After 39 years of cakes and pastries, Palo Alto institution Prolific Oven to close | Peninsula Foodist | Elena Kadvany | Almanac Online |

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By Elena Kadvany

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About this blog: I am a perpetually hungry twenty-something journalist, born and raised in Menlo Park and currently working at the Palo Alto Weekly as education and youth staff writer. I graduated from USC with a major in Spanish and a minor in jo...  (More)

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After 39 years of cakes and pastries, Palo Alto institution Prolific Oven to close

Uploaded: Aug 14, 2019
It started with a scaling back of the eclairs.

The owners of The Prolific Oven struggled to find an available baking decorator to hire, so they temporarily made the French pastry in a way that was "less labor intensive." Months later, the job remained unfilled. Without sufficient staff, they had to discontinue some items.

One of Palo Alto's longest-standing bakeries, The Prolific Oven will close on Aug. 31 due to a "severe" labor shortage and increasing cost of doing business in the Bay Area, the owners said Wednesday.

"We just don't see it getting any better," said Regina Chan, whose parents Henry and Sophia Chan bought The Prolific Oven at 550 Waverley St. from Harriet Spier in 1996. "We wanted to pull the plug before things take a bad turn."


Regina Chan with a slice of cake in the original Prolific Oven location. Photo by Veronica Weber.

They will also close their two other locations, in Santa Clara and Sunnyvale, and the facility where the bakery's popular chocolate on chocolate and carrot cakes, pastries and other made-from-scratch baked goods are prepared. The Santa Clara bakery will shutter on Aug. 24 and Sunnyvale, Aug. 31. (They also once ran Prolific Ovens in Saratoga and Fremont, which have since closed.)

The Chans have been discussing whether to go out of business for awhile, hoping to avoid it. But an accumulation of familiar factors — a tight labor market, rising costs of ingredients, increasing minimum wages, tech companies who lure staff away to their campus kitchens with higher pay and keep employees in the office with free meals around the clock — forced their hand, Regina said. In recent months, it became increasingly difficult to hire even entry-level line cooks and front-of-house staff to handle breakfast, lunch and dinner service.

"We used to (get) tons of applications for kids in high school, kids just graduating from school, kids in college who wanted a part-time job," she said. "We aren’t getting those applications anymore."


Prolific Oven's carrot cake made with fresh carrots, raisins and walnuts and a cream cheese frosting. It's the longtime bakery's second-most popular cake, following the chocolate on chocolate. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Over nearly four decades (the original bakery opened in 1980), The Prolific Oven baked cakes and other desserts for countless weddings, birthday parties, bar and bat mitzvahs and other special occasions. In the end, Regina said, they were unwilling to compromise on quality and reluctant to pass costs onto customers by increasing prices, Regina said. The last time prices rose was three years ago.

"Maybe that was one of the things that contributed to our demise. We weren't willing to cut corners. We weren't willing to cut the quality of the ingredients. We wanted to keep everything the same," she said.

Memories of wedding cakes past, adoration for the chocolate on chocolate, chocolate-mocha and orange-almond cakes and "thank you's" poured in in response to a letter the owners posted on the bakery's Facebook page this week.

The lifeblood of local, small businesses is loyal customers. Without that support, Regina said, she's unsure how establishments like The Prolific Oven can survive. (She also runs her own restaurant, Nom Burger, in Sunnyvale.)

"I really do fear for this area in particular," Regina said. "It's in the power of the people where they choose to spend their money. I hope that I'm wrong and that small businesses and family businesses can continue to thrive in the Bay Area, but it's going to be up to the consumers to really show that."



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Comments

 +   29 people like this
Posted by Sad, a resident of Barron Park,
on Aug 14, 2019 at 9:24 pm

This is sad.
I already miss the scones.
Best of luck to you Regina!
Thanks for all the hard work, over so many years.


 +   16 people like this
Posted by Michael Vilain, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 14, 2019 at 9:51 pm

When I moved to this area in 1985, my partner and I asked if there was any dairy in their Challah.

"It's Parve" said the woman behind the counter. Which was the right answer.

Through the years, I've bought cakes and their Grand Marnier Balls for parties and potlucks. I'll have to break my gluten free diet just to buy stuff to say "goodbye and thank you" to these guys one last time.


