The Beatles needed eight days a week. But if you ask David Davis, the proprietor of Dutch Oven Bakery in Altadena, the Beatles had it easy. Or so it seems to a man that, until the recent week-long fishing trip he took with his three sons, hadn’t had a day off for 12 years, including every holiday, “your birthday, my birthday, everybody’s birthday.” As Davis said, “Boy did it feel strange to close the shop. I thought I did something wrong.” Davis churns out magnificent cakes, cobblers, pies and glorious honey muffins from his bakery “nine days a week.”
Davis gets in no later than 4 AM – around the holidays – midnight – and has been known to work all night long. “You’ve got to get in there and work. It has to become your life to become successful.” Luckily, he has help: his three sons. Two bake and another son works the counter. Dutch Oven is a family tradition.
Dutch Oven nearly didn’t happen for Mr. Davis. An insurance salesman and part-time baker, he had been living in tiny Altadena for 25 years and never set foot in the long-standing Dutch Oven Bakery. He endured a long commute to his bakery in Midtown until a supplier friend told him about the Oven, and that previous owner Judith was interested in selling. Davis didn’t want to buy another bakery, so it took him 14 months to even enter Dutch Oven, but once he did, he knew it was “meant to be.” On June 26, 1990, he quit the insurance business, and two months later became a full-time baker. Altadena residents have been blessed with his bountiful baked goods ever since.
Davis inherited the honey bran muffin recipe from the previous owner, then took the concept to another level by substituting yellow cake for bran, creating honey blueberry, honey lemon, honey pineapple, and honey strawberry muffins. Each muffin is crusted with a caramelized honey dome, leaving the yellow insides unbelievably moist. Each variation comes with a few nuggets of sweet fruit in the muffin’s crown. It’s a mind-blowing baked good, and they sell out, so don’t sleep in if you want one (or 10).
Dutch Oven also stocks great traditional muffins, extra-moist and loaded with bananas and nuts, blueberries or chocolate chips, among others.
Davis also devotes half a display case to pound cakes, whole cakes and slices. Go for a sampler platter of butter, chocolate, lemon, sock-it-to-me and 7Up, all buttery, moist and fluffy. Mr. Davis prefers ends.
Sweet potato pies pair silky orange filling and buttery crusts. Bean’s another winner, similar to pumpkin, only darker, and slightly less sweet. If you don’t have enough room, or ambition, to buy a whole pie, grab a mini-pie.
There’s even a shelf of mini pecan pies. Dutch Oven also excels with cobblers in traditional flavors like apple, blueberry, cherry and peach, and the more exotic boysenberry. They range from $5.50 for a small, and if you’re truly generous (or gluttonous), go for the gargantuan $65 cobbler.
If you’re within range of Altadena, or Los Angeles County, or Southern California, it’s well worth driving to Dutch Oven Bakery. By the time you get there, rest assured David Davis will be ready with muffins, and pies, and cakes… You get the idea. Mr. Davis is a dedicated baker, and we’re all lucky he gave up the insurance business.