Yael Krigman of Baked by Yael certainly didn’t start off thinking she was going to open a hugely popular shop. A lawyer with deep local roots, she started baking seriously because of that age-old Washingtonian lament: “I just couldn’t find a good bagel in town,” she sighed.
So she went about making her own (as any sane Jew would do).
Krigman began to schlep baked goods into her office every Monday morning, different items made completely from scratch each week. Colleagues not only complimented her work, but also noted that should being an attorney not work out, she could also serve people around her as a professional baker. In 2010, she started the switch, founding a business—through all appropriate legal channels, of course.
The final push to quit lawyering and focus on baking came from an unlikely source: a Daily Candy piece that came out in 2011 declaring Baked by Yael’s bagels the best in DC and bringing the online-only business just a smidge more attention.
It’s clear that to Krigman, community is a cornerstone. A longtime resident of Cleveland Park, she knew that her shop had to be in the area. The residents and her synagogue, whose kitchen she baked out of before she had her own shop, “have been incredibly supportive of Baked by Yael from the very beginning. Now, we donate proceeds to benefit the religious school.” And local store Weygant Wines was actually the original pickup point for her online customers.
Those same people came through as her backers for both initial funding (Kickstarter) and her shop’s current space, which opened across from the zoo in Woodley Park in January. The building’s owners were initially quite hesitant about her pitch, but it turns out that everyone attends the same synagogue. Other congregants vouched for her, and one evening, Krigman dropped off cake pops at the owners’ offices. The next morning, she received a message: Let’s sign! “The products speak for themselves,” she says with a smile. “Loudly, colorfully, tastefully.”
But why cake pops?
They were originally a Monday office treat. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people really took to them. “Everyone just loves stuff on a stick,” Krigman shares. Cake plus frosting plus stick truly spells success, and she now routinely sells out.
Like the cake pop offerings, her menu is short, but, ahem, sweet. “I didn’t want to offer 50 different flavors that don’t mesh well. It’s best to do something really well and not lose focus. I only introduce new ones after testing.” And with black-and-white cookies and oversized cinnamon-sugar-dusted rugelach, what else could customers ask for?
Krigman’s aunt was her oven muse; they started baking together when she was young. Recipes like these, though, are never simple. A little of this, a little of that, some more of the other thing. Her aunt would tell her, “Be’erech” (approximately in Hebrew)—just eyeball it! The lawyer, of course, wanted none of that, requiring precise measurements to make sure each batch is perfection. The cherry on top in terms of family involvement came from her dad, who built the adorable shop’s counters and tables. Now with white walls splashed with pink and green, it’s a comfortable, family-friendly place to be.
Moving forward, Krigman wants to continue earning brownie points with her neighbors, even as tourists and other visitors make up an increasingly larger part of the customer pie. She holds cake pop parties, giving partygoers (almost) full reign in the kitchen. She also serves coffee to make the shop a daytime workspace. “I really want Baked by Yael to be more than the products; I want it to be an experience.“ Through a beautiful open kitchen, customers can see the pink apron-clad staff creating goodies, dipping pops and rolling bagels. A majority of customers leaves with a playful piece of cake on a stick—and everyone walks out smiling.
Baked by Yael, 202-480-9235, 3000-F Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC, Monday–Thursday 10 am–7 pm, Friday 10 am–8 pm, Saturday and Sunday 9 am–8 pm.
Photos courtesy of Red Turtle Photography