 +   52 people like this
Posted by Downtown Resident, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 14, 2019 at 11:38 pm

There are side effects to people opposing every additional housing unit. This is one of them. If you're sad about local businesses like this closing, you can't simultaneously be opposed to even a hint of development in this town. We're pricing everything except for incredibly high margin businesses out. Oh well, the boomers won't last forever.


 +   66 people like this
Posted by Judy, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 2:37 am

It has nothing to do with housing units. It has to do with the big tech companies luring away cooks/bakers from establishments like the Prolific Oven, according to the owner. She also remarked that high school/college students no longer will apply for work there like they used to in the past. There's a labor shortage for jobs in bakeries.

I worked at the Prolific Oven in 1986 when I was a college student. Back then there was a line out the door on Friday nights because it was one of the few coffee shops/bakeries open past 8 PM. It also (still does) had really good baked goods and coffee.

It's really too bad that local high school students will no longer work at bakeries. I guess it is beneath them, which is really sad. I enjoyed working there when I was in college. It was fun and the staff were allowed to take home some of the baked goods. I didn't gain any weight because I had to mop the floor at the end of the night, which burned a lot of calories.

The Prolific Oven has the best cakes in the area. I've been eating their delicious cakes since they opened in 1980 and I will really miss them, especially the chocolate cake with the mocha cream cheese frosting. Yum! What a tragedy that I will no longer be able to buy a slice.

There is so much bad news today. This is the icing on the cake.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Guy, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 5:18 am

And I just remarked to someone that I recalled Prolific Oven from 1987.

Might help if, as in France, a cake baker owned a cake bakery. Then, the owner could make product him/herself or train others to ease staffing shortfalls.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Julie Armitano, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 9:26 am

it is really sad to see it go.
My nieces,family and nephews like the Chocolate cake and carrort and another things.
Good luck.


 +   31 people like this
Posted by 5th Generation, a resident of Mayfield,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 9:53 am

"Progress" and unbridled greed is pricing out anything that is not corporate or catering specifically to billionaires.

It's sad watching it all go away.


 +   15 people like this
Posted by Citizen, a resident of College Terrace,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 11:16 am

Political fear mongering.

It is competition for labor and the high costs of doing business. That's what Ms. Chan said. And why shouldn't the labor force work at a higher paying job if they can get it?


 +   31 people like this
Posted by It's unfair competition, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 11:28 am

"And why shouldn't the labor force work at a higher paying job if they can get it?"

--and they should! However, hight tech is a destabilizing force for small business. If a small business competes with the likes of Google, guess who has the huge pot of money to pay the employees what they please. It's very unfair competition.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Oldie, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 11:40 am

I used to love P.O. I remember when they had a guitarist in the corner on evenings... such a destination. But lately, I have been disappointed going in there. No one seemed to care about the place. Most annoying was the unused display cabinet that took up a considerable amount of space and has been there forever. It looked like they were moving in or out. I guess out.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Free market?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 11:50 am

So how do free market advocates see this playing out? It's an unavoidable fact that big tech companies do have deep pockets & can indeed "lure" away labor. Should outfits such as P.O. be raising their prices of goods to pay for better-paid labor? Note the last para of the article ("It's in the power of the people where they choose to spend their money.")

Or do free market advocates see this area as shriveling up regarding number of smaller- or lower-margin businesses?


 +   15 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto native, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 12:13 pm

Saddened to hear this. Thank you for bringing Chocolate Decadence into our lives.


 +   22 people like this
Posted by Please, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 12:15 pm

Is there any way you can sell your recipe for cakes to one of the remaining bakeries, like the bakery at Edgewood? or Peninsula Creamery?


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown, a resident of Ventura,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 12:30 pm

Jonathan Brown is a registered user.

Chocolate on Chocolate cake was our go-to for birthdays. Thank you, Prolific Oven, for the many years of joy you've provided! Until Prolific Oven, I was always skeptical about store-bought chocolate cakes. Now we've come to rely on them, and it is sad to see them leaving us. Birthdays will never be the same. There's a huge demand, I would think, for good birthday cakes. I wonder if Prolific Oven has considered selling its recipe secrets to another willing baker.


 +   21 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 12:39 pm

Resident is a registered user.

