Partners in Sweets
When you make ice cream and pastries and you’re trying to source local eggs, you sit up and take notice when someone introduces himself as “the Chicken Lord.” For Larry Brubaker, owner of Luckhaus & Brubaker Sweets & Treats, the eggs from Fili-West Farms’ Nathan Boggs, every carton filled with different sizes and colors, are the key to amazing cookies.
“The egg whites beat up like none other in the meringue cookies,” agrees Robyn Luckhaus, Brubaker’s partner in the tiny bakery. The two tell stories in the easy rhythm of married couples, but the question of whether they are married—they are not; they’re just good friends—sets them to laughing.
“We get that all the time,” Luckhaus says. “We just work really well together.”
The two met at the Sanctuary Hotel at Kiawah Island. Luckhaus was doing whatever she was asked in the kitchen when Brubaker was brought in as executive pastry chef. Brubaker promoted her to be his “right-hand man” because the two established a good cooking relationship early on. When they discovered in 2013 that they both dreamed of owning their own place, it was only natural to follow the dream together. Brubaker had already distinguished himself in the world of sweets, having won gold and silver medals at the 1996 Culinary Olympics in Berlin for an edible pastry centerpiece and a pastry grand buffet, respectively. He brings that creativity to Luckhaus & Brubaker, too. “Larry is the most creative and flexibly talented. He can sculpt in any medium,” Luckhaus says. “He’s the balloon.” “Yeah, full of hot air,” he interjects.
Undeterred, Luckhaus continues the metaphor. “Larry’s the balloon and I’m the string, holding him from flying off. I’m the one who says, okay, what do we need and what do we order to make that creation?” The partnership resulted in a tiny, old-fashioned sweet shop on Maybank Highway, full of chalkboard menus, curved glass display cases and whimsical, candy-colored art.
Cakes, pies, cookies, eclairs and whoopie pies line the cases, but the day is hot and ice cream is what is called for today. Sometimes there is mango—which is not local—but most days, the ingredients in the ice cream are as local as possible. Honey is from a farm on Johns Island. Strawberries are from Ambrose Family Farm, Wadmalaw Island. Blueberries are from nearby. And peaches come from Limehouse Produce, which specializes in relationships with responsible and sustainable farmers.
“I remember we spent the day blanching and rendering peaches from Limehouse once. Those peaches were so good,” Luckhaus recalls. The shop offers around 16 flavors that change with the season. Holiday time will see the addition of peppermint white chocolate and eggnog. Fall brings maple-pecan and pumpkin cheesecake. Chefs also ask for custom flavors, including honey-goat cheese lemon. A steak-and-bourbon event called for bourbon ice cream. The pair will customize ice creams for home chefs as long as the order is at least a gallon. The customization keeps the two on their toes. “I had never heard of unicorn poop before we got that order,” Brubaker says. Unicorn poop?
His description of a Pavlova-like concoction of multi-colored meringue cookies that is “all the colors of the rainbow” makes the teeth hurt.
“It’s always an education for kids’ parties,” Luckhaus says with a laugh.
The most popular flavors are the Brownie Chocolate Chunk, a fudgy concoction studded with bits of Luckhaus’s decadent brownies, and the Peanut Butter Coma, peanut butter ice cream with peanut butter cookies and Belgian chocolate “that melts when it hits the heat of your tongue,” Brubaker says.
Luckhaus is partial to the S’mores ice cream, but Brubaker insists the Peanut Butter Coma is his “I’ve-been-good-I-deserve-an-ice-cream flavor.” It’s a recipe they won’t share, saying it took them “forever” to get the flavor right and that the secret is all in the fat content. They chat a bit about the difference between men and women—men order jumbo scoops and women prefer child-sized indulgences—but the conversation is interrupted as one or the other has to jump up to serve a pint-sized customer. School is out for the day, and it is rush hour for Luckhaus and Brubaker. It’s ice cream time.