In today’s world of big-box shops, it's all too easy to fall prey to purchasing everything at one supercenter, including that cake you needed for your friend’s surprise birthday party or the bread you were charged to bring home for dinner. But with a little a guidance, time and effort — you can do better.
There are a surprising number of bakeries and sweet-treat spots all over town, some specializing in cupcakes and others hawking their goodies online. We suggest you spend an afternoon tasting what’s out there. We did, and we kept coming back to three favorites: a classic French bakery, a traditional Mexican panaderia, and an Austin dessert shop like no other.
At this quaint storefront in Upland Village on Bee Cave Road, it took only one bite of a ham and cheese omelette tucked inside an airy baguette to transport us back to a local bakery in the 6th arrondissement of Paris that we frequented during an overseas a trip.
From the artisan breads to the viennoiserie offerings such as pain au chocolat, almond croissant, pear tart and chouquettes, authenticity reigns at this tiny spot owned by Chi-Minh, who is originally from Versailles and graduated from the National Institute of Bakery and Pastry, a school associated with the French Bakers Federation.
In addition to baked goods, the kitchen whips up quiches, sandwiches and panini, and crêpes — the Cabri (prosciutto, goat cheese and tomato) proved amazing.
Of course, those interested in something sweet will have to make some rather difficult decisions. A chocolat pâtissière crêpe, perhaps? Or something from the fine pastries selection, such as a Parisian macaron (the pistachio tastes like heaven), the Napoléon (puff pastry with cream mousseline), or the Opéra (joconde cake, butter cream coffee, and chocolate ganache)? Bon appétit.
Olivia and Steve O’Neal have created the perfect recipe for success in Austin — undeniably delicious sweet treats baked with care (they use locally sourced cage-free eggs) and sold in an ultra-cool space (check out the mural on the outside brick wall) in South Austin. Did we mention they compost, recycle and use cocoa, coffee and sprinkles that are fair trade?
For this duo, supporting the community and reducing waste is serious business, as is creating some of the most amazing flavor combinations, such as the Odd Couple — a Valrhona chocolate cupcake topped with house-made salted caramel and vanilla cream-cheese frosting and drizzled with one more round of salted caramel.
The cupcake selection, which changes daily, is remarkably vast and includes vegan offerings (cookies n’ cream, ginger lemon and banana split, to name a few). The display case also features cakes, cookies, pastries and mini pies (try the coconut cream, chocolate cream or banana cream), but we think the bars at Sugar Mama’s are the bomb — lemon, s’mores, mint chocolate chip and bourbon chocolate pecan (is there anything better?).
At this no-frills family-owned bakery on South First, the multitude of offerings inside the long display case can be a bit overwhelming. We saw mounds of bolillos and teleras (many restaurants in town use La Mexicana’s breads), but let’s be honest, we were there for the pan dulce, or pastries.
We eyeballed the traditional pan de huevo (round flat breads usually covered in chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla powdered sugar), marranitos (known as gingerbread pigs, although they don’t have ginger or cinnamon in them), and empanadas (triangular pastries with various fillings). We mulled over the mantecadas (a spongy pastry), yoyos de coco (pastries filled with coconut), triangulos de piña (triangular pastries filled with pineapple), and the orejas de miel (pastries infused with honey).
Finally, we asked for assistance. The young woman behind the counter suggested one of the best-sellers, the cuernos con queso, cake-like pastries that look like and are shaped like croissants and filled with silky cream cheese. We now understand why this pan dulce is so popular.