This is a heart-breaker. I love, love, love their cakes!

It appears we also need rent control to protect local retail the greed of local developers.


 +   13 people like this
Posted by Chip, a resident of Professorville,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 12:40 pm

Oh no! This is so sad!


 +   25 people like this
Posted by rocknrollMD, a resident of Barron Park,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 12:59 pm

rocknrollMD is a registered user.

Labor shortages don't have anything to do with work being “beneath" people. I just moved from Miami and I love the Bay Area but... nobody who is looking for work at wages that Prolific Oven can afford could afford to live in here. They'd have to live in their car. Working in someone else's family bakery (open early closing late) is not something parents can let their high school kids do, not with the grinding competition. Yes, some of the people who want nothing but their housing being priced outrageously are baby boomers. Touché. But the control and grip that real estate companies have here are pricing out not just Prolific Oven. EVERYBODY is being priced out.


 +   19 people like this
Posted by Teacher, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 1:39 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

It remains to be seen how will I live without their mocha chocolate cake....???


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Poodle, a resident of Los Altos,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 2:31 pm

I have good memories when I think of PO. The business environment has evolved; the free corporate kitchens and Whole Foods grocery/restaurants have changed the landscape. Things are stacked against a, "sole proprietorship". I'm a localvore and I will try and find you.


 +   35 people like this
Posted by Judy, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 2:51 pm

As far as local high school/college students no longer working at businesses such as The Prolific Oven, it does in fact contribute to the labor shortage.

Obviously, local high school/college students don't live on their own and pay rent; they don't have to worry about living in their car while working at the Prolific Oven. That is why they traditionally have worked in local shops and restaurants during the summers and after school. They did it for pocket money while living at home. Today they don't need pocket money because they're given credit cards, which is too bad because credit cards don't teach customer service/people skills or how to do an honest day's work.

When I worked at the Prolific Oven as a college student back in '86 I was living at my parents home in Palo Alto. I made about $4.00 an hour and did a lot of work for that amount. I never could have worked there if it was my main source of income and I was paying rent. So even back then, a counter job at the Prolific Oven wouldn't pay the rent. It wasn't supposed to - it still isn't supposed to. No one works a minimum wage paying job in Palo Alto expecting it to be enough to pay the rent. That is why businesses similar to The Prolific Oven have traditionally hired local high school/college students, or people who just needed a little extra income.

So local parents of high school students/college students who won't allow their children to work at local establishments are contributing to the labor shortage problem. It takes a village.

Obviously the labor shortage problem is only one of many factors affecting local businesses.

I will miss the Prolific Oven.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Hector, a resident of Mountain View,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 4:41 pm

Any word on what will happen to Tap't beer bar currently located on the back of the Sunnyvale Prolific Oven location?


 +   34 people like this
Posted by Ron, a resident of Los Altos,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 4:47 pm

I was also one of those proverbial high school / college students who worked at the Prolific Oven in the late 80s, and I could not have imagined a better part time job. Not just because of the quality of the products we were surrounded by, but by the way that we were treated as employees. Sure, if you worked closing shifts, you got to take home that which was not getting donated to the food pantry, and yeah I've still never had a better slice of chocolate cake anywhere, but more importantly, when the bakery closed for vacation in the summer and the winter, we were all paid for the shifts we would have worked during that time. There was profit sharing in December, and for reasons I'm sure I will never understand we all got a block of cheese as a holiday gift.

After working for 3 weeks, you could take the "cake test" to earn an additional $.50 an hour, and to this day I can still describe from heart pretty much everything every cake on the menu has they have kept the same deliciousness for decades. The taking quality seriously thing is no joke. I remember getting yelled at by Harriet for putting the doily upside down in the box that a cake was about to be placed in.

I am now one of those tech workers with free meals, but I've always remained loyal, and whenever it was a co-worker's birthday there would be a cake from the Prolific Oven. I'm gutted.


 +   18 people like this
Posted by Longtime local, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 5:14 pm

Yet another way the Palantirs and Googles are screwing the rest of us.

Will miss you!!!! Chocolate on Chocolate!!! yum!!


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Mark, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 5:30 pm

They checked out a few years ago. It just took a while for the business reality to catch up.

