denica freitas

From the time she was a little girl, she dreamed of having a pastry shop.  She became the official baker of the family, and passionately read every cookbook and food magazine she could find.   She is a first generation daughter of immigrants from Spain, and credits her Mother for her cooking and baking talents and both of her parents for her business acumen and work ethic.

Her parents were self made entrepreneurs.  Her Mother owned and operated a bridal shop in the Bay Area, Brides ‘n Belles, for 30 years.  Denica worked with her Mother in that business for 10 years, learning the nuances of customer service, employee management, and running a successful business. Her Father owned and operates a successful communication company.   She was involved in her Father’s company, where she rounded out her business skills by learning about accounting and business management.  At the age of 25, Denica started taking weekend pastry classes at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.  She was offered an opportunity to apprentice with one of the chefs, an alumni of the Ritz Carlton.  Those courses added to her foundation of baking skills, and gave her the confidence to move forward with her dream.  In 1994, she launched an exclusive special order cake business, specializing in elaborate, gourmet wedding and special occasion cakes that were in high demand from San Francisco to San Jose, Livermore to Napa.

In 1999, she joined forces with James Freitas, the visionary, the drive and the love of her life.   They merged their two businesses, Cakes by Denica and Cookie Express.  They moved the creation to Dublin, and in July, 2000, opened Denica’s Pastry Café.

Find out more at

james freitas

James owned and operated a very successful cookie and coffee store, Cookie Express, in Castro Valley for 12 years.  He featured the same famous cookies that have made Denica’s famous, but shipped them nationwide as well as selling them in his storefront bakery.  He is a self taught chef, and dreamed of owning his own restaurant.  He started in the business at the young age of 15 as a busboy.  James had gained invaluable experience along the way, working at many fine restaurants from Lake Tahoe to Maui.   He brought with him the experience necessary to build a restaurant from the ground up (no easy feat).

In 2000, they decided to join our efforts, and realize their dreams together.  With the support of their families, they opened the original Denica’s Pastry Café.  The business grew, and opportunity knocked in 2005 when the space next door became available.  They took over the building and added Denica’s Taco Lounge.

In keeping with their need to grow, in November of 2006 they added breakfast.  The menu is in keeping with our philosophy-great food, great quality.

Together, they have 5 wonderful children, ages 17-32, and twin grandchildren, and between them and the business, lead a very busy life.  Their personal motto is to dream it, think it, do it.  Repeat.

The real story of James and Denica….

From our first newsletter back in 2007

Well here we are, our first issue!  We are devoting this issue to telling you about us, who we are, where we have been, where we are going…
I am Denica, most of you know me, and if you don’t, you certainly know my husband, James.  We are partners in life, love, and in this creation of ours, an ever evolving and deliciously developing restaurant and bakery….

The Cookie Man and The Cake Lady
a sweet tale with a happy ending…

My love of baking began as a youngster when I graduated from the easy-bake oven to making up my own recipes for oatmeal raisin cookies. Being shy, with a love of reading and baking, I began collecting cookbooks and cooking magazines. I would read them cover to cover and dream of the yummy, pretty things I would have in my bakery.

As I reached adulthood, I realized the power of my talent, and decided to pursue my dream. I attended the Pastry Program at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, and went on to open a successful specialty cake business,” Cakes by Denica”. Though I was doing what I loved, I was lonely in my little kitchen, making beautiful elaborate cakes for couples in love.

Along came James. He owned and operated the unique “Cookie Express” in Castro Valley, and was known for his Aloha attire, positive attitude, and quest for adventure. His friends and clientele referred to him as the Cookie Man. He was at the cutting edge of the coffee boom, before Starbucks, and shipped the very same delicious cookies we have now nationwide.

We met and fell in love…we were full of ideas and optimism. In 2000, the “Cookie Man” and the “Cake Lady” decided to put our dreams on the same path. We opened the Pastry Café, serving pastries, coffee, and a small menu of 5 sandwiches and 3 salads. In 2005, we expanded to take over the adjacent spot and created the Taco Lounge. And again in 2006, we expanded again to offer a full breakfast menu. Together with our five children, we have put our hearts, brains, and love into this business we call ours. We are both realizing our dreams of owning a restaurant and bakery, with love as the glue that helps us succeed.
That is the story so far…
James and Denica