams: rich, light and fluffy, a guaranteed late-night craving. The holiday-themed sugar cookies—haunted houses, Christmas trees, Guy Fawkes (kidding)—are beautifully, deliciously, detailed pieces of art. And chocolate-chip cookies fresh out of the oven (Carmela's admitted favorite) will make you discard Mrs. Field's as if they were a mere carton of Chips Ahoy!
Beverly's is no mere cookie shop, though. Chocolate éclairs burst with a Bavarian pastry cream whipped and blended to a smooth perfection, the cream's buttery consistency a worthy companion to the éclair's flaky crust and bittersweet chocolate-ganache icing. The simplistic beauty of a freshly glazed fruit tart beckons your tongue from even across the room. And if you're looking for something free, pass by on a Wednesday or Saturday: the Cellas hand out free cups of jolt-packed coffee to the lucky souls who purchase a pastry. Get the scones, though: pumpkin, current or cranberry orange—they're all a bit of high tea.
As great as the pastries at Beverly's are, Carmela takes the most pride in practicing the much-maligned craft of wedding-cake design.
"A cake isn't a cake until it comes out of the oven. In the hands of our decorators, each one is transformed into a work of art," says Carmela.
A display wall of white wedding cakes is lighted with the same awe as a Picasso at the Lourve. Customers can choose from various cake and icing flavors, everything from chocolate mocha to ripe raspberry to cookies and cream and other combinations concocted by Carmela and her eager staff.
Once the bride decides on her cake, so begins the magic. A team of four decorators use bold color and texture to design cakes that are almost too beautiful to cut. Almost. But whether your cake is transformed into a garden of springtime flowers or the most beautifully wrapped birthday gift, keep napkins handy when you pick up an order: you willswipe your finger through the homemade icing before stepping out the door.
Carmela's richest reward is hearing her heartfelt desserts defined a holiday or wedding celebration. And she is always willing to help a customer in need: last summer, when a local bakery went bankrupt without notice and took a bride's cake payment with it, the despondent lady turned to Beverly's Best.
"Of course we helped her," Carmela says and smiles. "And we had it ready in a week."
BEVERLY'S BEST BAKERY, 3020 BREA BLVD., FULLERTON, (714) 529-3989. OPEN TUES.-FRI., 7:30 A.M.-6 P.M.; SAT., 8 A.M.-5 P.M. PASTRIES RANGE FROM 85 CENTS TO ABOUT TWO BUCKS; CAKES RANGE FROM $14 to several hundred dollars. ALL MAJOR CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED.