Cakewalk Special: Seeking Sweetness in the Bay Area with a Professional Pastry Chef

Tartine, San Francisco
Recently, Cake Gumshoe Chris went to the Bay Area, and documented the bakeries she visited. Why should you care? Well, turns out Chris is not just any lover of sweets: she's a talented pastry chef herself, having churned out desserts in Wolfgang Puck's kitchens during her many years spent in Los Angeles. Luckily for us, now she's in Seattle--you may have sampled her goods at Remedy Teas (killer tea cookies!). Basically she knows a whole lot about desserts--and as such, her standards are...shall we say, high. So if she says it's good, we listen. On her recent trip to the Bay Area, here's what she saw, tasted, and adored (or deplored):

Bakesale Betty: A delightfully retro-kitsch spot in a becoming-gentrified part of Oakland, Bakesale Betty features old-timey desserts, but with a twist: the owner hails from Australia, so amongst the classic cookies and pies, you'll find pleasing pavlovas, Lamingtons, and other Aussie-inspired treats. And owner Alison Barakat has done her homework too--after having moved to the states she paid her baking dues by working at Chez Panisse for three years (oh, and by the way, we hear she has electric blue hair. Cool!). Forget Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, these are the imports we're all over. 5098 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510.985.1213; they can also be found at the Temescal Farmers' Market from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. on Sundays, Located in the DMV parking lot on Claremont Ave., Oakland; online at

Bette's Oceanview Diner: While this place drew Chris in with their adorable dog-shaped cookies, the taste was bland to her; however, even the cuteness couldn't save them for her, although she does relent on one point, saying that they came apart with a satisfying "snap". The rest of us aren't sure though--we think we might be able to power through one or five of these cute little cookies.


However, we wouldn't discount this spot: as Cake Gumshoe Nora adds, there's a bevy of other tasty baked goods, including delicious and deceivingly light-tasting scones (the Raisin Scone is highly recommended), a "first-class" Hazelnut Biscotti, and a simple but lovely Almond Teacake ideal for pairing with a cup of tea or coffee. Sounds good to us! 1807A Fourth St., Berkeley. 

La Boulange: With several locations throughout the Bay Area, La Boulange is an upscale sandwich shop / bakery; while the sandwiches all look wonderful, Chris reports that some of the pastries are better than others. She and a companion chose a cannelé and a fruit-studded crumb cake; while they found the cannelé mouthwatering, the crumb cake was only so-so. And as we all know, nothing's worse than a bummer cake. Say it in your most mobster-y voice: "Leave the gun. Take the cannelé." As a side note, they had adorable dishesLa Boulange, various locations; online at


Tartine: Ready for gougères the size of your head, creamy lemon tarts to tantalize the taste buds, and meringues that just might make you a believer? We thought so. Time to head over to Tartine, which not only did Chris love, but several of our other Cake Gumshoes count it as a favorite too! Also, as one of our buddies EB at Spicedish tells us, they get extra cuteness points for delivering bread between locations via Radio Flyer. 600 Guerrero St. (@18th Street), SF; (415) 487-2600; online at

Chris also tried to hit up Miette Confiserie (check out our interview with the owners here!), but they were sadly closed when she tried to get her sweet on. Nonetheless, we still love both locations--have you ever seen a more beautiful princess cake than the one they sell at their ferry building location? But if you aren't able to hit them up you can get a sweet fix anywhere in the US--they ship several of their less-perishable candies by mail. Online at

Of course, we would be remiss if we didn't mention Rose & Radish, an upscale and cute as a button gift shop. Though many of their offerings are (alas) devoid of sugar and calories, they are no less sweet: we have our eye on these adorable cupcake jars which Chris spied in their window. Oh yes. 460 Gough St., SF, (415) 864-4988.