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Sunday
Feb242008

Cakewalk Special: 36 Hours of Frosting in Portland, OR

 

Lemon curd tart, Papa Haydn, Portland OR

Portland, Oregon: it's just so cool. It's got a great art and design scene (you just try to find a bad logo in this town--we dare you), cool architecture, an emerging music scene, great restaurants, great wine. But on our recent trip to the City of Roses, we bypassed these things in search of a simpler pleasure: sweet, creamy frosting. Knowing that we would only be there for 36 hours, we decided to make the icing on the cake our gospel; as such, it wasn't about hitting every bakery as it was about seeking frosting nirvana wherever we went (and thus, if your favorite Portland bakery isn't listed, it's not because we didn't want to visit; it was merely time and distance constraints, as we were on foot through all of the below). Here's where we went:

Off the train, our first stop is Cupcake Jones, still a fairly new kid on the cupcake block in Portland. The space is cute, and the employees are very friendly. We choose the Peanut butter and Jelly Mini Cupcake, which is one of the few mini cupcakes that has a filling (in this cake, a peanut butter frosting-ed cupcake with a dollop of jelly inside. The frosting is good--unfortunately, the cake is--in our opinion--not as good. However, they do offer a frosting innovation we like--"Frosting Shooters", an extra dollop of frosting in a mini to-go container, for just a dollar. Perfect for when you need a little fix--why not stock up and have them at the ready in your fridge? Cupcake Jones, 307 NW 10th Ave., (503) 222-4404; online at cupcakejones.net.

 

We continue to walk up the hill to Saint Cupcake, where we choose a red velvet and a big top cupcake (both in the mini size). We believe that cream cheese frosting is a delicate art: it can quickly become too rich, too overpowering, too much. But not this one, which is creamy, just a little bit tangy, and completely delicious. Oh yes, we like this cream cheese frosting. And while we didn't get a vegan cupcake on this trip, having tasted them in the past, we can attest that their vegan frosting, while a different texture than the dairy-based ones, is still quite good in the eyes of these little Cake Gumshoes. Saint Cupcake, two locations; visit saintcupcake.com for more information.

Having worked up an appetite for lunch by this point, we head to Papa Haydn, a venerable old restaurant which has two locations in Portland, both of which have been around for many years, and which while serving full meals, are known for their desserts. We can be wary when it comes to places like this--would they be coasting on their reputation? Happily, we found them to be a delight: the main dishes were served with care, the bread was good, and oh, the desserts. When we settle on the Meyer Lemon Curd tart, we get an unexpected flash of frosting: sandwiched between the lemon curd and the shortbread crust, there is a modest layer of buttercream frosting which tickled and delighted these spy palates. Papa Haydn, two locations in Portland; for more information, visit papahaydn.com.

After a few hours of making like spies, we imbibe strong and delightful green tea at the charming Blend (where if we recall correctly, they said the baked goods are from Marcy Baking, which we ooh and ahh at but do not try), we find frosting nirvana at Crema Coffee and Bakery, where the absolutely gorgeous cupcakes are offset by equally appealing blood orange and cream tarts (next time, next time). They get points for both flavor (lemon poppyseed cake with raspberry buttercream frosting) and for the appealing precision of the decoration. Crema Bakery + Cafe, 2728 SE Ankeny, (503) 234-0206; online at cremabakery.com.

Backtracking en route to our digs at the Ace Hotel, we stop at the still quite new Sweetpea Baking Company, a vegan bakery which is part of a "Vegan Mini Mall"--a suite of several vegan-friendly businesses on that block. While the cupcakes look awesome, but opt for a change of pace with the adorably pink-frosting-filled chocolate Whoopie Pie. (Note: We were informed that the pink frosting was just for show and not a different flavor...but pink is just so cute). While the cookie is soft and crumbly, the frosting is a bit stiffer and less creamy than we'd hoped for. While not a disappointment per se (we finished every bite for certain), we think that next time we might go for the cupcakes instead, which we hear are lovely; certainly the frosting texture, which can tend toward stiff on vegan cupcakes, looked creamy and smooth. Sweetpea Baking Company, 1205 SE Stark St., (503) 477-5916; online at sweetpeabaking.com.

Approaching sugar coma, we call it a day.

We wake up way too ravenous to go much further than Stumptown Coffee for some lovely Americano, and then next-door to Kenny & Zuke's, a Jewish-style diner which we initially cannot decide if its look is contrived or cute. Ultimately though, the food wins us over, preparing us for the day ahead and staving off our imminent sugar crash just a little longer. While we don't sample them, we're appealed to by their lovely cupcakes, whose creamy, pink-frosted peaks resemble soft serve ice cream cones; though we don't sample them, certainly their beauty is worth mentioning. Kenny & Zuke's Delicatessen, 1038 SW Stark St., (503) 222-DELI; online at kennyandzukes.com.

We aid digestion by swinging down to Voodoo Doughnut, in front of which we're greeted by a man who says creepily, "I hear those doughnuts are cursed". In a movie, this would be a moment later referred to as "foreshadowing". Luckily this is real life, so pushing these thoughts aside, we enter to find a true Mecca for doughnut lovers (they will do weddings, in case you were wondering), making sure to pick up a chocolate frosted for later. Like it's been said, they put a spell on us. Voodoo Doughnut, 22 SW Third Ave., (503) 241-4704; online at voodoodoughnut.com.

With our train departure fast approaching, we bypass the long line at the Pearl Bakery (where we love the shortbread) but do find time to swing by the impressive Whole Foods Bakery (where much of the stock is made in-house--including a large selection of vegan baked goods), where we pick up an oatmeal cookie, filled with a healthy dollop of maple frosting. We're highly impressed by the thick, rustic-tasting frosting, which acts as the perfect complement to the dense, oaty cookie. The oats make it practically health food, right? Whole Foods, 1210 NW Couch St. Portland, (503) 525-4343; online at wholefoodsmarket.com.

At the end of the train ride, we bus it back home to Queen Anne, where we watch an episode of Law & Order and promptly fall asleep. Call it the crash at the end of the sugar tunnel--a sweet ending indeed.

 

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Reader Comments (58)

Awesome! We were in Portland this weekend, eating our way through the entire city as well. But, when we went to Saint Cupcake, they were out of the Red Velvet so we didn't get to try it. I can attest for the Cupcake Jones Red Velvet though. It is delightful and yummy ... (just writing about it makes me drool).

February 24 | Unregistered CommenterAnne-Marie

Wonderful cake walk!!!! I love your blog! and I love all things cupcake....yummmmmmmmm

Cheers,
Diana

February 24 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Evans

That slice of lemon pie with the red and white pattern off to the side looks really good. I am going to have to start visiting some bakeries.

February 24 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Oh the peanut butter and jelly cupcake sounds really good! I've always loved pbj since young, and I'm wishing I could have a bite of that cupcake now :P

February 24 | Unregistered Commenterovenhaven

Didn't know Portland had so many kitschy dessert places! Thanks for compiling this... Love the name Voodoo Doughnut

February 24 | Unregistered CommenterNiko

I would like to apply for a job as your personal assistant to replace you when you're in a sugar coma. I can take over and sample all the goodies for you. haha. The portland cake scene looks awesome. :-)

I have a pretty high sugar tolerance. I'll have my doctor forward you my chart. :-)

February 24 | Unregistered CommenterZen Chef

That looks like an awesome experience. Portland is supposed to be a food mecca and I look forward to visiting there some time! Now I'll have some additional places to add to my list when I do make it there. I'm going to have to eat 24-7 in order to sample everything I want to!

February 24 | Unregistered CommenterJill - GlossyVeneer

Ooooh, that lemon tart seems divine especially with the buttercream frosting layer. If Oregona wasn't over 2,000 miles away from me I'd be on a mad hunt for this!

Great cakewalk!

February 24 | Unregistered CommenterMarq

Ahh these look lovely and ridiculously delicious. Yesterday, actually, I was volunteering at an elementary school spring "rodeo" and I was in charge of setting up the cakewalk. As a consolidation prize of volunteering for several very loud, country music-filled hours, I got to take home a plate of lovely chocolate cupcakes with a sort of buttercream-y frosting. I'm sure it doesn't measure up to your Portland nirvana, but it was a nice treat in any case (:

February 24 | Unregistered Commenterkimbab.sarang

I love voodoo dougnuts!!!
I wrote a post about how I ate the voodoo doll! Portland is so cool!

http://savvysavorer.blogspot.com/2007/12/how-i-ate-voodoo-doll.html

February 24 | Unregistered CommenterFrantic Foodie

Oh I am going to print this out for when we go to Portland...when ever that may be.

February 24 | Unregistered CommenterPeabody

Very cool review- I just might be visiting Portland over the summer, so it's good to know where to find all the vegan cupcakes! ;)

February 25 | Unregistered CommenterBitterSweet

you hit all the BEST spots!! now you just have to come down to Eugene and go to Sweet Life! :o)

February 25 | Unregistered CommenterAlison Nicole

Portland looks amazing. I want to go!

February 25 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie

I wish I had your life! Saint Cupcake looks like a religious experience!

Mmm mmm! I can't wait to consume vegan treats all over Portland!

I love Portland. My brother and sister in law live there and I wish we could visit them more often. I'd love to do what you just did, eat my sweet way through it! Thanks for the report!

February 25 | Unregistered CommenterAran Goyoaga

We have been to 24 states in US vacationing but never been to upper North states, got to visit. We mainly hang around in the South and gone up to NY!:)
All the goodies look yum!!

February 25 | Unregistered CommenterAsha

I love your city bakery tours. . . makes me want to go travelling! I'd take any one of those cupcakes!

February 25 | Unregistered CommenterRicki

I'd go for that pink whoopie pie first... then dougnut... then check the ticket to Portland!

February 25 | Unregistered CommenterGattina

You have a lot of stamina!

(Ooh... and I get to go pick up a package at the ppst office! YAY!)

February 25 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

Wow...I really love your cakewalks! They always make me want to run out and get some cake! Keep them coming!

February 25 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Sugar coma, huh? What a way to go! I'll be dreaming of that lemon curd tart tonight.

I hope you don't mind, but I've tagged you for a meme.

http://stickygooeycreamychewy.blogspot.com/2008/02/its-raining-memes.html

(in case you didn't already see it) here's a quick shout-out: http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=deal22&date=20080222&source=st and it was good seeing you yesterday!

February 25 | Unregistered CommenterAllison

Oh my gosh! You are amazing! I only wish I could live close to you; I would visit you so often!

Have a happy day!

cielo

February 25 | Unregistered CommenterCIELO
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