Bakesale Betty

With a flippy blue wig and a campy persona, Bakesale Betty (known in her off-hours as Alison Barakat) has carved out her own niche of homey, out-of-this-world baked items that you wish your mom used to make. After moving to the Bay Area five years ago from Sydney, Australia, Betty landed a job as a line cook at Chez Panisse. In her off-hours she peddled her baked goods at the Walnut Creek, Alameda, and Danville farmers markets. Finally, in 2002, she decided to pursue the bakery biz full-time, and just a few weeks ago, opened her own bakery.

Located on the corner of Telegraph Avenue and 51st Street in Oakland's up-and-coming (or has it already arrived) Temescal District, Betty's new bakeshop is awash in bright hues of red and green, with retro ironing boards displaying her wares. Lined up along the countertop were rows and rows of her famous chewy ginger cookies and her succulent, dense, moist banana bread (which by the way is probably the best banana bread I've ever tasted).

In the back, as Betty and fellow bakers sampled what looked to be a heavenly strawberry shortcake, we tasted delicious nut-free brownies. Chewy, cakey, with the perfect crunchy outer crust, these are what brownies should taste like. Betty also sells lemon bars, rhubarb scones, sticky date pudding (another one of my all-time faves!), and oatmeal-raisin cookies (with walnuts). Soon to come are cakes and pies; she even plans to use special pie warmers so that customers can leave the bakery with a nice warm pie. Just like mom used to make and wouldn't let you have.

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There are a lot of fantastic bakeries in the Bay Area, but Bakesale Betty is unique, taking the comforts of home and making those special, take-you-back-to-childhood treats better than anyone else. Isn't it nice to just swing by the local bakery and grab a thick slice of chewy honey-sweet banana bread to go with your coffee in the morning? I'm on my way now...

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