Sweet Laurel: Los Angeles Tastemakers

Sweet Laurel is the brainchild of long time friends Laurel Gallucci and Claire Thomas. When Laurel was diagnosed with an aggressive autoimmune disease, she was told she would never eat chocolate cake again. Rather than give up her love of baking, Laurel decided to innovate and the results are inspiring and astounding.

Sweet Laurel treats are all grain-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, and dairy-free. The magic of Sweet Laurel is that all of their baked goods are as delicious as they look and made with whole foods ingredients.

Today, Claire and Laurel have expanded beyond their brick and mortar to make their products accessible to people all over the country. Their cookbooks are wildly popular and recently they have expanded further to release a line of consumer packaged goods available at Sprouts and Erewhon. Read on to hear more about Laurel and Claire’s story, and their local insider tips for Los Angeles.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What path brought you to Sweet Laurel? What brought you to Los Angeles?

LAUREL: I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and I am so happy to say LA is my home. Santa Monica specifically. I got into baking at a young age, and when I was forced to change my diet due to an autoimmune disease I have, my baking style changed. My doctor put me on a strict grain free, refined sugar free and dairy free diet. I teamed up with my co-founder Claire Thomas in 2015 and we launched Sweet Laurel when we realized the baked goods I was making for friends and family were different. They are decadent yet nutritious and not the gluten free stereotype people were used to. Delicious cake alongside beautiful branding was there at the start, and the rest is history.
CLAIRE: Laurel and I grew up a few blocks from each other. We both have the unique background of having several generations of angelenos in our family. We both grew up close to cousins, grandparents, and with such a strong sense of LA as our home. Sweet Laurel was born out of our shared love of cake and our personalities, which are best described as “museum docent in training.” We’re basically two little old ladies hiding out in younger bodies until our time to create a bridge club comes. We met as bridesmaids in a mutual friend’s wedding party, and fell in friend-love immediately. Our favorite activity, apart from sharing salacious tidbits about Los Angeles history, was baking. So years later, when Laurel presented me with a delicious chocolate cake at a housewarming party, this was no surprise. What was surprising was that this cake was made from five ingredients that fit her diet protocol, a life changing shift after a battle with Hoshimotos. With a mouthful of cake, I asked “What are we doing with this cake?” and Laurel responded, “Eat it!” and there, looking at my gorgeous friend, her beautiful story, and her incredible cake, we came up with the company would evolve into Sweet Laurel.

All images courtesy of Claire Thomas

What are some of your favorite spots for dining in Los Angeles?

LAUREL: I am still 100% grain free, dairy free and refined sugar free so my favorite spots reflect that! The Real Coconut in Malibu has the best options for grain free burritos, tacos and OMG the Fish and Chips (must try)!! Amara Kitchen on the east side has been one of my long time faves as well – they have the most amazing paleo pancakes. I love Moon Juice and Sunlife Organics for their delicious smoothies.
CLAIRE: Other than Sweet Laurel (wink wink), there is such a long list! Favorites include: Felix, where I’ve dined the night before giving birth – twice – so there’s something truly magical in that pasta; Talpa for crispy LA-style tacos; Apple Pan for the steak burger and banana cream pie; and Anajak Thai for their incredible taco Tuesday.

Photo courtesy of The Real Coconut

Do you have any recommendations for great boutiques in LA? Or a clothing designer/artisan that you are particularly excited about right now?  

LAUREL: In my heart, I adore consignment. It can take a lot of time which I don’t have at the moment, so I have been using The Real Real to buy and sell clothes. For new dresses my go to is Reformation. And I love staples from Jenni Kayne.

What are your recommendations for experiencing unique LA culture? Local secrets, beautiful hotels, historic finds?

LAUREL: I happen to be an LA history nerd, and I have deep love and respect for our city’s film history and architectural history. I love the case study homes, many of which you can tour. When I was an undergrad at UCLA I took a LA Architectural History class it was eye opening to see the what LA has to offer.  My favorite spot for classic films and programming is the Aero Theater on Montana Ave. in Santa Monica. I also LOVE Broad Stage in Santa Monica. It was originally built by Donald Douglas for his aircraft workers to enjoy films back in the day. Today it features classic films, Q&A’s, and double and triple features sometimes in 70mm… it’s great! I also think LA has some fantastic museums, which is where you will find me and family on weekends we are not hiking or at the beach.

CLAIRE: LA is an archipelago of 20 cities masquerading as 1 – there’s truly a city for every personality within it. So, if one day you fancy yourself an effortlessly tan surfer, you can head to Lily’s for Burritos and hope to find someone with a Little Dume key before getting a Southside cocktail at Little Beach House. If you’re a tweedy historian you’ll bounce between the Adamson House, The Barnsdall Art Park, and Huntington Gardens before stopping by Dan Tana’s for a steak and martini or a show at the Ace Hotel Theater. If you’re a westside local you’ll bounce from Caffe Luxxe on Montana to the Caffe Luxxe in the Brentwood Countrymart, and stop for a wine fueled lunch at Farmshop or french fries at Reddi Chick in between. All of these spots are some of my favorites too.

Little Beach HousePhoto courtesy of Soho House

Let’s talk about baking! The Sweet Laurel ethos is unique. Tell us about it and how it guides you. 

LAUREL: I have literally used food as a mechanism for healing, this is what Sweet Laurel is founded upon. I look at food as a source of nourishment, and perhaps the most special added bonus of Sweet Laurel is that everything we do is also decadent and delicious. That is what sets us apart.

Where do you draw inspiration for baking creations? How do you innovate and stay creative at Sweet Laurel? 

LAUREL: I love hearing what our community is into. We frequently poll our social media community for suggestions and products. I also stay on top of health and baking trends and see where we can integrate new products. Seasonality is extremely important-for example right now we are showcasing our Vegan Crumb Pie for Autumn. It’s also interesting to note that our biggest customer base do not have any allergy restrictions (they can eat anything!) but they come back to Sweet Laurel because they like the way they feel after eating our goodies. So we will offer our cleaner version of a peach cobbler during the summer months.

Do you have any Sweet Laurel projects you particularly love or you are excited to talk about? 

LAUREL: Our brand new line of products we created for grocery stores is by far the most exciting project at the moment – we are launching three baking mixes, cookie dough, and three flavors of brownies (coming soon!) all geared toward national grocery expansion. We want Sweet Laurel to be accessible to more people, and the grocery store is a great place to start.

What is next for Sweet Laurel?

LAUREL: National expansion through grocery and growing our e-commerce presence.

Last but not least, what is your favorite Sweet Laurel treat at the moment?

LAUREL: Our Pancake Mix is a 4-5 time a week special at my house at the moment – the best!! And a super nutritious start to the day!