Markets & Makers: The sweet journey of Cal’s Bakeshop

"I take a classic and change it."

There probably isn’t a specific definition of a maker when it comes to the culinary scene. But that doesn’t mean you don’t know one when you see one (forgive me, Justice Stewart.)

During COVID, people were home every day with more free time on their hands. Getting creative in the kitchen was one way to spend time and burn off some energy and maybe make a little bit of cash.

But just because someone now sells their fancy cupcakes or homemade prickly pear jam, does that make them a maker? Makers are more than that. Makers take raw materials and craft them into something larger, deeper. They add passion and skill and art.

As we explore the many Tucson makers, take time to appreciate the time and effort that they put into their craft. And, by all means, buy their products!

All it takes is one taste

Cal’s Bakeshop products are not your ordinary breakfast sweet. All you have to do is look at them and you know immediately that something special is going on. One bite and you’re convinced.

There isn’t that greasy mouthfeel, no dayglo-colored frosting, not a sprinkle in sight.

Caleb Orellana is the owner, baker, and mastermind behind this small business. His creations include fluffy donuts, cronuts, Danishes, and more.

Cal's Bakeshop

Croissant Donuts (Photo courtesy of Cal’s Bakeshop)

Orellana’s journey to owning his own pastry business is a bit circuitous.

He was raised in Southern Arizona and after high school wanted to learn a trade. Cooking had intrigued him since he was in his single digits, but he never acted on it until someone told him about Job Path, a vocational program with a wide variety of career options. After doing a little bit of detective work Orellana found culinary classes in Montana. So, with a sense of adventure, he moved north and began training.

Turns out Orellana had a real knack for pastries. His instructors suggested that he should enroll in Job Path’s advanced pastry program in California. Cal packed his bags and headed out to San Francisco to train at the historic Cliff House. This legendary restaurant first opened its doors in 1863 and sits on the edge of the earth overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It closed last year.

Cal's Bakeshop

Brioche Donuts (Photo courtesy of Cal’s Bakeshop)

He also did a stint at the Bay Area’s La Farine, a true French bakery of much acclaim. There, he fine-tooled his skills and gained confidence.

But then COVID hit and work all but disappeared. Orellana decided to return to Southern Arizona. Jobs were scarce here as well so he took the big leap into what is called a cottage industry.

At first. he wasn’t sure if he could pull it off. But his friends persisted. One even went so far as to design a logo. It was when he saw that logo that he knew that he had to try.

 

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He could have stuck with the usual pastries found here but he decided to step up the game.

“I wanted to do something different. I wanted to do something people had never tried,” said Orellana in a recent phone interview. “I knew they might not be attracted.” But that turned out to not be the case. From the beginning, he was earning a loyal following. Recently, he celebrated his first anniversary.

As to where he gets his inspiration, he notes that he relies on what he likes — what makes him happy.

Cal's Bakeshop

Photo courtesy of Cal’s Bakeshop

“I take a classic and change it,” he said.

While his doughs are definitely French-influenced, the fillings are cross-cultural. You can see a little bit of Mexico, a taste of the Philippines, hints of Europe, and just plain fun.

Cal’s current creations:

Brioche Donuts
  • Dulce de Ube – a lush, purple filling with a touch of leche
  • Tropical – a jammy blend of strawberry, peach, mango, and pineapple
  • Ferraro Crunch – Cal’s chocolate donut with a soft, creamy take on those candies
  • Strawberry Lemonade
  • Berry Lemon
  • Plain Sugar
Croissant Donuts
  • Blueberry Cheesecake
  • Whipped Strawberry
Danishes aka Sixes – so-called because of the shape that happened serendipitously during baking. They are brushed with honey from vegan honey from Sweet Revenge Bakery.
  • Mango
  • Mango Tajin – like eating pico de gallo fruit salad on pastry
  • Cinnaroll Pull-Aparts – mini monkey bread
Cal's Bakeshop

“Six” pastry (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)

Where to get Cal’s pastries

Orellana’s goodies can be found at various eateries around town. The Monica, Charro Vida, EspressoSoul Café, Barista del Barrio, Coffee Time Drive-Thru, Green Desert Coffee, and most recently, Buendia Breakfast & Lunch Cafe offer the treats on a limited basis, meaning if you don’t get there as soon as the goods are displayed you may miss out.

But not to worry. Chef Cal has recently restarted his pre-order program. Each week he posts a menu on his website. You can order one of three bundles, one of which is vegan, and then pick it up at his home the following weekend.

“Since I’m just starting out with pre-orders again, I’m taking it slow,” he said. “At the moment, I start with three bundles meant for two or more people.”

The bundles include a brioche bundle, with two each of his six brioches; a variety bundle, with four brioche donuts, two croissant donuts and one cinnaroll pull-apart, and a vegan bundle that holds three croissant donuts, two sixes, and two cinnarolls.

Regarding the vegan products, Orellana notes, “I use substitutes for the butter and eggs. No animal product is used in my vegan-friendly pastries. I did have a vegan brioche but am currently reworking the recipe to get a better product.”

Cal's Bakeshop

Photo courtesy of Cal’s Bakeshop

A bundle costs $30 and at first, that may seem a bit costly, but when you think about the quality ingredients, hard work, and love that goes into each creation the cost makes sense. One taste and you’ll know you’re getting a great deal.

It should be noted that there is a disclaimer on the website for those with food allergies:

Produced in a home kitchen that may process common food allergens and is not subject to public health inspection.

The future is bright

In his one year in business, Orellana has developed relationships with several other chefs and restaurant owners.

When Lindy Reilly of Thunder Bacon Burger Co. on Fourth Avenue was looking for a donut “god” for a concept he was developing with Kenny King of Sonoran Brunch Co. (now sadly closed,) King introduced the two.

“We sampled his donuts and I even considered using his plain unsweetened doughnuts for my regular burger buns,” said Reilly, but both he and King were busy with their other enterprises and the plan was but put on the back burner. Reilly notes that the taste testing was lots of fun and there are plans to work together in the fall.

As to Orellana’s future? Will there be a Cal’s Bakeshop bake shop? Maybe, but for now, he is concentrating on learning the business end of the business and creating more yummy treats.

For more information, visit calsbakeshop.com or follow Cal’s Bakeshop on Instagram.

Rita Connelly is the author of "Lost Restaurants of Tucson," "Historic Restaurants of Tucson," and "Arizona Chimichangas" published by The History Press.

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