The first thing anyone notices about Dylah Ray's goodies are the stunning decorations. Cookies are topped with delicate pressed pansies or herbs; pies are garnished with marigolds and other fresh flowers, sprigs of rosemary or whole berries dusted in sugar. Now everyone can get their hands on her gorgeous baked goods: Ray's taking the leap into life as a full-time baker and entrepreneur by launching the Botanical Bakery of Denver
on Friday, September 9.
Ray is not a baker by trade; she learned how to combine butter, sugar and flour to good effect from her mother. "What I remember is we were kids out in the backyard all the time. There was a lot of running back and forth between the backyard and kitchen," she recalls. That open door between her childhood kitchen and backyard garden remains one of Ray's pivotal memories. She went on to study international education and relations in college, which led to stints with the United Nations, political and policy campaigns, and Google. But through it all, she kept baking. It served as a creative outlet while she was working corporate jobs, she says, and became even more important to her during COVID shutdowns.
"The places where I'm at peace the most, where I'm most comfortable and feel most at home, are kneading dough in my kitchen and in my garden," she says.
Dylah Ray is opening the Botanical Bakery of Denver inside Birdsall & Co.
Botanical Bakery of Denver
She was inspired to bring together the two places she so loved by incorporating herbs and blooms into her baking. "The first thing I started baking with was lavender," she recalls. "Then I started doing more research into edible flowers that you can eat whole. One that’s surprising to a lot of people is pansies. ... I would press pansies from my garden on pies or put them fresh on cookies." She developed what has become her signature recipe: shortbread cookies made with lavender oil and decorated with pansies.
Ray became a bit of a nomad, living in New York, California and Washington, but she'd earned her undergrad degree at the University of Denver and was anxious to return to Colorado. One reason was friend Morgan Huston, Ray's college roommate and now, along with mother Annie Huston, owner of plant and garden store Birdsall & Co.
at 2870 South Broadway in Englewood. Ray has known the two for over a decade and says that Annie, "in particular, likes to taste and give feedback. She's made my baking better over the years, and I welcome it!"
The Hustons had wanted to add a small coffee shop to their store for some time, and Ray jumped at the opportunity to sell her wares to the public there. The Botanical Bakery will occupy over 600 square feet of the garden store, where it will sell baked goods as well as espresso drinks and a selection of plant-themed gifts; there will be room to dine in and linger over a sweet and a cup of joe. Birdsall has a "great plant selection. It's gorgeous," Ray says of the space. "Morgan and her mother have been wonderful role models in this entrepreneurial stuff. This is a new thing to me. ... I’m really excited to work with my best friend every day. I feel guilty even saying I get to work in a plant store and bakery with my best friend."
The Botanical Bakery's grand opening runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, Friday, September 9, through Sunday, September 11. Singer Tricia Fox will perform from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, September 10. Guests will receive free espresso drinks and pansy shortbread cookies all weekend, and if they purchase a $50 gift card, they'll receive a free pastry of their choice.
This weekend and beyond, the bakery will sell whole pies and galettes to go, as well as two to three kinds of cookies; sweet and savory croissants; two seasonal pies served by the slice; and seasonal coffee drinks like lavender or hibiscus-ginger lattes (for the summer and fall, respectively). All whole pies will be intricately decorated with flowers, Ray notes, as will to-go orders of cookies by the dozen; she likes to think of her cookie presentation as bringing someone a bunch of flowers — with a sweet bonus.
Botanical Bakery of Denver
The bakery will also sell cut-flower bouquets, jewelry made with dried botanicals, and local honey, jam and bitters; almost everything she's selling is made by local women-owned businesses, Ray notes. It will also offer classes and workshops: Flower arranging, kids' cookie decorating and a fall equinox workshop are already scheduled, and plans are in the works for houseplant 101 classes, journaling workshops and more.
"During the pandemic, I'd be in my garden a lot and in my kitchen a lot. Unfortunately, during that time I'd bake a gorgeous pie, and while the best way to enjoy it is sharing it eight ways around a table, that piece was missing," Ray laments.
But now she's excited to share her baking with others. After all, when she's not spending time in her garden and kitchen, she says, she's the most comfortable sitting around the table with friends.
The Botanical Bakery of Denver is located inside Birdsall & Co. at 2870 South Broadway in Englewood; it will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Follow @thebotanicalbakeryofdenver for more photos of Ray's work.