How an Autoimmune Disease Diagnosis Led to the Founding of One of West L.A.’s Best Bakeries

Laurel Gallucci Changed Her Own Diet Before Doing the Same For Many Angelinos

By Zach Armstrong

It’s horrifying to have a chronic disease, especially when your whole life’s ahead of you. Laurel Gallucci’s career, interests and ambitions were put in jeopardy by her mid-20s with a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s disease; an autoimmune disorder attacking the thyroid gland. She took a year off her school teaching job. She couldn’t continue as a pilates instructor. Her plans to become a mother were questioned as she wasn’t ovulating properly. Even walking upstairs was hard. 

The disease robbed her of energy and nearly everything else.

However, one disruption was easy to address: a change in diet. Gallucci needed to cut off inflammatory foods such as refined sugar, gluten, grains and dairy. No problem. Raised by a cardiologist father who always encouraged substituting ingredients, she knew she could find a way to still enjoy her favorite delicacies. 

Soon, she was known in her social circle as the friend that always brought the healthy version of a dessert to any occasion. One day, after bringing her gluten-free chocolate caramel cake to a party, her cooking got a momentous stamp of approval. Future co-founder Claire Thomas, an avid foodie, loved the dessert and insisted Gallucci take things next level. 

This is how Palisades Village’s own Sweet Laurel bakery came to be. After merely a few years of launching an online business for delivery and hosting local workshops, Gallucci and Thomas opened her own flagship store in 2018 which now stands as one of the preeminent bakeries of West L.A. Using ingredients absent of gluten, grain, dairy and refined sugar, Sweet Laurel offers an array of delectable baked goods such as its Pretty Pink Cake, Vanilla Maple Cake, Keto Blueberry Muffins, Apple Pop Tarts and Chocolate Caramel Cake (the one Laurel served Claire; now its best-selling item). 

Sweet Laurel has found itself in households nationwide in more ways than one. Its chocolate cake mix is available for purchase at Erewhon, Bristol Farms and Gelson’s. And for those who have an appetite for homemade cooking, two cookbooks authored by the founders offer provisions on its top items. 

A wide range of food publications and critics have sung their praises for the eatery. Meggen Harris of Forbes introduced her feature article on the business by stating “I am a sucker for healthier-for-you desserts that actually taste good. They aren’t easy to find. So, when I do find them, my inclination is to share the discovery with others.”

Indulging in healthy alternatives has perked up the life, not only of Sweet Laurel’s customers, but of Gallucci as well. Her autoimmune disease saw a full remission after her dietary change. She has energy. She digests food normally. And she has two beautiful children. None of which could be accomplished during the peak of her illness’ ravages. 

But while Sweet Laurel maintains its nutritious appeal, Gallucci says only around 40% of her clientele make orders due to dietary restriction. The other 60% are those who simply have a sweet tooth, but are trying to avoid the subsequent guilt.

in Dining, News
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