We rarely find a caramel cake we don’t like. The one that Natalie Dubose makes at her friendly bakery is not merely one to like. It is a cake to love – one of the best anywhere. I don’t mean that it is extravagant in any way like cakes with massive amounts of icing on the top and sides or multiple layers towering above the plate. No, just the opposite. This is a modest, tender, soft-spoken yellow cake, presented with its edges removed and a fine gold film of soft caramel covering the top and dripping down its edges. Both the cake and the caramel are more buttery than they are sweet and the experience of forking up a soft piece, moist with caramel, inspires reveries of tea time and ladies’ lunch and an era when neighborhood bakeries were isles of civility treasured by customers and cooks of gentle disposition.
These polite cakes, sold whole or by the slice, are all the more marvelous because Natalie’s started in the beleaguered city of Ferguson, Missouri. In fact, the shop was savaged and left in ruins during the riots of 2014. But Ms. Dubose did not despair. She rebuilt and created a charming destination, now located in Florissant, that anyone with a sweet tooth will be thrilled to visit. In addition to signature caramel cake, the bakery’s repertoire includes pies, cookies, brownies, and a wide array of other loaf cakes and cupcakes from red velvet and orange dream to pineapple coconut. The menu, written in pink, advises, “If there’s a flavor you want but don’t see, it never hurts to ask!”