Bakeries

227. Rockin’ Cupcakes – January 27, 2017 – Rochester Hills, MI

20170127_133037-220170127_133721-2Ummm . . . I feel like the cupcakes in the photo above speak for themselves. Are they glorious or what??? That is SIX different varieties of chocolate cupcake you are seeing, including one with a caramel center; one with peanut butter buttercream, chocolate coating, and crushed pretzels; and another, as the menu describes it, with “Red wine infused chocolate cake, filled with red wine chocolate ganache, and topped with wine infused buttercream” – YOW! (That one was AWESOME.)

I had a Groupon for Rockin’ Cupcakes, the place where I got these exquisite dollops of perfection, and the Friday before last, on my brother’s birthday, I thought, here is an excuse to use this bad boy. On my lunch break, I headed out to Rochester Hills and the bakery’s tiny, colorful storefront, tucked within a sprawling plaza next to Papa Joe’s market.

I already knew its cupcakes were going to be awesome because I’d tried them before. For my birthday last October, a coworker brought me some of Rockin’ Cupcakes’ wares. Because I didn’t set foot in the place to get those baked goods, I didn’t count it then for my blog (my rule is that I have to physically visit a new-to-me place in order for it to be valid). But the moist and decadent cupcakes I had then convinced me I needed to go.

It was so fun to step away from work and into this cheery shop to muse over which mouthwatering varieties with the classic rock-themed names (Paint it Black, Yellow Submarine, The Rolling Stone) I was going to pick for my half-dozen. The pleasant young woman working the counter took the time to describe the cupcakes, helping me to decide. In the end, I purchased the chocolate assortment, because chocolate is LIIIIIFE. Luckily, my brother and other family members I shared them with are pretty keen on it, too.

Everyone exclaimed over how rich and moist the cupcakes were. That buttercream frosting – killer!

Worth noting: Rockin’ Cupcakes is open Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., but according to its website, if it runs out of cupcakes before the formal closing time, it will close early. So it wouldn’t hurt to call the shop before you visit to make sure it’s open.

6906 N. Rochester Rd.

Rochester Hills, MI 48306

www.rockincupcakesrochester.com

208. Natalie’s Bakery – November 19, 2016 – Madison Heights, MI

20161119_124358-220161119_124522img_1255-2Hello, all! I have missed you! Over two weeks passed where I didn’t explore any new places. I was getting antsy!

With the increasingly shorter days, it’s been a struggle for me to choose what I’m going to do with my scarce and precious weekend daylight hours. I’ve had to be quite intentional. The weekend prior to this past one, I ran myself ragged using the time to cook and photograph three new recipes for my food blog, A Cookable Feast. This weekend was scheduled to be just as busy, with a first birthday party on Saturday and a family Thanksgiving event on Sunday. But I was determined to fit some exploring in! So en route to the birthday party in Royal Oak Saturday, I stopped at Natalie’s Bakery, located in a strip mall on John R. near 13 Mile Road in Madison Heights.

Natalie’s had on my list for a while. I’d stumbled across it on Yelp, where reviewers had given it high praise, and I’m a sucker for quality baked goods (who isn’t?). And what a gem it is! It was hard not to get excited in that tiny bakery storefront, with its shelves crammed with delectable-looking bakery items: caramel-laced cakes, colorful French macaroons, pumpkin mousse-filled fried croissant squares. “Pumpkin mousse-filled fried croissant squares?” Yes, for real – and soooo good; I bought one, and it was as INSANE as I’d imagined it, all fried cinnamony dough and rich pumpkin-y mousse. You can see it in the photo of the bakery case above.

And then there was the bread.

The bread! I love a solid artisan loaf of bread – but again, who doesn’t? In fact, the bread was a big part of why I was at Natalie’s Bakery. I wanted to stop and get some loaves for the Thanksgiving stuffing recipe I’m preparing to create for A Cookable Feast this week. The selection didn’t disappoint. I decided on the rosemary garlic ciabatta bread and the seven-grain bread, both shown above. Both are excellent, especially the ciabatta bread with those distinct savory flavors. After being reminded of how satisfying fresh-baked bread is, I mused, why am I not stopping and getting handmade loaves of bread every week?

Bread gets a bad rap these days. But when it’s baked with fresh ingredients such as the ones Natalie’s uses – it prides itself on using organic and local sources whenever possible – I can’t see how it can be all that bad. These breads are echelons above the sorry processed loaves that dominate grocery store shelves.

