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Sunday
Oct112009

Cakewalk: A Sweet Boston Bakery Guide from Cake Gumshoe Phuong

Boston Cream Pie from the Parker House, Boston c/o Cake Gumshoe Phuong
CakeSpy Note: Want the best bakery suggestions? Ask a local! Read on to discover Boston-based Cake Gumshoe Phuong's favorite bakeries in Beantown! You might want to check out her sweet online shop, too!

I love Boston. I’ve lived here all my life. Boston has so much history and many fun activities to do. Most importantly, we have some of the best bakeries around. Follow me and I’ll show you a glimpse of what Boston has to offer and why I’m living a sweet life.

Omni Parker House: Well, I can’t talk about cakes and sweets in Boston without starting with our famous Boston cream pie. This cake (yes, cake!) was invented at the Parker House Hotel in 1855 by French chef M. Sanzian. Today you can still enjoy the cake at its birthplace now known as the Omni Parker House. If you think you’ve had a Boston cream pie before, think again. It is served as a small individual cake; not a slice of a larger one. The moist sponge cake is filled with a scrumptious pastry cream and covered with chocolate fondant icing. It is then finished with a cool spider-web design on top and the sides are covered in toasted almond (pictured top) It is heavenly!

Tip: Don’t forget to look around and enjoy the beautiful details of this historic hotel.

60 School Street, Boston, MA 02108 (617) 227-8600; online at omnihotels.com.

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Photo c/o Phuong - Pastries from Mike's Pastry in Boston
Mike's Pastry: As you are walking around Boston or riding the T, you’ll probably notice many people holding a little white pastry box with blue letters. There’s a reason for it. Mike’s Pastry in the North End is known to have some of the best cannolis around. I really like the classic plain cannoli. The rich cream filling is not too sweet and the handmade shell is always fresh and crisp. Sometimes I don’t go there for the cannolis at all. I love their rainbow cookies and different types of macaroons (pistachio nut, almond, raspberry, etc.). This place is very popular especially at night so be prepared to wait in a long line.

Tip: Some Bostonians will say that Mike’s Pastry is a tourist trap and they will tell you to go to Modern Pastry Shop instead. There’s a constant debate as to which bakery is better. Both are on Hanover Street so my suggestion is to try both or go to the one with the shorter line. I personally haven’t tried Modern yet so I can’t comment.

300 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113 (617) 742-3050; online at mikespastry.com.

(For those interested in Modern Pastry, it is located at 257 Hanover St.; online at
modernpastry.com)

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Photo c/o Cake Gumshoe Phuong - Red Velvet cupcake, Sweet Bakery, Boston
Sweet: This is one of Boston’s few cupcakeries. I’ve followed the cupcake craze for a while now and it’s wonderful for Boston to finally have our own cupcake-only bakery. I love the ultra-girly pink and white décor. They even had My Fair Lady playing on the flatscreen while I was there. I tried the red velvet cupcake and it was good. I adore it because it’s a fun place to have a cupcake with your friends and although I prefer to bake my own, it’s nice to be able to pick up the pretty cupcakes as gifts when I’m in a hurry.

Two locations: 49 Mass Ave, Boston, MA 02115 (617) 247 CAKE; or, Zero Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138 (617) 547 CAKE; online at sweet-cupcakes.com.

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Finale bakery case, c/o Cake Gumshue Phuong
Finale: This place offers beautiful fancy-looking cakes that are rich and decadent. I love looking at their bakery case. There are rows and rows of perfectly decorated cakes. The ultimate indulgence at Finale is to sit down and enjoy their plated desserts. Try the mini dessert sampler. It has mini versions of their popular desserts such as crème brulee, cheesecake, Boston cream pie, whoppie pies, sorbet, etc. It’s meant to be shared but I can definitely enjoy it all by myself!

Tip: Definitely come for dessert but enjoy your meal elsewhere. The food at Finale is okay. There are better places in Boston for lunch and dinner. Cakes and pastries are available for take-out.

Three locations: One Columbus Ave, Boston, MA 02116 (617) 423-3184; another at 1306 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446 (617) 232-3233; another at 30 Dunster St, Cambridge, MA 02138 (617) 441-9797; online at finaledesserts.com.

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Sponge Cake c/o Cake Gumshoe Phuong
Chinatown Picks: Many people might not know this but Chinatown is a great place to get baked goods. The pastries are good and not too sweet. Best of all they cost about a dollar or less a piece. I usually go to Eldo Cake House or Mei Sum Bakery for their layered sponge cake. It is filled with fresh strawberries or peaches and whipped cream. The cake is so light and fresh. You can buy a whole cake or just a slice of it. My favorite “bao” or bun is called “gai mei bao”. This bun is filled with a delicious sweet coconut and butter mixture. You can get this bun at most bakeries in Chinatown but I think Ho Yuen makes the best one. My other favorites are the custard-filled bun, ham and egg bun, hot dog bun, and so much more. Since they are so cheap, buy a bunch and try them all.
Gaimeibao c/o cake gumshoe Phuong

Tip: Service can be rushed and unfriendly depending on how busy they are. Just don’t take it too personally.

Eldo Cake House: 36 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02111 (617) 350-7977.
Mei Sum Bakery: 40 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111 (617) 357-4050.
Ho Yuen Bakery: 54 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111 (617) 426-8320.


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Johnny Cupcakes c/o Cake Gumshue Phuong
Johnny Cupcakes: This could be the best prank store in Boston. Many shoppers are surprised to find out that this store doesn’t sell cupcakes at all! Every time I’m in there, there are always a few confused and clearly disappointed customers asking the staff, “So you don’t sell cupcakes?” I wonder if the staff gets tired of answering this question. I can’t blame the customers though. Johnny Cupcakes sells fun baked-goods-themed t-shirts that are displayed in bakery cases and refrigerators. It’s pretty deceiving from afar. You can read the story on how this business got started on their website. It’s pretty awesome. The t-shirts have a huge following because most are limited editions. It’s a great place to pick up something sweet without all the extra calories!

279 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02116 (617) 375-0100; online at johnnycupcakes.com.

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Cupcakes at Flour, Boston c/o Cake Gumshoe PhuongFlour Bakery's Sticky Sticky buns, c/o Cake Gumshoe Phuong
Flour Bakery: Lastly, if you only have time to visit one bakery while you’re in Boston, you have to go to Flour Bakery. To Food Network fans, this is the bakery where the owner, Joanne Chang, beats Bobby Flay in the Sticky Bun Throwdown. Yes, all the rumors about these amazing sticky buns are true. They are so popular that they are usually sold out by lunchtime. If they’re gone by the time you get there, don’t be too disappointed. In my opinion, the sticky buns’ fame really overshadows all the other tasty baked goods. Some of my favorite morning pastries are the blueberry muffin tops which are jam-packed with fresh blueberries and the twice-baked brioche; an almond lover’s dream. For lunchtime, there are even more goodies to pick from: rich brownies, housemade oreos, raspberry crumbs bar, coconut macaroons, cornmeal lime cookies, cupcakes, etc. Try the fresh fruit tart, the lemon-raspberry curd cake, or the triple chocolate mousse cake if you’re in the mood for a fancier dessert. Flour even has their version of the Boston cream pie if you didn’t make it over to the Omni Parker House. You really can’t go wrong with anything from this bakery.

Tip: You can call ahead and reserve the sticky buns. Just make sure you call early in the morning if you’re picking up on the same day. Flour Bakery also serves delicious sandwiches and lunch specials so the line is very long during lunchtime. Avoid the lunch rush if you can. This way you’ll have more time looking at all the wonderful pastries.

CakeSpy Note: You may also like owner Joanne Chang's pop-tart recipe, which was featured on CakeSpy a while back!

Two locations: 12 Farnsworth St, Boston, MA 02210 (617)-338-4333; or 1595 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118 (617)-267-4300; online at flourbakery.com.

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The final word? There are so many other bakeries that I can list but these are my go-to ones. I hope I’ve entice you enough to put Boston on your travel list. It’s great place to visit especially if you have a sweet tooth!

Reader Comments (6)

Great list! I've lived in the Boston area for over a decade now, and it never grows old for me.

I can't resist to note though that a friend who is an Italian grandmother and has lived in the North End all her life insists that her family buy from Modern Pastry :) And make sure you ask for a ricotta cannoli; otherwise you end up with boring vanilla pudding.

Oh, Chinatown cakes! How absolutely yummy.

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