For longtime customers of Butter&, the San Francisco bakery that went viral during the pandemic for its “quarantine cakes,” the business’s new Dogpatch storefront is most likely a welcome achievement. Those who’ve stuck with Butter& owner Amanda Nguyen from the early days have gone from picking up cake orders at her home to picking them up on the curb outside an industrial building that housed the bakery’s commercial kitchen. That last space was inconvenient both for the customers who had to wait outside and for staff who had to trek up and down three flights of stairs with precious desserts. Plus temperatures inside the kitchen would swing wildly from too hot to too cold depending on the season.
But with the new Butter& storefront, located in the former Noon All Day and Kin Khao space at 690 Indiana Street, all that is about to change. It’s not just a comfortable place for Butter& customers to pick up orders, but also a way to place pastry chefs front and center, and venture into new avenues for the bakery including the addition of savory items and drinks. While whole cakes will be available for pre-order and pick-up, the business is also offering day-of purchases — and adding entirely new offerings to the menu.
If an entire cake that feeds at least four people feels like too much of a commitment, the Butter& team has another option: single-serving cakes. They’re not cupcakes, but rather miniature two-layer cakes that fit inside black tins. There will also be cakes in the brand’s “cutie” size, a two-layer, five-inch round cake that feeds four people, available for purchase. For those, the bakery will highlight its three most popular flavors, including sweet cream and roasted berries, hazelnut and chocolate, and brown butter Meyer lemon. Seasonal flavors will also rotate throughout the year, such as black sesame red bean for Lunar New Year or an upcoming Creamsicle flavor the team’s experimenting with for Valentine’s Day. They’re also considering making cakes available by the slice to highlight the creative flavors coming out of the kitchen.
In that vein, the newest addition to the Butter& lineup will be an entirely different flavor. Now available daily is a breakfast “cake,” essentially a savory, fluffy frittata made with carrots and green beans and a rotating savory ingredient that’s topped with piped mashed potatoes. “It actually looks like Funfetti,” Nguyen says. For the opening, the savory element will be bacon, with a fried onion version soon to debut for vegetarians. The “cake” will be sold by the slice and comes with a gold birthday candle and a cheery “happy breakfast,” when delivered to customers. “So far every single person smiles and I think it’s a really sweet way to one get introduced to Butter&,” Nguyen says. “We’ll see how many regulars actually ask for the candle not to be included going forward, but right now it’s pretty fun for everyone involved.”
For the first time, the bakery will also introduce a drink menu. The shop has paired with Hedge Coffee for drip coffee and an au lait drink program, which means they’ll be steaming whole or oat milk for matcha, hojicha, and hot chocolate as a kid-friendly option. Much like with the cakes, seasonal flavors will become part of the options, such as an upcoming Tongan vanilla drink. “With the arrival of our in-person retail concept, we wanted to have something that people, like neighbors in the community, could come by [and try] on a daily basis,” Nguyen says. “Cake is really delightful, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend eating it every day.”
For those familiar with the Indiana Street space, the Butter& team has converted the previous seating areas into an open pastry kitchen of sorts. “It’s going to be a pastry kitchen on display,” Nguyen says. “Our space is going to be light-filled, airy, and bright.” The move to center the pastry chefs of Butter& is intentional, one that flies in the face of worries that that pastry chefs are a dying breed. While not everyone agrees with that sentiment, Nguyen does see it as an issue with the industry. “Because the restaurant industry is a really tough one to nail, if you do have to cut staff, I think the pastry program is really one of the first to go,” she says. At Butter&, however, the cakes and the people making them are easy to see and interact with. Already, neighbors have been walking by and pausing to take a look as cakes get assembled, with the team waving at the faces peering into the kitchen.
It’s during those small exchanges that it really hits Nguyen how her business is “people-centric” in the cake world. “I love it more than I thought I would,” Nguyen says. “I think it’s so nice to actually be able to see the people who are making your cakes and vice versa. I think it really humanizes that interaction both ways — it’s just so wonderful.”
Butter& (690 Indiana Street) is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and closed Mondays.