Occasionally we meet friends to go to the Saturday farmers market. The display case used to be so tempting! And while the people behind the counter are as friendly as ever, the contents of the case keep dwindling. It isn't just eclairs, its the lack of danishes and other pastry items.

I miss the Prolific Oven of the past. What is there now, well, not so much


 +   11 people like this
Posted by LocalMama, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 6:17 pm

LocalMama is a registered user.

Ooh :( Prolific Oven made our wedding cake, and a birthday cake for our son for 5 years in a row. All of the cakes were amazing, but Raspberry Cream was my personal favorite. With PO and Palo Alto Bakery both gone, I will need to start baking for special occasions I guess... Not a fan of cookie-cutter (not pun intended) bakeries at big grocery store chains...
All of the amazing small businesses are leaving our town... We need to think long and hard how to make sure we stay true to being a small wonderful town....


 +   15 people like this
Posted by David B, a resident of Portola Valley,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 6:27 pm

Re high school students: having a couple of them, I can say that the pressures of the (crap) you have to do to have a good looking college application, are so intense that there's no time for a job. AP classes, AP tests, SAT and ACT prep classes, extracurriculars, etc. etc. 5 to 6 hours of homework every night.

However, my student who just graduated high school, had exactly this type of retail job all summer and had a great experience and learned a lot about life and people. (And earned $15/hour minimum wage... which is a bit insane)

I heard from a college admissions officer that if you want your application to stand out from the others, you should work a job in high school. Maybe things will change.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by elaine, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 6:41 pm

This is too bad, but if you want a wonderful cake at a great price, try the bakery at the Market at Edgewood.
Their cakes are beautiful, delicious, & well-priced (much less that P.O. or Whole Foods).
Actually, everything in that bakery is delicious, including Danish & cookies, etc.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Shailo, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 6:53 pm

Thank you for the amazing graduation cake, wedding cake, countless birthday cakes for friends and family, and all those evening desserts!

My family will never forget the Waverley Street trifecta in downtown Palo Alto:
1) Day One Bay
2) Prolific Oven
3) Palo Alto Toy World


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Diane, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 7:27 pm

Oh how my family will miss PO!! Since you opened in +-86 we have gotten all our birthday ???? and special occasion ???? at PO. We (all 15 of us) will miss you ????


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Geoot, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 9:45 pm

I loved their carrot cake of old. I went to the Sunnyvale location in the middle of a Saturday afternoon to satisfy a craving onset. They were out of it and almost eveything else. You can't run a business if you don't have product for your customers.


 +   15 people like this
Posted by Robert , a resident of Professorville,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 10:27 pm

Wake up people we are losing all our gathering places. I've been in the restaurant business for 40 years and sadly realize theres no place for a small business owner in the Valley because cost is killing the industry. Pretty soon only the big brands will survive your living wage and regulations have consequences just look at Palo Alto retail vacancy or North beach or downtown Emeryville all becoming ghost towns you reep what you sow and every city has sold its soul to high tech all while the restaurant owner is working 7 days a week for 3% ? If you criticize me make sure you have owned a restaurant made payroll and signed a lease and guaranteeing it by putting up your house for collateral so for allot of us foodies it has to work we have everything on the line the difference is it's just not worth it anymore.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by LINDA, a resident of Los Altos,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 10:30 pm

Your cakes have been part of every family celebration since I moved to Sunnyvale in the 1980s . I'm so sorry to see your close!


 +   5 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 15, 2019 at 11:32 pm

>> It remains to be seen how will I live without their mocha chocolate cake....???

Oh God ... I almost said the same thing, but I had to stop eating it because I would explode if I continued. Have not had it for years now, but fondly remember the cakes from Prolific Oven. Absolutely the best.

It's madness to ratched rents up so high people cannot afford to live or work here. Eventually, and maybe already as good places go, or get worse in quality Palo Alto becomes not that great of a place to live.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Jen Wheatonfox , a resident of Mountain View,
on Aug 16, 2019 at 3:01 am

Just SO very sad. Trying to keep it in perspective as a first world problem but... RIP Chocolate on Chocolate. :(:( SAD.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Lauren, a resident of Mountain View,
on Aug 16, 2019 at 5:52 am

Commenting from Boston because P.O. was such a huge deal in my house that I asked my mom to purchase the mocha chocolate cake any time I went home to visit. My family has been getting that cake, formally dubbed "The Cake", for every single person's birthday since before I was born (I'm 25 now). Even my health-nut mom made an exception for The Cake for her birthday.
It's devastating to watch something like this happen from across the country, especially because I know I can never could afford to live where I grew up. I hope they can pass on their recipes and keep the spirit and tastiness of P.O. alive.
If anyone knows how to make that mocha frosting, let me know...


