Dutch Butter Cake

½ C butter (no substitutes!)

1 C sugar

1 egg

¼ to ½ tsp almond flavoring

½ C almond paste

1 C flour (can use gluten free flour)

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and almond flavoring. Mix in almond paste. Beat until light and fluffy, about five minutes in a KitchenAid mixer. Spread in 9-inch round cake pan that’s been buttered. Bake at 325 degrees for 40-50 minutes.

Garnish with course raw sugar and sliced almonds.

Bonta Natural Artisan Gelato owners Juli and Jeff Labhart might have thought the snow and frigid weather would slow down their Bend business, but what they’ve found instead is a “bursting-at-the-seams” problem, says Juli.

“We grew faster than we expected.”

Their frozen dessert comes in pint-sized containers and can be found in dozens of Bend restaurants and grocery stores. They’ve also expanded sales statewide.

“We’re in (the) Portland and Salem area, too,” explains Jeff. “We’ve been asked to sell in Eugene, but we just don’t have the capacity now.”

That will all change in the new year, as the couple recently signed a lease for a larger space on SE Wilson Avenue and Ninth Street. It will be more than five times larger than the 400-square-foot commercial kitchen attached to their home that they’ve been using for four years.

The couple says they’ll miss the short commute to their business, but it’s time to expand.

This Christmas season, Santa is also delivering to the Labharts an additional retail creamery shop on Minnesota Avenue in downtown Bend, where customers can get scoops of their favorite flavors.

“We have 14 or 15 consistent flavors that we always make, and another 10 to 15 of seasonal flavors,” says Jeff, pointing to a whiteboard of flavors.

The day we caught up with the Labharts in their home kitchen, Juli was making her Dutch Christmas specialty butter cake, “boterkoek,” a recipe handed down through the generations in her family.

“We’re three or four generations of Dutch from Lynden, Washington, and this cake is a tradition,” says Juli, as she puts the ingredients in her mixer. “My family holds contests every holiday season on who makes the best one.”

Juli points to her mom’s recipe, which calls for ½ cup of butter, and on the side her mother has written, “no substitutes, real butter.” Juli laughs at this notation. “Both my parents grew up on dairy farms,” she said.

Jeff grew up in the creamery city of Tillamook, known for its world-famous cheeses.

Married for 13 years, the couple found they had a romance not only for each other, but also for gelato.

Before their two children came along, Jeff and Juli sold all they owned and backpacked around the world for a year, stopping for gelato wherever it was offered.

When they returned from their adventures, Juli decided she would go to gelato school.

Since then, the couple have been in search of perfect gelato. Recipes they’ve perfected are top-secret, and they’re always creating new flavors.

“We don’t use powder or paste flavors in Bonta gelato,” says Juli. “We use natural ingredients. I don’t want all those starches in it, because I can’t have gluten or corn, so most of our flavors are gluten-free and corn-free, and the sorbets are also dairy-free.”

While the Dutch butter cake bakes in the home kitchen, Juli walks us through their garage full of freezers and opens a door that leads to the commercial kitchen, with all its stainless steel appliances and counters. Because it’s a commercial kitchen, she dons her hairnet.

She’s developing a new butternut gelato flavor for a restaurant client.

“Sometimes it’s like mad-science experiments in here,” says Juli, picking up a bottle and opening the top and smelling it. “This is a new experimental flavor. We soaked lavender in vodka for a month.”

The Labharts say part of their secret is trying to source locally as much as possible.

For their Vanilla Bourbon gelato, they use an Oregon Spirit Distillers product, and for their Vanilla Black Butte Porter flavor, they use Deschutes Brewery beer. This creativity in the commercial and home kitchen is what makes this career so satisfying for Juli, who holds a math degree from Linfield College and confesses she’s a “math nerd at heart.”

“You should see her spreadsheet recipes. They’re all mathematically based,” explains Jeff, who feels they’re making some of the best gelato around, and his loyal customers seem to agree. “We were considered, what the county calls ‘home occupation’, but you can see we need more commercial space.”