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Entries in bakeries (274)

Tuesday
Jun122012

Sweet Times: Delicious Things from Famous 4th Street Deli

Famous 4th street deli

Warning: do not attempt to eat your screen. That photo is not delicious...but it is a photo of something that was delicious, before I made it disappear into my belly.

It was a chocolate chip walnut cookie from The Famous Fourth Street Delicatessen in Philadelphia.

This is a magical establishment, where you can go and celebrate excess in food form. Warm up for dessert with a sandwich the size of The Hulk's head, or a trough of matzoh ball soup.

But DO save room for dessert. Because they make good stuff. Cheesecake! Macaroons!

 

Checkerboard cake! Eclairs! Banana chocolate cream pie! JUMBO COOKIES! And that's just to name a few.

 

So. I should tell you, these desserts are huge. Like, seriously huge. But unlike a lot of desserts which are dramatic in size and size only, these ones bring it to the table, flavor-wise. I sampled just a few of the wide array of treats.

Let me start with the rugelach. Unlike rugelach I have experienced in my time, this was more like the size of a jumbo danish than the petite rolled cookies I'm accustomed to. It was flaky and rich, with a nutty filling. It was two servings as a snack, or a decidedly decadent breakfast.

Famous 4th street deli

The cookies (regular size) were also of very high quality. The texture was crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, and it was an absolute minefield of fillings--nuts and chocolate chips--making each bite a delicious adventure. A good cookie indeed.

What are you waiting for? Go visit. You'll get fed real good.

Famous 4th street deli

700 south 4th street, Philadelphia; online here.

Thursday
Jun072012

Seeking Sweetness: Pretty Sweets at Artisserie, Philadelphia

Artisserie Frozen Hot Chocolate

Near the University of Pennsylvania, there is a bakery called Artisserie Chocolate Cafe. Recently I went there, and while I wouldn't say my socks were knocked off, I thought their pastry work was solid--if you find yourself in the neighborhood, you'll be able to find something tasty.

However, the main reason I'm posting is that I did think it was worthwhile to show you some pictures of their pretty presentation. See the chocolate-lined cold hot chocolate, above; also, these fun Mondrian-inspired chocolate truffles:

Mondrian chocolates

So if you're in the 'hood, check them out--they have a variety of pastries and baked goods, too!

Artisserie Chocolate Cafe, 3421 Walnut St, PhiladelphiaPA 19104. Online here. 

Tuesday
Jun052012

CakeSpy Undercover: Corina Bakery, Tacoma WA

Honey Lavendar cake

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Cake Gumshoe Roxanne. View more of her work at roxannecooke.com!

Corina Bakery, located between Tacoma’s Theater and Stadium districts, offers a wide assortment of baked goods for a variety of dietary restrictions. The bakery recently celebrated its 4-year anniversary. Happy birthday, Corina!

Corina Display

Among Corina’s many goodies: cakes, cheesecakes, pies, cookies and bars, scones, muffins, and savory goods such as quiche. There are also options for vegan, gluten free, soy free, or low sugar diets. You’ll see most of the goodies in the main display case when you walk in, but don’t forget to look around the corner for the refrigerated display, with puddings, cheesecake, quiche, and more.

Corina cool display

Corina recently moved to a larger space. The shop’s old location was nice and cozy, but lacked seating space. Now there are plenty of places to sit, with lots of beautiful natural light shining in through big windows. Plus, the bakers get a much bigger kitchen!

Because there are so many different sweet treats at Corina, I’ve sampled something new during each visit and selected my favorites to review.

Valhalla brownie Valhalla brownie and tea

Valhalla brownie: Corina serves organic, fair-trade coffee from Tacoma-based Valhalla Coffee Co., and one of their most delicious desserts makes fantastic use of it! The brownie is rich, flavorful, and moist, with just a faint taste of rich coffee flavor. Decadent, for sure, so I couldn’t finish it in one sitting (that’s okay—more for later!).

In addition to Valhalla Coffee, Corina serves tea from Mad Hat, an organic, fair-trade tea purveyor in Tacoma. My go-to is the black lavender tea, pictured above with the Valhalla brownie, but there are many others, including decaf and herbal varieties.

Lavender honey cake (pictured top): This is just one of several different types of specialty cakes Corina offers. So far, it’s my favorite. Dried lavender is baked into a vanilla cake, topped with lemon-honey buttercream, and sprinkled with more dried lavender. I couldn’t stop eating this (gigantic) slice, with just the right amount of sweetness.

Vegan pumpkin loaf

Pumpkin loaf (vegan): The pumpkin loaf apparently goes really well with coffee, but since I’m not a coffee drinker, I didn’t try it. I did, however, eat the entire mini loaf in one sitting. The pumpkin seeds on top provide a contrasty crunch to the soft, moist bread. All in all, it’s a good, flavorful choice if you’re not in the mood for something as sweet as cake or a brownie.

Gluten free vegan pb cookies

Peanut butter cookies (gluten free, vegan): I used to avoid peanut butter cookies. They’re always so dry and crunchy! But not these peanut butter cookies. They’re soft, and yummy, and pair perfectly with a glass of milk. They’re quickly becoming my favorite Corina item.

This is really only a tiny sampling of what Corina has to offer. For prices, bakery hours, and a detailed menu, check out Corina’s website. Or, even better, stop by for a cookie and a cup of tea before catching an indie flick at the Grand Cinema next door!

Corina Bakery, 602 Fawcett Avenue, Tacoma, 253-627-5070; online here.

Sunday
Jun032012

Baked Good of the Day: Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Cupcake, Sugarush, Red Bank NJ

Choco choco choco cupcake

Decisions, decisions. Do you need a cupcake...or, do you need to stuff your face with at least five types of chocolate?

How about both?

You can satisfy both of these desires in one compact form by way of this mega-chocolate cupcake at Sugarush (tagline: "a Sweet Experience") in Red Bank, NJ (also home of Jay and Silent Bob). They provide this magical service wherein they will mix and match their frosting and cake flavors to create a unique taste experience just for you, and on a recent trip, I chose to experience CHOCOLATE. 

I did this by doing the following:

 

  1. First, I chose the chocolate cake.
  2. I then asked them to fill it with chocolate (thanks!).
  3. Next, I requested that they top it with triple chocolate fudge frosting (thanks again!).
  4. And finally, when offered a drizzle of chocolate and chocolate chips on top...well, I think you can guess what I said.

 

The next step was basically chocolate awesome overload. You know how sometimes such a hit of chocolatey goodness will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and like taking a little nap and cuddling in the sunlight afterward? This was that sort of experience. Don't pretend you don't know what I mean.

And believe it or not, the entire thing only cost less than $4. I forget the exact amount, but it was very reasonable considering all of the bells and whistles I got. 

Experience this magic yourself: visit Sugarush in Red Bank at 37 E. Front Street, Red Bank, NJ. Online here.

 

Monday
May282012

CakeSpy Undercover: Easy Tiger, Austin TX

Danish Krans, Easy Tiger, Austin

Easy, Tiger. It's time to talk about beer, baked goods, and how both intersect so beautifully in Austin, Texas.

At a place called Easy Tiger.

I heard about this place from Katie, who I met in Austin while vending at the Renegade Craft Fair. I think Katie is pretty rad. And she knows my friend Jeff, who once ate a butter duck in Orlando!

Well, Easy Tiger is a very special place. It's gorgeously appointed, kind of hipster-chic, almost like it could be as comfortable in Portland, OR as it was in Austin, on a block populated by more bars than bakeries. It has an enormous, and beautiful, outdoor beer garden, the perfect place to enjoy a pint (or a pastry, or both) on a summer evening. It's really a great place to hang out. But now, it's time to talk pastry.

They have a great variety of pastries, mostly flaky, all delicious. They also have a wall of bread.

But what did I sample?

The Danish Krans. The portion was very generous, something like 1/6 of the ring. The crackly pastry exterior, glazed with what seemed like apricot glaze, which kept it delightfully fresh-tasting even though it was nearly 10pm at the time of acquisition, gave way to a creamy almond interior, which was extremely generous (no air pocket on top! all filling all the time!); overall, the pastry managed to remain interesting bite after bite; it didn't become boring in spite of the size of the serving (which was devoured, btw). Overall, a satisfying, filling, and delicious experience. It made this Spy so curious to return and try the cherry-lime danish, which was highly recommended by the barista (the self-described "Best Barista in Austin...after 7pm". 

Easy tiger, Austin

My overall thoughts? Go to Easy Tiger. You won't regret it.

Easy Tiger, online here. Austin, TX.

Monday
May072012

CakeSpy Undercover: Cannoli from Isgo Pasticceria, Philadelphia

isgro cannoli

Recently, I went to a place called Isgro Pasticceria in Philadelphia to try the cannoli.

Now, there's good reason to go to this Italian bakery to sample cannoli. First off, they've been doing this since 1904, and the cannoli is seen as their signature item. Second, theirs are "the best". How can I tell this? Well, they have a big sign on the window that says so, and their website is bestcannoli.com. I like that moxie!

But how are they? I picked up three to see.