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Love2Teach, a resident of another community,
on Aug 16, 2019 at 6:03 am

My daughter, who is now a lieutenant commander in the Navy, worked at the Prolific Oven during summer and her senior year in high school. She learned a lot about good customer service, being responsible, looking for things to do when business was slow, etc. We enjoyed the pastries and cakes there, although since we both love to bake we usually baked at home. Sorry to see yet another small business go!


 +   14 people like this
Posted by Longtime Local, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 16, 2019 at 7:32 am

It's always tragic the way those most responsible for this -- the enablers and perpetrators of overdevelopment -- try to use these sad consequences of their actions to push for more overdevelopment that only further drives up costs. We don't need more housing, we need companies to move to where the housing is but they lack jobs, in order to increase the number of job centers and take the pressure off of this one. The infrastructure is maxed out, and the businesses that survived previous booms are being pushed out.

We finally need to come to terms with the fact that this area has been impossibly expensive since the '70s and in some respects, before. All the complaining about how people have to pile up many to a house to afford the rent or live in their cars, is deja vu from the '80s. The difference is that this time, the developers have been more effective at getting their way even when the development is unsafe and too much for the infrastructure.

The tech companies do not care what they are doing to destroy the civic life in this town, they just want to all crowd into Silicon Valley. They will keep vilifying residents until they have destroyed the lives and futures of every last person who sacrificed for decades to put down roots here. The only way to fix this is to get involved:

1) The City MUST find a way to buy up the retail areas a) so they can be used for retail and not corporate office space, and b) in order to stabilize costs. That is the way people can afford to live here in homes. It's how Stanford can afford to keep those nice neighborhoods and why their faculty can afford the nice homes on them that look like the midwest. If the City (through great sacrifice) obtains retail areas, then it stops the skyrocketing costs, and not only can the City, over time, provide long-term reasonably priced leases to companies who buy the buildings, they can leverage below-market-rate resale of those buildings (the way Stanford does), ensure the occupants are resident-service retail, and leverage higher wages for the workers. Businesses will be able to attract workers again, and the workers will be able to afford to live here.

The other benefit of this is that it becomes more and more valuable to the City the more time passes, without costing more. Again, this is how the home market works. This is the ONLY way to maintain a reasonably balanced City. The choice is stark: either choose this positive way of restoring civic life, or watch the City die while the companies turn it into their office parks while demanding residents pay for all the ills they create (and blaming residents for the companies' negative impacts to boot).

One thing those calling for more housing could do is ensure that when the large developments come online, they are not allowed to dole out the units slowly in order to avoid lowering costs because of lots of temporarily empty units.


 +   13 people like this
Posted by Marc, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 16, 2019 at 7:56 am

The most interesting thing about most of the comments are how many of them are written in the past tense.

I "used" to go there all the time. We "used" to get cakes from them. My child "used" to work there.

The problem is that you all stopped going there multiple times a week years ago. Maybe you stopped by once a year to get a slice for nostalgia, but you didn't support them.

You can't complain that businesses go out of business if you don't constantly support them. You can't demand that the "government" should do something to maintain a business that you don't use, just so you can tell out of town visitors that it still exists.

Walk the talk. You want the local businesses to thrive, use them multiple times a week.

/marc


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Carrot Cake, a resident of Barron Park,
on Aug 16, 2019 at 9:07 am

What if OP became a worker-owned co-op establishment? Would it survive?

Would bringing back live entertainment have made a difference? Web Link

There's plenty of cupcake, frozen yogurt and ice cream shops these days. Tastes change.

Thank you to all of your staff, past and present, for your hard work and friendly smiles.

