When you’re compelled to forage through farmers markets for freshly made cobblers, you know you’ve got Cobblermania. Shae Seward, creator and owner of Cobblermania, has been fueling cobbler fanaticism at Los Angeles farmers markets and food festivals for over 10 years.
If you add up all the seasonal variations and multi-fruit combinations, Shae cobbles together over 70 different cobbler flavors throughout the year. Some popular options include Peach, Mango-Blueberry-Peach, Strawberry-Rhubarb, Sweet Potato, White Nectarine-Blackberry-Apple, Fig-Pear, Pumpkin, and Sweet Potato-Pumpkin with Candied Pecans. Even if the top picks are sold out by the time you get to a Cobblermania stand, the mere freshness of any random choice could win you over to flavors you hadn’t considered before.
“People have told me, ‘I can’t believe I like your cobblers, because I normally don’t like cooked fruit.’ But that’s because we don’t overcook our fruit,” Shae said. “I do it all by hand. The fruit is hand-peeled, the sweet potato is hand-peeled, cooked, then strained and baked.”
Shae shops for fresh produce daily, buying some items at the farmers markets she attends, such as green and black figs, plums, and apriums from Arnett Farms and mango flavored nectarines from Ken’s Top Notch Produce. But the secret to Cobblermania comes from a family recipe Shae learned directly from her great aunt, whose peach cobbler was always her favorite. “Auntie Roi baked with fresh fruit when she made cobblers and apricot turnovers, so I was used to fresh. I’m a stickler for fresh,” she said.
Because of her sensitivities to sweets, Shae’s goal with Cobblermania is to take a more healthful approach to creating nostalgic desserts. Since she’s allergic to eggs and never liked milk, she makes cobblers without eggs, milk, or butter, so they’re all dairy-free and entirely vegan friendly. And since sugar makes her feel sluggish, Shae instead uses a light organic agave, which is flavor neutral, adding a mild sweetness without overriding the natural flavors of the fruits. ”I want everything to taste like what it is, not like a molasses flavored agave. I want you to taste the actual fruits—like white nectarines, guavas, pluots, blackberries, and apples,” she explained.
For Cobblermania’s signature crust, a layer of pastry covers the filling and lines the bottom of the pan. It has a tender, flaky quality that’s neither too crumbly nor too doughy. Shae also offers a gluten-free crust made with rice flour instead of white flour. Loaded with chunky ripe fruits, the cobblers come out of the oven looking truly homemade with lumpy golden tops and syrupy juices seeping through the edges. To Shae, this is what distinguishes her cobblers from neatly preened pies, but it’s okay if you want to call them pies.
The heart-shaped opening on each cobbler allows steam to escape during baking, with the offset pastry cutout adding a decorative and biscuity bonus layer to the top crust. This particular embellishment caught on several years ago when Shae switched from cutting a circular hole to a heart for Valentine’s Day and sold out of the entire batch of themed cobblers. “The following week, I was back to doing a circle,” she said, “and people returned asking ‘Where are the ones with the hearts?’” Since then, Shae has always put her heart into the crusts, though she may surprise you with other fun cutouts for special occasions, such as bunnies for Easter, or bats over the moon for Halloween.
You can feel all the hands-on work and thought Shae puts into making her fresh cobblers when you pick one up at a Cobblermania stand and find that it’s still warm. She bakes the batches of cobblers hours before each farmers market appearance, even the ones that open at 8am. For those markets, she starts work at 2am. “I tried baking the day before, but I didn’t like the texture,” Shae said. “When you buy from me, it has to be fresh-fresh.”
The 7-inch width of each cobbler looks larger than a single serving and may technically be big enough to share. But to avoid the regret of giving up a piece, Shae recommends, “If you plan on sharing it, taste it first.” Experienced customers have been known to buy two—one to share, and one for themselves, often finishing a whole cobbler in one sitting. This may be why the Cobblermania banner warns that they’re “So good you’ll (want to) slap somebody!”
Cobblermania turned out to be not just a fun name for Shae’s bakery, but a reflection of its loyal customer base. Shae came up with the name when a friend told her she had turned her into a cobbler fiend. As the business has grown, Shae’s cobblers—along with her exuberant and welcoming personality—have earned a devoted following of self-proclaimed Cobblermaniacs. You may even spot a few celebrity Cobblermaniacs at her booth, such as Congresswoman Maxine Waters, actress Marla Gibbs, Los Angeles Laker John Salley, “Weird Al” Yankovic, legendary model Lauren Hutton, “Byrd” the bailiff from Judge Judy, Tony Todd from the cult classic horror film Candyman, and more.
Shae has gotten to know many of her repeat customers, forming friendships that have lasted for years. Regulars have invited her to parties and family events not just for catering, but as a personal guest. For instance, Chef Tanya Petrovna, the founder of Native Foods, approached Shae to take part in vegan pop-ups at her place in Palm Springs. And at the recent wedding between Jasmine White and Tilmon Keaton, Shae even received surprise recognition when she heard them state in their vows, “I promise never to eat Cobblermania without you.”
“To me, Cobblermaniacs are as important as the cobblers. I focus on both of them. They are both growing my business,” said Shae.
Back when Shae asked her Auntie Roi to teach her how to make peach cobbler, she had no designs on starting a cobbler business. Shae still fondly recalls the first cobbler she made for her great aunt: “She ate it in silence. She was standing up and eating it, and she didn’t say a word. So I thought, oh my God, I messed it up. But then she sat down and she started scraping the bowl, and she said, ‘You have outdone me.’ And she never made it again, ever.”
From then on, Shae made the cobblers for family dinners, holidays, and potlucks, soon receiving requests to make them for friends and parties. As orders grew more frequent, cobblers became enough of a business for Shae to leave her career as a medical transcriptionist and become a regular vendor at local farmers markets. Cobblermania now covers four corners of Los Angeles at the Hollywood (Sundays), Culver City (Tuesdays), MLK Hospital (Wednesdays), and Torrance (Saturdays) farmers markets. You’ll also find Cobblermania cobblers at the annual vegan food gathering VegFest LA held in Van Nuys, as well as other local annual events and festivals.
Now, with Cobblermaniacs coming from all over, Shae has her sights set on expanding to a handful of Cobblermania storefronts. She envisions the shops as distribution spots that would recreate the look and feel of her farmers market booths. To ensure consistent quality and taste, the cobblers will be baked at a centralized commercial kitchen. Having run Cobblermania on her own since the beginning, she also now sees potential in strategic partnering with other complementary businesses as an opportunity to pool resources and grow together.
“Cobblermania is very popular and I work very hard. There’s so much more to it than just the baking,” Shae said. “I love my company, but it’s not that I just love baking. I like my customers, and they’re happy to see me. This is a happy business, and I love what I do.”