31023 John R. Rd.
Madison Heights, MI 48017

www.nataliesbakery.net

172. Avalon International Breads – April 17, 2016 – Detroit, MI

20160417_10395920160417_10410420160417_10421320160417_104347Hello, all! Happy Thursday to you! The weekend – and time for more exploring – is within our sights!!!

Two weekends ago, on an incredibly gorgeous Sunday morning (remember that fantastic weekend where temps got into the 70s, my fellow locals, and we could actually turn our heat off for a few days? It was glorious, right?), I decided it was time for another jaunt down to the D. This time it was to visit The Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company’s Midtown location and Avalon International Breads. While I was scouting for parking near Great Lakes Coffee (which abuts ol’ construction-tattered Woodward), I stumbled upon Avalon and a plum slot within the small row of free parking spots in front of it. Sweet Lady Luck! I knew the two were super-close in proximity (about a third of a mile), but damn, that worked out perfectly! I made the bakery my first visit.

Stepping across Avalon’s threshold, I got that familiar rush of excitement and local pride I get when I enter a bustling, gorgeously hipster-y Detroit establishment. Look at all these cool people and cool stuff! Locally made jams! Handmade breads and baked goods made with only organic flour! I joined the long line flanking the front counter, which moved surprisingly quickly; the Avalon staff works like a well-oiled machine! A loaf of Farnsworth Family Farm sourdough and a slab of frosted carrot cake made it into my bag, both of which proved to be quite delicious. I especially enjoyed slathering the slices of sourdough with butter and the locally made Gus & Grey Southern Lovin’ Blackberry Bourbon Vanilla Jam I picked up during my visit to Parker Street Market back in February (OBSESSED with that jam – it’s phenomenal – out of it and need to grab more!).

422 W. Willis St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.avalonbreads.net

170. Half-Baked Bakery – March 27, 2016 – Harrison Twp., MI

20160326_141531Harrison Township represented on the blog! What what!

As revealed in my Year Two Review, my goal for Year Three is to visit at least one place residing in a new-to-the-blog city each month. I didn’t accomplish this for February (wah wah), but I got March covered with a visit to the lovely little Half-Baked Bakery on Jefferson Ave., where I procured one of the best pieces of carrot cake I have ever had in my life. Behold!

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Half-Baked Bakery’s crazy-good carrot cake with cream cheese icing

This cake was pretty glorious – all moist and rich and studded not only with shredded carrot, but also walnuts, pineapple, raisins, and shredded coconut. AMAZING!

The whimsical little shop with a pleasant granny feel to it (owed in large part to the handmade craft items for sale decking its walls) sells not only baked goods such as the carrot cake, lemon bars, cookies, etc., it also offers soups, salads, and a wide variety of sandwiches. Plus it takes custom cake orders, creating some seriously elaborate confections.

Worth mentioning: Half-Baked’s hours of operation are limited; it is closed on Sundays and Mondays and only open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. the rest of the week. But if you can take a chance to steal away and check out some of its goodies, do it. It’s very close to Metro Beach, so you can have your run at Metro and then conveniently jaunt on over to Half-Baked for a bit of a (totally justified) reward!

39667 Jefferson Ave.

Harrison Twp., MI 48045

168. Give Thanks Bakery – March 19, 2016 – Rochester, MI

20160319_12352720160319_12384420160319_124727Happy Saturday, guys!!!! Today I headed over to downtown Rochester to visit a place I’ve wanted to go for months and months and months now, Give Thanks Bakery, a delightful little European-style bakery/café serving delicious fresh-baked pastries and breads and cakes and coffee drinks. Because heaven is an almond croissant and a cappuccino – or a margarita-laced Tigers game in mid-summer (almost here!!!). I’d take either, really.

You guys, Rochester is lovely, but traffic is crazy out there! OMG, what a cluster today!  Once I exited M-59 and turned right onto Rochester Road to head north, it was like every single person who lives in that area was out on the roads at once. OK, obviously that is an exaggeration, but not really. It was cray. It made the congestion of the Hall Road area where I live look like child’s play. Downtown Rochester was just as jammed, but the Universe was benevolent and delivered me an excellent parking spot behind the bakery after just a few minutes of circling. ~Sigh of sweet relief.~

Give Thanks was a welcome oasis of calm amid all of the chaos. Sitting at one of the three little marble-topped tables, savoring my croissant and my cappuccino in its tiny cup, I mentally regrouped. I soaked up the ambiance – the friendly chatter, the pleasant oldie standards (songs by Etta James, Frank Sinatra). Families with cute, energetic children filtered in and out, and obvious regulars interacted warmly with the staff. It was lovely.

You should go and savor a piece of that loveliness! And a chocolate croissant (I’m into croissants, as you can see). But be sure to get there early – Give Thanks is only open until 2 p.m. on Saturdays and until 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday (it’s closed Sundays and Mondays).

225 S. Main St.

Rochester, MI 48307

www.givethanksbakery.com

 

 

167. Sister Pie – February 27, 2016 – Detroit, MI

20160227_12284420160227_12355620160227_123646Pie! Who doesn’t love a delicious piece of pie? It’s cozy and comforting, especially on a chilly winter’s day, accompanied by a hot cup of coffee or tea. Yum!

After my visit to Parker Street Market yesterday, I headed across the street to Sister Pie in search of a slice of its fabled wares. This pie shop/bakery looms large in my mind, literally. I was introduced to it by a large billboard that once ran along I-94 that I passed (creeped along in a cluster of rush-hour traffic is more like it) daily on my way to my then-job in Dearborn. The billboard was touting it as the winner of a local entrepreneurial grant competition (Hatch Detroit). I was intrigued, not only because I love local small businesses and supporting them, but also because I appreciate a well-constructed baked good (it’s a legitimate art form in my book!). Sister Pie was added to my list of places to visit.

Apparently, this bakery was on a lot of other Metro-Detroiters’ lists, too. The bright little shop’s tables were crammed with people on my visit there yesterday afternoon. Fortunately there was a space open for me, at a high-top table with no chairs, where I stood and enjoyed the custardy, silky-sweet, salty goodness of a slice of salted maple. Two other pies were also being featured yesterday: a chocolate one called Red Hot Chocolate and a lemon meringue. Wanting some take-home treats, I also purchased an assortment of cookies – a triple chocolate one, a peanut butter-and-paprika, and a snickerdoodle-fennel seed – as well as a slice of pear- and chocolate-studded coffee cake. All were delicious in their own right, but the coffee cake and the snickerdoodle-and-fennel-seed cookie were especially memorable. I love when bakers and chefs aren’t afraid to experiment with flavors. Fennel seeds in a cookie, for instance, might sound odd, but they were the perfect complement to the cinnamony sweetness of the snickerdoodle.

So Sister Pie gets a major gold star in my book for deliciousness and inventiveness of its wares (and offering a pie with a crisp, non-soggy crust – holla, blind-baking!). Just as important, it also gets major props for ambiance. There was a convivial air to the place yesterday, a sense of connection. The staff members who helped me were friendly and obviously enjoyed being there, joking with each other as they worked; the woman who rang me up came over to me later to see how I liked the pie. When I’d explained to her in my excitement as I approached the counter that I was new to the place, a sixty-something guy who was obviously a regular overheard me and exclaimed, “You’re gonna love it!” I have a major soft spot for places full of friendliness, enthusiasm, welcomeness – maybe because the field that I work in in my day job doesn’t evoke those feelings in me nearly enough. I think we are all seeking to inhabit such inviting havens in our lives – ideally as places we work and hang out in on the regular, but at the very least, where we can stop in once in a while and savor a slice of pie.

8066 Kercheval St.

Detroit, MI 48214

www.sisterpie.com

158. Donut Bar + Coffee – January 9, 2016 – Southfield, MI

20160109_08240220160109_082739Donut Bar + Coffee = I’m OBSESSED. I was intrigued when I recently read about this specialty donut shop, which opened last summer, in an issue of Hour Detroit. Looking it up on Yelp, I saw reviews were mixed; some people were loving the donuts, and others said they were overhyped. So of course I had to go see for myself what these little fried dough nuggets were all about. The verdict? These are some damn good donuts!