Of interest: their cannoli were pre-filled, not filled to order. I will be honest, I did not ask what the reason was. I know that for some bakeries, they go through them so fast that they don't need to fill to order. 

isgro cannoli

First was the classic cannoli. Man, was this thing good. The shell was crispy, the filling filled the whole shell (I despise it when there's a gap in the center!), and the flavor of the filling was fantastic. It was less sweet than some cannolis I have tried, and even almost slightly crumbly--it really was ricotta-esque, not over-sugared, but creamy enough to hold together until it got into your mouth, where it disintegrated into a creamy crumbly oblivion of deliciousness, speckled with chocolate morsels. 

Isgro pastry

Next was the vanilla mousse cannoli. It looked very promising, and the flavor was good--but the texture of the lighter mousse against the shell just didn't work. I think that the key to a good cannoli is the balance of flavor, texture, and a nice heft - so this one, while clearly well made, just did not do it for me. And yes, this is colored by my personal preference for a classic cannoli.

isgro

The chocolate mousse-filled cannoli was a bit better, texturewise: while again, the lightness of the mousse threw me off, this one had the ends coated in chocolate, and when a bite was taken of the filling, shell, and chocolate dipped section, it made for a nice combination. Once again, great flavor on all aspects.

IMAG0802

Overall, I vote that you make Isgro a destination when you're in Philadelphia--it's quite near the main drag of the famous Italian Market, and if you love cannoli, you will enjoy trying their variety to see how they stack up. In my opinion, I found the classic to be a slightly different, but very excellent, specimen of cannoli. So my advice is to be sure to try the classic first! 

Isgro Pasticceria, 1009 Christian Street, Philadelphia; online here.

Isgro Pastries on Urbanspoon

Sunday
May062012

CakeSpy Undercover: Philly Cupcake Company, Philadelphia

CUPCAKE from Philly Cupcake

Recently, I went to a place called Philly Cupcake Company. They are a bakery specializing in...well, cupcakes. Duh. Well, they do have a few other sweets too--brownies, cookies, chocolate covered marshmallows and nutter butters, and some homemade dog treats too. They're not new--they've been there for about 3 years--but this was my first time visiting.

And I was there for the cupcakes.

When you walk in, after encountering the store's slightly creepy mascot, you encounter a line of hutches which contain the cupcakes. There's a little velvet rope and you point at what you want and the employees fetch it for you. When there is a line, it strikes me that this could be irritating, but on the day I went, there wasn't a line. 

The menu at Philly Cupcake is eclectic. They have two tiers of cupcakes: "classic" and "fancy". The classics include basic flavors such as vanilla, chocolate, red velvet, etc., and are $3. The fancy ones are a little more tricked-out (vanilla caramel cupcakes with twix bars; banana cupcakes with banana buttercream and a layer of white chocolate ganache, for example). 

I decided to start out with the basics, and went for vanilla and red velvet. Kind of the cupcake litmus test. The employee was very friendly and gave specific instructions (don't refrigerate or the cake will dry out; enjoy fresh, carry the bag in such a way so your cupcakes don't get mashed, etc). They packed the cupcakes in to-go containers, which is a nice touch.

I must say: overall, I was very impressed. The vanilla cupcake was moist and flecked with vanilla bean; the flavor was not showy but just a very good, simple vanilla. 

But the Red Velvet--I've got to say, it was standout as very good. The cocoa flavor was evident; the cake was extremely moist and rich in flavor, and the cream cheese was delightfully tangy. A fellow taster said the cream cheese frosting was a bit heavy, but I personally thought it was just right. I mean, do you really want your cream cheese frosting to be light and airy? Not me, friend.

Philly Cupcake makes a very nice cupcake--simple and unfussy, but with care taken and nice details (sparkles and pretty decorations on the vanilla; a simple but clean design on the Red Velvet). A nice showing, and I can't wait to return. 

Philly Cupcake Company, 1132 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia; online here.

 

Monday
Apr232012

Pastry Profiles: Hazelnut Cake, Swiss Haus Bakery, Philadelphia

Swiss Cake Haus

We are now going to discuss the experience of eating the Swiss Haus's signature sweet, "The Original Hazelnut Cake".

This is a very special cake, for a few reasons.

First, it's the bakery's signature dessert. As they beautifully put it on their website, 

Ok, here is the deal. This cake is what the entire Swiss Haus Bakery fuss is all about. This century old recipe that was brought over from Europe to Philadelphia over 85 years ago. It has three layers of hazelnut sponge cake filled with vanilla butter cream, covered in Swiss Chocolate Shavings.

Swiss Cake House

Upon my first visit, I was assured that this was the thing to get--a recipe that hasn't changed for over 80 years, because it doesn't need to. It's just that good. Well, that fascinated me. Especially because the flavor combination (not to mention that it has sponge cake, which I consider a featherweight of the dessert world) might not have been my first choice had it not been suggested.

Swiss Cake House

The cake is offered in a few sizes: small bites for about $3 (maybe a little more or less--lay off me, I was concerned with the cake), and larger cakes for larger prices. 

