FAIRFIELD, CA — Just Desserts is the increasingly popular Northern California bakery whose line of clean label cakes, cupcakes and cake bites are featured in supermarkets nationwide. Ever since opening in 1974, its team has been no stranger to innovation.

Problem solving is at the core of the company’s business model, which has grown to support a diverse portfolio of 130 hand-crafted and made-from-scratch SKUs. The secret to delivering this innovation — along with the level of quality Just Desserts is known for — lies in the company’s equipment and formulas.

Just Desserts carefully invested in equipment for its three production lines and five packaging lines, beginning at the front end of the process. For starters, Just Desserts uses an 800-litre Tonelli planetary mixer for batch mixing the cake batter. According to Michael Mendes, CEO and managing partner, the mixer has played an important role in batter aeration.

“A lot of bakeries use chemicals and excess flour for leavening, and we’re trying to retain as much air in the batter as possible during the formulation and mixing process,” he said. “One way to do that is to avoid increasing the specific gravity due to poor transmission and excess dwell time prior to depositing.”

Focusing on aeration at the mixer helps lower the specific gravity of the batter. That said, having the right depositor and pump is critical to the process, especially for gluten-free and vegan batters, where speed from the mixer to the depositor is a key factor in the quality of the finished product.


To achieve that quality, Just Desserts also invested in Hinds-Bock technology including a Hinds-Bock 2P depositor, a 16P mini muffin and bite depositor with streusel applicator and a 6P depositor with a Veropak auto denester, which provides the versatility to create several different sizes of products from bites to full-size cakes, along with depositing accuracy that significantly reduced waste on the line.

“It’s a precise deposit into the cavity, so we don’t have excess yield loss,” Michael Mendes said. “It’s had a meaningful impact on improving the quality.

The bakery also invested in a 55-foot Babbco impingement tunnel oven with CBF loader, a system that has yielded upwards of almost 40% efficiency in the process. The oven’s automatic controls allow Jason Mendes to set specific baking parameters, including temperature specific to top and bottom heat for each oven zone, individually for every product formula. “We have a unique program for every item,” Jason said. “We enter the program, and it controls the temperature, speed and how fast the loader runs. It’s totally automated and very integrated.”

This level of automation eliminates any temptations for line operators to make shifts on the oven settings if a product is out of spec. That contributes to the collaborative culture to support critical thinking beyond machine settings. In other words, Jason Mendes has instilled the inclination to start with the mixer, not the oven settings.

“It’s not always about the fastest or least expensive route,” Michael Mendes said. “Our first priority is quality.”


By semantics alone, the heart of a bakery is in the bake.

With this in mind, Just Desserts put great care in upgrading its oven. Baking is critical not only because it transforms the product but also because it transfers it from one stage of the process the next.

“In terms of efficiency, we saw opportunity in how products moved from each area,” Michael Mendes noted. “With that insight, we sought the dual benefit of having better equipment and improved product flow. As a result, we gained a lot of efficiencies and enhanced our quality.”

On the back side of the bake, a Dubor oiling system provides easy pan release that also maintains the integrity of the cake for effortless icing, whether it’s cupcakes being topped under the Apex Decobot 3D icer with a custom-built tray for the individual clamshells, or cakes that run through a FoodTools slicer before receiving a base-ice on the Unifiller line.

Staying true to those scratch roots, Just Desserts’ decorating station is a hybrid of automation and hand-crafted artwork. On the cake line, decorators alternate steps with the equipment by personally adding combing detail and dollops to the top and crumbing to the sides.

“We have very talented decorators,” Michael Mendes said. “I really appreciate their artistry that they deliver with consistency.”


Quality is a hallmark of this bakery, and Jason Mendes works with production leaders to conduct weekly checks ensuring accurate cake weights and the proper cake-to-icing ratios. Icing costs are almost twice that of the batter, so it’s a careful equation to balance cost efficiency with the optimal eating experience.

“It’s not always about the fastest or least expensive route,” Michael Mendes said. “Our first priority is quality.”

Just Desserts put so much into the process that it was only natural to invest in the packaging lines with technology including a Syntegon flowwrapping system for individually wrapped items with a signature look, as well as clamshell domes with NITA labeling units for a branded ribbon around the box.

“We worked hard to develop distinct and upscale packaging,” Michael Mendes said, noting that the look of the cake domes is intended to be giftable. “We have that sensibility across the whole product line. Presentation is important and a core feature of our brand.”

As the company grows, Just Desserts has no plan to let go of its tight-knit culture that has led to its success.

“One of the advantages of being a smaller organization is that people tend to be more cross-functional within their role,” Michael Mendes said. “One thing I’ve always shared is that we’re all advisors and consultants to every other department.”

With new equipment, updated branding, tighter process controls and a collaborative culture, Just Desserts will take its roots as a clean label, premium dessert company into the future.

“Our primary goal is to be a paradigm-shifting company,” Michael Mendes concluded. “We have taken the brand, the heart, the recipes and the inspiration — all the good stuff — and we’re accelerating on it.”

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