OK, the tres leches one I got was PHENOMENAL. I’m more of a chocolate gal myself, so I probably wouldn’t have chosen that one if I hadn’t seen someone on Yelp raving about it. But I did not regret my choice; it was melt-in-your-mouth rich and creamy, exactly the way a tres leches donut should be. And the peanut-butter banana one! – I believe it was aptly called the Fat Elvis – that one was also amazing! It was stuffed with banana-flavored custard, slathered with peanut-butter frosting, and sprinkled with chopped nuts. Peanut butter is practically an addiction for me, so I was definitely digging that one. Even the more traditional donut I bought, the plain one with chocolate frosting and some little crispies on top, was quite good. So for me, Donut Bar + Coffee definitely lived up to the hype! I can’t speak to the coffee part of the deal, because I didn’t get one, but the donuts were glorious.

29039 Southfield Rd.

Southfield, MI 48076

www.donutbardetroit.com

152. Astoria Pastry Shop – November 27, 2015 – Detroit, MI

20151127_12362020151127_122952 (2)Did everyone have a nice Thanksgiving? I hope so. I did, but it was the first time in about 15 years – minus a few times during my college years – that I didn’t go downtown for the Lions game. And of course they had to crush it this year. Wah wah. I’m not a football person, to be honest, but a generous uncle on my mom’s side of the family usually gets a suite for Thanksgiving and takes us all and um, yeah, I love suites. Who doesn’t? We could’ve still went to the game this year; he didn’t get the suite but offered everyone regular tickets. But our little faction – my mom, stepdad, and brother – opted to visit my Gram instead, as she went into assisted living this year and can’t get out, and then to have our own Thanksgiving dinner.

We were definitely glad we saw Gram. Still, it was hard for us to not experience major withdrawals from the usual get-downtown-at-9-a.m.-and-start-eating-and-drinking-immediately extravaganza. So we vowed we will go next year and just visit Gram before and get down there later.

I mention all of this because I believe the feelings of withdrawal are the reason my mom and I ended up downtown the next day, in Greektown. I coaxed by mother down there with the prospect of gambling at the casino. She likes to go from time to time, and while I’m not a gambler, I’m happy to plunk a bit on the machines and watch her if it means a trip downtown! We ate lunch at Pegasus, which I am pretty sure I have eaten at before a billion years ago, so I won’t chronicle that, but we stopped at Astoria Pastry Shop as well. I’ve been to the Royal Oak location, but I’ve been wanting to check this one out, too. It is elegant, with long display cases full of pretty much every type of beautiful baked goods you can think of: hefty cupcakes, vibrantly colored French macarons, pieces of baklava as thick and round as a hockey puck and half-dipped in chocolate (my choice!). Yeah, we both had the remains of delicious pies left over from the night before at our residences, but . . . how could we resist picking up a treat or two?

541 Monroe St.

Detroit, MI 48226

www.astoriapastryshop.com

124. QQ Café and Bakery – June 12, 2015 – Madison Heights, MI

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One of my coworkers had raved about QQ Café and Bakery to me, so I hit it up last Friday on my way over to dinner with a friend at my favorite Thai restaurant ever, Orchid Café in Troy (on Rochester Road north of Big Beaver – and serving the best Pad Thai I’ve ever had – check it out!). It was delightful! The young guy who waited on me was very friendly and helpful when I told him it was my first visit there; he helped me to pick out a few things. One pleasant discovery: the offerings are super-cheap! One dollar gets you great value at this Asian bakery; that’s all the red bean bun, with its sweetish red-bean paste, and the pork bun (shown above), stuffed with savory barbecued pork and still warm, each cost me. I also got a wedge of cake with a delicious mocha frosting that only cost me $2.25. One thing worth noting: QQ, like the lovely Le Petit Prince, only takes cash. So scrounge around your car for all that loose change and head on over!

30941 Dequindre Rd.

Madison Heights, MI 48071

115. Mount Clemens Bakery – April 11, 2015 – Mount Clemens, MI

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The lethal sugar-coated fried croissant

I have a weakness for old-school local-institution bakeries – especially if they are right on my way home from workout class. Yes, I did go right from my calorie-burning session at CC Plus at the Center to Mount Clemens Bakery – sounds like a pretty balanced Saturday to me!

If you go here, and you should, you need to get one of the fried croissants. They are huge – bigger than a baby’s face – and coated in sugar. And they are absolutely delicious. And you will tell yourself that you are just going to eat half before lunch, and you’ll eat the whole damn thing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

95 N. Groesbeck Hwy.

Mt. Clemens, MI 48043

http://www.mtclemensbakery.com/#