I had the chance to sit in on a class at Cups La Jolla bakery and culinary school. I am so impressed with this business, which not only turns out absolutely delicious baked goods, but is a three-star certified green restaurant—the first in San Diego—and everything is organic! It takes a ton of work and commitment to source ingredients, take-out containers, and all the other parts of a bakery, and owner Michelle Ciccarelli Lerach really walks the walk. If you’re in the San Diego area, it’s definitely worth a trip. When you see the prices ($2 for a mini-cupcake, $4 for the regular size) remember that all the ingredients are organic and that you’re supporting a green business and your own health.

The class was casual, hands-on, and fun, and I learned a lot about baking with agave syrup, even though they were teaching traditional baking (not gluten-free). The group made a total of eight recipes developed by Chef Jesus Gonzalez, and everyone got to try everything at the end.

Each station was set up for us with everything we needed to play.
All the attendees got a cute notebook, pen, and a Cups apron while working.

Chef Jesus led the class, along with owner Michelle and Culinary Coordinator Jean Courtney. They were all helpful and let everyone get their hands in the mix right away. After taking the class I can definitely recommend the experience, which would be great for a birthday party (kids or adults), bridal or baby shower, or just for fun. I’m looking forward to their upcoming series about gluten-free cooking.

Here are some tips they shared about baking without sugar:

  1. Since white sugar provides a lot of the lift in baked goods, you need to whip up the wet ingredients using a blender to force some air in. Ideally, you are creating an emulsion with the oil and agave syrup before blending with the dry ingredients.
  2. If your end goal is a crispy crust, use almond meal as part of your gluten-free mix.
  3. You can substitute goat cheese for cream cheese to lighten frostings.
  4. If you over-bake something, you can inject fruit juice or milk into it to rehydrate it.
  5. Adding fruit or vegetable pulp (baked squash, pumpkin, applesauce) helps when baking with agave syrup.
Chef Jesus, formerly of Rancho La Puerta and Golden Door spas.

I made the fruit-oat tartelettes.

Berry tartelettes are glazed with melted natural jam and pineapple juice.

Rolled Oat and Almond Tartelettes with Seasonal Fruit
Recipe courtesy of Cups La Jolla
Makes 6-7 tarts

1/4 C. agave syrup
1 C. GF rolled oats
1/2 C. sliced almonds
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1 orange, zested

1 golden delicious apple
1/2 C. blueberries
1/4 C. raspberries
1/3 C. all-fruit berry jam
1/4 C. pineapple juice

Preheat oven to 350F (180C/Gas mark 4). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice the apple very thinly.

Place the almonds, oats, agave, nutmeg, and the orange zest into a food processor and pulse on low until it’s ground into a chunky paste and is sticking together.

Use an egg ring or round cookie cutter (about 3″ across) to form the crust into tarts. Place three slices of apple on top of each crust. Bake for 20 minutes until the crust is crispy and the apples are tender.

In a small saucepan, melt the jam and add the juice, stirring until mixed. Pour in the berries and stir until mixed. Pull off the heat and let cool. It will thicken as it cools.

Top each tart with fruit and serve.