Shef's Kitchen

Food and Cooking Stories from an Indian-American girl nicknamed Shef

A Visitor’s (and Austinite’s) Guide to Austin Bakeries March 3, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — shefskitchen @ 8:14 pm

You’re here to explore this perfectly-sized town called Austin, known to be a fit city, one of the top in the nation in fact.

You visit and you immediately see cyclists and pedestrians along its urban pathways.

You see Lake Austin, and you wonder why it’s called a lake, as it meanders around downtown and under beautiful bridges, gleaming in our Southern sunshine.

You see a path of athletic joggers, hundreds of them, on any given day, keeping a pace alongside that “Lake” on a trail known as the Hike and Bike Trail.

Yes, we’re proud to be a healthy town. But c’mon. Everything in moderation right? Every town needs a gooey warm cinnamon roll to serve to its occasionally indulgent residents.  Just like every town needs a pie delivery service and a warm cookie delivery service. (And I mean with milk too). We have got it all, folks! This is one happening food town. A farmer’s market that has not only the best produce in town, but also sells locally made scratch baked goods. Vegan? Check. Gluten-free? Check. For a city this small, we have got it all!

The upstairs boulangerie at downtown's Easy Tiger

Here is a list of mostly central Austin bakeries and sweet shoppes, in no particular order, written as part of the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance Austin City Guide for 2012.

The AFBA members have put together an AWESOMELY resourceful overview of favorite food and drink finds here, and I am honored to have been invited to participate. When one cooks and eats Indian food, one needs American desserts afterwards. :) And with my background, I could easily have written about Indian restaurants, but since I may be overly biased in that field, I write about my true love: bakeries! (though I suppose I’m biased there too).

Just FYI, I’ve taken into account many food bloggers’ recommendations and foodie friends as well, but I do make a note of my personal preferences, likes and dislikes.  My disclaimers: These are not REVIEWS as I am not a restaurant reviewer; they are humble personal opinions. Also, I obviously haven’t tried everything at every bakery but thanks to my Gujarati Indian sweet tooth, I have had a lot more cake and sugar than anyone I know! Yes, I am a “healthy” eater, but I leave plenty of room for overindulgence :)

Central/Downtown:

  • Easy Tiger:  Austin’s newest bakery/beer garden, is already making a presence with its baguettes, loaves, and pretzels. Chocolate croissants were a favorite amongst the AFBA members, and I most certainly agree. Having had chocolate croissants almost everywhere in Austin, these just might be my fave. The fact that you can walk in upstairs and take away a fresh and perfect baguette spread with fine fats of butter makes it feel even more like a Parisian cafe.
  • The 1886 Bakery:  If you’re visiting the Driskill while you’re here, stop into their bakery downstairs. Their 1886 chocolate cake is amazing, but not sold by the slice I believe.  Tell them I sent you; maybe they’ll sell you a piece ;) or just buy the whole thing and bring me some. I swear I’ll eat half the cake. Another option, which I literally just discovered as I wrote this, is to try the recipe! found here.
  • Walton’s Fancy & Staple: A cute little bakery with lunch options and even floral services, this desirable location has quite a few baked goods to offer, but nothing remarkable to me; however, many of the food bloggers in the group do enjoy their sweets and pastries.
  • Delish:  I thought I should mention this because of the location in downtown on 2nd street; this is strictly a cupcake shop with a creative variety of flavors, like OMG pineapple-upside down cake! and even gluten-free options. I like the ratio of frosting to cake and the size of the cupcake (not too big).
  • Sweetish Hill Bakery: This bakery has been open for years and has an assortment of sweet treats. Their breads however are what I find myself leaning too and are conveniently sold at some small grocery stores in town, like the Wheatsville Co-op as well as the farmers markets.
  • Whole Foods Market: This tourist attraction (it really is. there is an entire chocolatier area in the store, and a gelateria, a raw food bar, bakery, and much more) has a large bakery case in the front of the store for breakfast-type breads and in the back for cakes and fancy desserts.