So what is this cake like? It's a nostalgic and highly pleasant sweet--especially enjoyable when you've heard the tale of how long the cake has been made (it always tastes better with a backstory, doesn't it?). Airy and sophisticated, the light sponge cake was deliciously coated with a light whipped frosting on all sides. While a little more chocolate couldn't have hurt, it's clear to see why the bakery has been making it for 80 years without pause. If you find yourself in the area, do yourself a favor and grab a taste of history.

35 S. 19th Street, Philadelphia; online here.

Sunday
Apr222012

Sweet Mouthful: Chocolate Bouchon from Garces Trading Co., Philadelphia

Chocolate Bouchon, Garces Trading Co

What does "Bouchon" mean?

Well, I suppose it depends on how you want to look at it. For instance, if you're a fan of fancy Ho-Hos, you might instantly think of the bakery adjoining the restaurant entitled Bouchon.

If you're still up to date with your high school French, you might say it means "a cork or stopper" as in, "Où est le bouchon pour cette carafe?"

If you like to eat French pastries, you'll know it as a bite-sized, generally quite rich, little mouthful of a treat.

And if you've ever been to Garces Trading Company in Philadelphia, you know that even further, the literal translation is "a small bite of something chocolate that I wish I could eat my weight in". 

Garce's Trading Company is a restaurant, it's true, but they have a highly respectable pastry case. Here's a peek.

Garces trading co

But the first item tried by the Spy was the Bouchon. It was chocolatey. It was gooey in the middle. It was dark and sweet and the type of sweet that sticks to the roof of your mouth and teeth. Chocolate, yes!

Chocolate Bouchon, Garces

It is worth seeking out. If you are in Philadelphia, go to Garces Trading Company, and proceed to the pastry counter. You won't regret it.

Garces Trading Company, 1111 Locust Street, Philadelphia; online here.

Sunday
Apr012012

CakeSpy Undercover: Whipped Bakeshop, Philadelphia

Whipped Bakeshop

The other day, I was getting my bangs trimmed at a haircutting place in Philadelphia, and I asked the stylist if she had any foodie recommendations in town.

She started naming restaurants and bars she liked. Now, I like bars, don't get me wrong--but I prefer bar cookies, if you know what I mean. So after a while, I said, "how about bakeries?".

Whipped Bakeshop

"Oh," she said. "There's a great one nearby, it's called Whipped Cream or something."

"Whipped Bakeshop?!?" I asked. She looked at me sort of funny.

"I thought you wanted suggestions from me." she said, flatly.

Whipped Bakeshop

Well, maybe I didn't make a new hairdresser friend, but I did get re-acquainted with a bakery whose work I admire. After having interviewed owner Zoe a few years ago, I was happy to finally have a chance to visit myself. They've received accolades such as "Best Cupcake in Philly"--so I was pretty excited to see for myself.

And guess what happened when I went in: I was greeted by Ryan of Ryan's Baking Blog, who works there, who recognized me! Sweet! 

The retail case is small (most of the real estate at the bakery is a work space where they make custom cakes) but alluring--they have mostly cupcakes but a few other items, including brownies, cookies, and "Cake Cups" as pictured above.

After a brief consultation with both employees, I was assured that the Lemon was a standout flavor; to be friendly, I picked up a vanilla cupcake for a friend. It had a Peep on top.

Whipped Bakeshop

Shortly after exiting the premises I stuffed said lemon cupcake into my mouth. I paused to take a picture (top of the post) so you could see how there was a sweet surprise under the buttercream: a dollop of lemon curd!

This was a sunshine stuffed cupcake if I've ever tasted one: a buttery cake stuffed with zingy lemon curd, and topped with a modest amound of decadently rich buttercream. The frosting was none too sweet--the meringue buttercream is incredibly silky, and the richness of it worked very nicely with the tart lemon filling. The sweetness of the coarse sugar on top was a nice little bit of sweetness to balance the butter-tart thing going on with the frosting and curd, and it added a nice little texture contrast too.

Whipped bakeshop

I personally did not get a taste of the Vanilla cupcake, but was assured (after my companion had eaten it in approximately 2.5 bites) that it was "really, really good"--once again, not an over-sweet cupcake, but a more sophisticated treat, rich in vanilla flavor, and "definitely not the cheap stuff". 

Whipped bakeshop

Moreover, we were quite impressed with these cupcakes. It was wonderful to see a cupcake shop that offers such a carefully crafted, thoughtful product win "best cupcakes"--there is no schtick going on here. It's refreshing--just good sweet stuff.

My only regret about my visit is that I didn't pick up another half dozen cupcakes for later. 

Whipped Bakeshop, 636 Belgrade Street ; online here.

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