My former employer, a law firm, always served those awful Costco sheet cakes at least twice a year for special events. The operations team kept costs as low as possible. Another win for Big Box.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Miriam G., a resident of Mountain View,
on Aug 16, 2019 at 11:43 am

I was shocked & really depressed to hear this news. Guess I just picked up my last birthday cake at PO last nite!! Have been getting my birthday cakes there for 39 yrs, since they opened in 1980, the year I moved here. No one makes a cake comparable to Chocolate on Chocolate, or Choc Rum Cream Cheese or Carrot Cake. I feel like I can't have anymore bdays cause they go hand-in-hand with PO cakes! First the Milk Pail & now Prolific Oven... it is SO sad. We are losing all of our small town character & are being taken over by the high tech juggernaut. I am heartbroken over this news.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Cinderella, a resident of East Palo Alto,
on Aug 16, 2019 at 12:49 pm

Good Luck and thank you for the best Carrot Cake!
I need some carrot cake before the 31st


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Alison, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 16, 2019 at 12:56 pm

I remember when Harriet was first peddling her chocolate layer and carrot cakes to restaurants in Palo Alto in the '70's! She made them in her home kitchen. I worked at Henry's on University and we sold both of them on our dessert menu and they were always popular! She was a lovely person and was gone way too soon. I am going to order a chocolate layer cake and a carrot cake in her memory before Aug. 31!


 +   5 people like this
Posted by PalyMomx3, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 16, 2019 at 1:12 pm

My first slice... 1987 at 17 years old and there was no looking back. I am thoroughly sad and broken hearted by this news. Late night slices, gone. Birthday celebrations, gone. NO ONE else makes cakes like Prolific Oven. I even started ordering them for our law firm birthday celebrations.

So sad... :(

Thank you for EVERYTHING Prolific Oven. Guess it's time to Google "How to freeze and store cakes!!!" ;'(


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Regular customer, a resident of Community Center,
on Aug 16, 2019 at 1:40 pm

Our family has LOVED Prolific Oven for 30 years, and we've been loyal customers in Palo Alto. I'm so sad to see them go. I hope they will at least consider continuing to bake and sell to stores and restaurants if at all possible. Their wonderful recipes should not go unused and be forgotten!


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Lisa, a resident of Southgate,
on Aug 16, 2019 at 3:40 pm

So sad, thank you for keeping Harriet's original recipes going all these years. Birthdays just won't be the same.

It was hard enough saying good bye to Palo Alto Toy and Sport, now Prolific Oven. Palo Alto has lost two important community institutions.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Rez, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 16, 2019 at 3:58 pm

Crescent Park Rez is a registered user.

I'd pay more for one of their chocolate on chocolate cakes. And, I'd pay more for their sandwiches - always served on the freshest bread ever! Kara's cupcakes is booming and they charge $45 for a 6" cake. Maybe PO should raise their prices?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 16, 2019 at 5:52 pm

But the Feds swear up and down there's no inflation...


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Stuart Soffer, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks,
on Aug 17, 2019 at 9:42 am

Our go-to bakery for years; my morning coffee when we lived on Forest.

Our wedding cake was their choc-choc cake; we always had one for birthdays and Thanksgiving,

i just ordered one last cake for Monday pickup.

(It's mine, all mine)


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Stuart Soffer, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks,
on Aug 17, 2019 at 9:42 am

Our go-to bakery for years; my morning coffee when we lived on Forest.

Our wedding cake was their choc-choc cake; we always had one for birthdays and Thanksgiving,

i just ordered one last cake for Monday pickup.

(It's mine, all mine)


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Stu Soffer, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks,
on Aug 17, 2019 at 9:44 am

All the adjacent stores are empty.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Longtime local, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 17, 2019 at 4:03 pm

"The problem is that you all stopped going there multiple times a week years ago. Maybe you stopped by once a year to get a slice for nostalgia, but you didn't support them."

City Council let companies turn downtown into an office park a long time ago and they have basically pushed out any character or civic balance -- PO leaving is the last straw.

This is why we have been complaining, it really hurt our quality of life that the scope of what we can reach now and the activities of our lives have been so severely limited by the overdevelopment and office overcrowding. Even today, on a Saturday, we had to miss an afternoon with family we haven't seen in decades because we could not work out the logistics because of traffic between here and parts East Bay. Every day our lives are diminished because of the overdevelopment.