Cupcake case at Polka Dots

Central/South:

  • Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop: a popular favorite, this cupcake and special order cake shop is in the hip South Austin area and surrounded by other great restaurants. They have interesting and creative flavors as well such as the French Toast cupcake and The Elvis, a banana buttermilk cake with peanut butter frosting and gold flecks! Wow. It’s also good to know that high quality ingredients like Valhrona chocolate and Nielssen-Massey vanilla extract are used and there is a daily vegan option.
  • La Boite: a “trailer” known for their macarons and some say their croissants are good too.
  • Moonlight Bakery: This bakery got some nods from my fellow AFBA members for their fresh morning baked bread, and though I’ve never tried anything there yet, I had to put it in the list. I will be going there SOON!
  • Elizabeth Street Cafe: This French-Vietnamese themed restaurant and boulangerie has an assortment of breakfast and lunch dishes on house-made breakfast breads and loaves. They also have macarons, French donuts, and brioche.
  • La PatisserieKnown for their macarons, they have plenty of other French baked goods like palmiers, eclairs, cakes and croissants.  I still haven’t been to the store-front location but I have had the beautifully classic macarons before.

Central/North:

  • Polka Dots: on the northern edge of the UT campus, this hidden cupcakery is one of the best. The crumb of the cake is perfect (not only with texture and density, but also taste: delicately sweet, not cloying), and the ratio of frosting: cake is perfect (on some of the cupcakes). They have different frostings here too to accommodate a range of preferences: buttercream, swiss meringue (less sweet), and cream-cheese.
  • Ken’s Donuts: I had to stick in a donut shop on this list. I don’t know what their donuts are made of and I don’t want to know. It’s one place I don’t mind being ignorant about. I LOVE KENS DONUTS with morning coffee, or middle of the night milk (they’re open 24 hours). I go there now more than I ever did in college. I blame it on having children, but we all know that’s not true. (wait…I mean I do actually have children).
  • Upper Crust Bakery: OK, this is a hard one. The most truthful thing I can say and the most helpful to readers is that this is my all around favorite bakery. There is something for everyone here, but the key is, that EVERYTHING is good, especially the sweet stuff. I have personally had EVERY SINGLE cake there. All good. All of them. For years, we got the Gateau Marisa as a birthday cake, which is excellent. The Italian Cream Cakes are great too (chocolate and regular). The Mocha Almond is as well as is the Gateau d’Amour, Chocolate Windmill, and Grandma’s Chocolate Cake (an excellent basic chocolate cake that again, is not too sweet). All their icings are a cream-cheese frosting so keep that in mind if you’re really craving buttercream. The small variety of cupcakes are made from the same batter and are excellent. And their chocolate chip cookie is my personal favorite in town. Regarding a review of Austin cookies, see this AFBA City Guide post.
  • Russell’s Bakery: with 2 locations, this bakery and cafe is also noted for their decorated shortbread. They sell a variety of cakes too. Though not one I frequent (though have tried a few things), some Austinites really like this bakery.
  • Chez Zee: Known for the variety of their menu, this is a beautiful restaurant with a very large menu and a wide variety of cakes. I’ve had several of their cakes for birthday parties and they’ve all been really good. What comes to mind is their Coco Leches Cake and their Maida’s cake but I certainly have not tried them all.
  • Central Market: This HEB-owned specialty supermarket that also has a South location has a bakery where I often purchase loaves like the English toasting bread or sunflower bread. Their hand-held individual pies are made with French butter, and you can certainly tell (I had the apple and it was surprisingly pleased since I’m really picky about apple pie; next time I’d like to try the blueberry). Some of their products however are not completely all-natural so I’m choosy about what bakery items I might get there.
  • Quack’s: Nestled in a quiet urban neighborhood Hyde Park, this bakery is full of regulars who I’m told commonly order things like Pull-Aparts and Morning Muffins. The Pull-Aparts are pretty darn good, basically a cinnamon roll made with croissant dough with lots of crispy edges and a crisp:soft ratio of dough that is pleasurably high. Quack’s (and also Sweetish Hill Bakery) are decorated shortbread heaven. If you need beautiful and unique shortbread, go to one of these places for impeccably piped shortbread cookies with creative and colorful designs.
  • Austin Cake Ball and Holy Cacao: I’m not a cake ball expert. But since it’s a craze right now in the food world, I thought I’d put these 2 places in so that if you are a cake ball fiend, you know where to go. I will say the best cake ball I ever had (I’ve had only about 4) was homemade, and not by me, since I would never have such a thing in my house as leftover cake bits!
  • San Francisco Bakery: I adore this little place. With a super friendly staff and family friendly owner, I’ve had playdates there with little kids and we all have indulged on their cookies and multitude of filled Danishes. They also have great little lunches and lunch specials; you can’t go wrong with that authentic San Francisco sourdough bread.
  • Lick It Bite It or Both: a cupcakery that specializing in ice-cream combinations. They also deliver!
  • The Steeping Room:  though this restaurant is smack in the middle of a busy upscale shopping district called The Domain, and it’s likely that visitors to Austin may not end up there, I had to put this in the list. Their scones are undoubtedly THE BEST in town. Served with real clotted cream and a pot of tea (very large selection here), there are several varieties to choose from. My favorites are pine-nut plum and the candied ginger. They have other baked goods as well and a nice tea sandwich and lunch menu.

