Dining Out: Happy Tiers bakery offers variety of tasty treats

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Why: After three years of making cakes at home, Joe and Nikki Wheatley opened Happy Tiers Bake Shop on April 1, specializing in custom cakes for all occasions. Joe Wheatley is a student at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Portland and is due to graduate in September. Like any upstanding bake shop, Happy Tiers has a selection of fresh baked goods to choose from, as well as a full espresso bar that features local artisan coffee.

Atmosphere: Walls are painted in hot pink, bright orange and yellow, with a splash of bright green here and there. A wall-mounted chalkboard flanked by hanging metal pails full of sidewalk chalk invites patrons to doodle to their hearts' delight. A touch of bling from a beaded chandelier brightens up a corner adjacent to a couple of cushy chairs. More seating is available at a window bar and at bistro tables on the open floor. Weather permitting, there are a few seats outside, as well. Overall, the bake shop imparts an air of whimsical fancy that just makes you smile.

What I Tried: For my dine-in experience, I selected the gluten-free Morning Glory muffin, which appeared to have a lot of ingredients in it. When I asked about the ingredients I was told, "It has everything but the kitchen sink in it." I found the muffin very light, airy and moist as compared with many gluten-free products I've tried, which tend to be overly dense and dry. It had dried cranberries and shredded carrots incorporated into the batter, and the mild flavor reminded me of both carrot cake and spice cake. It was tasty and satisfying.

To take home with me, I filled a box with apple turnovers, peach turnovers, cinnamon rolls, a chocolate chip cookie, a jalapeño and cheddar scone, a blueberry scone, a rainbow cupcake with buttercream frosting, and a mini banana bread.

My favorite was the apple turnover. The pastry was appetizingly flaky, and the apple filling wasn't too sugary. I appreciated the apple slices which still had a bit of firmness to them. A simple confectioner's sugar icing was drizzled over it.

If you don't like gooey cinnamon rolls and prefer a more bread-like version, a light cinnamon accent, and icing instead of cream cheese frosting, you will want to try Happy Tier's rolls.

The chocolate chip cookie was delicious. It was soft, and there were enough milk chocolate pieces to make their way into every yummy bite. It was also absent that unpleasant granulated sugar character that too many "homemade" cookies present.

The scones were authentically dryish, and the add-ins were ample enough without being overwhelming. The cheddar cheese of the jalapeño and cheddar scone was melted over the top.

Menu Highlights Beyond What I Tried: In addition to the turnovers, which come in apple, peach, and cherry, there are voulevants and pinwheels of the same variety. If I had not run out of room in the box, I would have included one of the chocolate peanut butter bars.

Other Observations: Tiered cakes are their specialty, but they also create satellite cakes and 3-D cakes of all shapes and sizes. To view photos of Happy Tiers creations, visit their Facebook page, which may be accessed via their website.

I was pleased to learn that Happy Tiers Bake Shop uses real butter in its baked goods. In my opinion, this makes all the difference — butter distinguishes the best baked goods from all the rest.

Cost: Most baked items cost less than $3.

Hours: 6:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Telephone: 360-694-7724

Where: 316 E. Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver. www.happytiersbakeshop.com.

Health Score: Happy Tiers Bake Shop has received a pre-opening inspection and is scheduled to receive a routine inspection in the near future. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.