Local pastry chef, shop owner creates desserts reflecting Southern California’s beach lifestyle

When embarking on writing her first cookbook, Dana Point resident and San Clemente bakery owner Lei Shishak created treats to accompany Southern California heat and transport readers to far off beaches. Photo: Chau Vuong
When embarking on writing her first cookbook, Dana Point resident and San Clemente bakery owner Lei Shishak created treats to accompany Southern California heat and transport readers to far off beaches. Photo: Chau Vuong

By Amanda Huffman

Baking is a passion Lei Shishak never believed she would pursue fulltime.

“I always enjoyed baking and cooking,” Shishak said, “But I never imagined I’d become a pastry chef.”

Today, this Dana Point resident is not only a pastry chef and bakery owner, she has also recently released her first cookbook—a compilation of sweet treats to accompany the Southern California heat—titled Beach House Baking.

As a child, Shishak baked alongside her mother while day dreaming of writing a cookbook. And although filled with childhood dreams, her journey to today was not a simple one, but one filled with interesting twists and turns.

Rather than attending culinary school, Shishak, a Pennsylvania native, attended school in Maine and entered a private banking career in Manhattan. A “now hiring” sign outside a New York City bakery eventually put Shishak on that long-abandoned path to becoming a chef. She kept her finance jobs and started out as a weekend, cake decorator—doing some of the hardest manual labor she had ever done.

A little more than a year later, Shishak left the banking world and attended the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York. There Shishak perfected skills she would eventually bring to the West Coast, by way of Los Angeles, before becoming the executive pastry chef at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort’s Stonehill Tavern. She served in that capacity for three years.

In 2010, Shishak took her dream to the next level and opened her own bakery. Located in the heart of San Clemente’s downtown, Shisahak’s little shop, Sugar Blossom Cake Shop, is surrounded by restaurants and vibrant retail storefronts. This bake shop with brightly-decorated windows, on the corner of Avenida Del Mar and Ola Vista, keeps customers happy with cupcakes, cookies and cakes.

Shishak took a year to write the book, which served as a testing phase for her new recipes.

“A lot of the items I would put out at Sugar Blossom,” Shishak said, “So a lot of my customers got to try some stuff.”

This “stuff,” or sweet-culinary concoctions, could be anything from popsicles to pie and ice cream sandwiches, which are homemade right down to the cookies.

Available through Amazon.com, Beach House Baking focuses on desserts and, as the title suggests, all of the recipes come inspired by Shishak’s love of the beach and the local, laidback lifestyle.

“The whole point of the book is that readers get whisked away to beaches around the world,” Shishak said, “I really hope they feel transported to those wonderful destinations.”

Even with her first cookbook published, Shishak doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon. She’s beginning work on a frozen cookie dough line that she hopes will be sold in grocery stores across the country in the near future.

“We get emails from people all over the country who really love our cookies,” Shishak said. And when asked what other plans the future holds, Shishak smiled and said, “A second book, for sure.”

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