The pull-apart from Quack's

Other bakeries that deserve mention but are on the outskirts of Central Austin are:

Rise and Shine Bakery

Baguette et Chocolate

Bountiful Bakery (located west, not too far from downtown)

Blue Note Bakery (this specialty order-only cake bakery I hear makes their fondant with honey! I personally don’t like fondant cakes but am eager to try one of theirs!)

Dream Bakery

And at the Austin Farmers Markets around town, you can find these bakeries:

Cake and Spoon (absolutely loved their espresso shortbread, though I couldn’t finish it). And their scones are filled to capacity with fresh seasonal fruit and still warm when you buy them from the market.

Others at the Market: Pie Fixes Everything, Objects of Confection, Hill Country Cupcake, Red Rabbit Bakery (have had their vegan donuts–good!), New Bread Rising (bread).

Austin Sugar Lovers, if I’ve inadvertently left any really good bakeries out, please do let me know!

 

26 Responses to “A Visitor’s (and Austinite’s) Guide to Austin Bakeries”

  1. Christian Says:

    This is an amazing reference! There is a ton on your list that I haven’t tried yet and now I feel like I HAVE to — You included all my favorites, too and a few I had totally forgotten about. I feel some after-school bakery hoping in our future…

    • shefskitchen Says:

      Thank you Christian! There are just so many in Austin–I feel so proud! I hope to keep updating this list as more and more are opening. (But of course first, I’ll need to visit them ;)

  2. Mohit Goyal Says:

    what a great list! just reading it made my mouth water. :)

  3. Rajal Regan Says:

    I can’t believe there are THAT MANY bakeries that I have not tried yet! I am behind! And I am in complete agreement with you, Upper Crust is the BEST!!

    • shefskitchen Says:

      Yes there are even a few more that I didn’t include on the list. However, I’m eager to see what the rest of Austin thinks of bakeries. Upper Crust is fantastic. They’re just a great all-around one-stop-shopping bakery.

  4. kandy Says:

    so delicious, it stir my appetite! I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so! really nice post.

  5. amee Says:

    oh my. there is so much of austin i don’t know. thanks for the hard work in putting this list and your comments together. this post should be bookmarked on every austinites phone. Next time i visit, don’t plan on cookin. we are going to tour bakeries!!!!! the amee-masi tour!! yay!!!! thanks again (really!) for the hard work you put into this post! What a great reference!

  6. midnitechef Says:

    How about Hey Cupcake! trailers?

    • shefskitchen Says:

      Good question! I opted not to put them in the list since I personally don’t favor them, and when I asked around, I found concurrence. I find their cupcakes dry and lacking flavor and their icing too sweet, but that is just a personal opinion. Have you tried many flavors there? I do appreciate that they were one of the first (if not first?) to bring cupcake shops to the city. I’m glad you brought it up though and I appreciate your visit here!

  7. Thanks for the guide! I especially appreciate the grouping by neighborhood. I need to check out the bakeries here in South Austin!

  8. I am so happy to have this source of bakeries in Austin. Always looking to try something new, especially for sweet-loving guests visit. Thank you!

  9. Kristina Says:

    Wow So many options- Where do I start?-Thanks for sorting them from the south up to the North it will make it easier for me to navigate :)

  10. Optimista Says:

    Oh my gosh, now I am STARVED for dessert, and I haven’t even had lunch, yet! What a great roundup and such beautifully delectable photos, too. Thanks for the wonderful post!

  11. midnitechef Says:

    If you like Finnish treats like cardamom scented sweet bread, molasses ginger cookies, or caraway rye bread, I’ve opened a bakery business on the side out of my home thanks to SB81 passed last year!

    You pre-order and I bake it on the weekend for you to pick up :) I know Round Rock sounds far far away, but it’s worth a short drive.

    This is my website:

    http://cardamombakery.com

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