Above: Pastry Chef and Owner Keith Truong
Ever heard of a Princess Cake? Looking like it belongs in a Disney movie, the confection made of white cake, custard filling, jam, whipped cream, and marzipan is Ambrosia Bakery’s best seller. Also speaking of royalty, Ambrosia Bakery has certainly established its place in San Francisco’s Sunset neighborhood by making pastries, bread, and other delights fit for kings and queens.
Starting from Late Nights
Hanging out with the bakers at Keith Truong’s family boulangerie in Vietnam was one of his favorite pastimes growing up. Before he opened Ambrosia Bakery in 1988, Keith loved to “stay up so late at night and learn what the bakers did. I was 14, not working as a baker, and I just liked hanging out and messing around. That’s how it started.” Surrounded by flour, sugar, bread, and other baked goods, Keith started learning about baking and the baking business from a young age. Intrigued about the food industry, he explains “As a teenager, I always thought about opening my own business. I didn’t know what kind of business but when the opportunity came, I went on with very little experience.”
However, mechanical engineering came before building and constructing cakes in Keith’s story. He came to the U.S. to pursue an undergraduate degree in engineering and soon realized it wasn’t the path for him. Then Keith went back to his parents’ bakery in Vietnam, recognizing that baking was his passion.
Before Keith started Ambrosia Bakery, he gained a rich background in European pastries by working at several European bakeries in the U.S. He also continued his education at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa, California. When it came time to open his bakery in the late ‘80s, Keith and his siblings put their money together and took the chance to start the business.
Describing the opening of his bakery, Keith says “If you ask any business owner, you will run into multiple obstacles at the start: short in money, funding, and lack of experience. But, what drove us to be successful was wanting to do something and wanting to learn and grow.”
Knowledge is Power
On the quest for the newest and trendiest baking knowledge, Keith frequently makes expeditions to Europe, especially Paris, to learn about new designs and flavors. “I’m always constantly learning. Baking was always something fun to do, but as I grew older and got myself into the bakery business, I wanted to learn more,” he says.
As a professional baker, Keith combines his formal education, self-taught background, and explorative character to create enticing sweets that people love. A customer favorite is the Fantasia Cake, which Keith explains as “One of a kind. We created that flavor!” It’s a white cake with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, whipped cream, white chocolate, and mascarpone cheese.
Another Ambrosia Bakery special, which combines Asian and European influences, is the Coconut Fusion Cake, containing creamy coconut mousse with tapioca, coconut milk, and coconut flakes.
While describing the bakery’s surrounding neighborhood and clientele, Keith says “They’re not just customers, they’re our neighbors.” Keith and the Ambrosia Bakery crew look forward to making their customers’ days with the power of sugar, butter, and all other delicious ingredients. Since the bakery’s inception in 1988, the bakery has gotten regulars from the local Sunset neighborhood to areas miles away.
When the pandemic first hit San Francisco, Ambrosia Bakery took 2 weeks off for the health of their employees and the safety of their customers. They also had to quickly modify and learn how to deal with the situation. Now, with shortened hours, shortened staff, and watching their budget, Ambrosia Bakery remains up and running.
“It was hard to get back up, but all the neighbors around here supported businesses in this area,” explains Keith. People come into the shop to get pastries and coffee to start their day or to bring home to their families. The bakery is also waiting for the city to allow tables inside the establishment.
Whether you’re in a mood for something fruity and tropical, classic, or decadent, Ambrosia Bakery has treats for any palate. With over 30 years’ worth of operations, Ambrosia Bakery remains a place rooted in innovation, passion, and resilience.