Would have patronized these businesses constantly if they have moved to Cal Ave and the City had not turned Cal Ave into Univ office park mini me. Don't blame residents who have been complaining about losing a real downtown for years. And by the way, my teen would have loved to take a job like that if it weren't for the overdevelopment making working over there unrealistic.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by LifelongResident, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 17, 2019 at 4:25 pm

We stopped in today to show our love, but the place is already dead: dismal storefront and interior, staff standing in a clump talking to each other (not even answering the phone), very few customers, cases more than half empty. What a sad way to end a run that started in such glory. We will forever miss the walnut sticky buns - maybe they can publish a recipe book for diehard fans.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by AM, a resident of Barron Park,
on Aug 17, 2019 at 4:42 pm

High schoolers don't have time to work. Pressure for constant studying is beyond the idyllic days of the 80s. Thanks to all the foreign competition who grind away.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Ray, a resident of Stanford,
on Aug 17, 2019 at 7:27 pm

We went to the PO every Friday for a challah (for two if we were going to be away the next week). I was such a regular customer for over thirty years that Harriet once quipped that"If Ray doesn't come for his challah we send out a search party!" Harriet was so dedicated to the quality of PO goods that she stayed on for several months after she sold out to make sure the new owners did everything just right. And it helped that some of her key staff stayed on.

The decline of the PO over the last few years has been so painful. It would be great if they could publish a cook-book.
I'd love to have the recipe for that challah -- not to mention their eclairs and Napoleons!


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Lisa G, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Aug 18, 2019 at 3:36 pm

Heartbreaking. I grew up going here and our wedding cake was from here. Another sad consequence of the direction Palo Alto is going. :(


 +   4 people like this
Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Aug 20, 2019 at 1:22 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Corporate superiority is anything but free market. Try to compete against a Google or Facebook for anything, and you are guaranteed to lose. Our politicians turned Palo Alto, especially downtown, into an office park, and local small businesses have zero chance of competing and surviving.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Norman, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 20, 2019 at 4:20 pm

My six year old son (now 39) called it the Terrific Oven.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Former Stanford Grad Spouse, a resident of Ventura,
on Aug 21, 2019 at 11:06 am

Nooooooooooo!!!!!!!


 +   2 people like this
Posted by keep , a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 21, 2019 at 7:05 pm

Can we help save???????


 +   4 people like this
Posted by canelesdebordeaux, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 22, 2019 at 1:09 pm

Menlo Park born and raised (mid 30s), currently living in Boston; usually I travel home in the spring but couldn't make it back this year---if only I'd known it would have been my last chance to have the divine chocolate mocha cake!

I've heard anecdotally that the owners are highly reluctant, perhaps even flatly opposed, to sharing or passing on the recipes for their amazing cakes. Is this true? If so, this is really a shame, and I hope there are people out there who know the family and could investigate the possibility of making the recipes public in some fashion. If they put together a cookbook, you can be SURE there would be plenty of buyers!!

I think many of the commenters here correctly identify the multifaceted reasons that led Prolific Oven to this dispiriting decision. I hope one day we can bring some balance back to our public policy.

I'm deeply saddened to think that I'll never get to have Prolific Oven cakes again. Life just got a little less joyful.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Paula, a resident of El Carmelo School,
on Aug 30, 2019 at 4:04 pm

I have had the chocolate mocha cake for my birthday for many years. It is probably the thing I most look forward to! Thank you for the delicious cakes. I will never forget them.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Who can afford it?, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 31, 2019 at 12:34 am

Re: Marc, as a fellow long-term Midtown resident:

Given the other costs of living here, I haven't been able to afford local small businesses for at least a decade now. Not their fault, real estate is eating everyone now.

As a child, my family were regulars at the Prolific Oven. As an adult, we stopped going out in Palo Alto entirely. Now we just live and work here.

Didn't spend any money in Palo Alto this year except for rent and groceries - when we go out, it's to San Jose once/week for cheap ethnic markets, restaurants and bakeries. Haven't even been to University Ave this year - California Ave, maybe twice for bagels?

Anyone else feel like they can't afford to support local businesses the way you used to? (Again, I'm not blaming the local businesses for their - necessary - high prices!)



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