Cake Nouveau, Ann Arbor, MI

I’m surprised at myself for not having written a review of Cake Nouveau sooner. I’ve been a follower and champion of their cupcakes for a couple of years and they are my hands-down favorite place to get a cupcake in the area. This bakery specializes in fondant wedding cakes, too. They carry four cupcake flavors each week, including their two classic flavors: Vanilla Beany and Chocolate Truffle. The other two cupcakes are always an interesting rotating set of flavors and they also have slices of delicious cake for sale. You may have seen owner, Courtney Clark, compete on TV in a number of Food Network Challenges.

Last week I had a Pomegranate cupcake that was one of the best flavors I’ve had at Cake Nouveau. The pomegranate flavor was intense with its unique notes of berry and citrus with a nice pomegranate “cream” in the center. I also love their Caramelized Banana and Vanilla Beany flavors. Their frosting is always light and airy with a perfect amount of sweetness. So many bakeries use a sickly sweet heavy frosting that just doesn’t jive with me. I also love the denseness of the actual cupcake while still maintaining a moist interior. The balance of light frosting with the texture of the cake is a great textural experience every time.

Cake Nouveau was previously located in Kerrytown near the farmer’s market. I used to make a tradition with a friend of stopping by the farmer’s market, but making a side trip to for a cupcake each time we went. Now that they’ve settled into their new location on Packard next to Morgan and York I really appreciate the ease of parking, not to mention it’s a couple miles closer to where I live! The new space has also given them the room to offer classes and take on more orders. If you haven’t checked out their new store make sure you do soon!

Vanille Patisserie, Chicago, IL

I have a sweet tooth so I eat a lot of desserts and sugary pastries. I have to admit that I will be hard pressed to find a chocolate croissant that lives up to the one I found at Vanille Patisserie in Chicago, IL last week.
My husband and I walked through pouring rain to get to this little bakery so I was hoping the hype I’d read and heard about the place was worth it when we arrived. It’s a quaint little shop where we were greeted by a friendly woman behind the counter. They have two little tables for those eating in and a small couch and table with a book showcasing their pastry work. The display is filled with pastry art pieces. I’m sure they are delicious, but I’d be heartbroken to destroy such beauty by taking a bite (okay, maybe not that heartbroken).

I decided on a chocolate croissant and a latte. I splurged my day’s extra calories on whole milk because that’s the only choice they have (fitting for a pastry shop). I usually add caramel or syrup to my latte to balance out the coffee flavors, but instead I added lumps of sugar (yes, lumps!) and it was one of the best I’ve had. They use Illy espresso, so the quality is implicit. The chocolate croissant was everything reviewers had promised. Rich, buttery, flaky with just the right amount of chocolate in the center. What a lovely way to start the day.

Molly’s Cupcakes – Chicago, IL (Lincoln Park)

A friend of mine recommended we stop at Molly’s Cupcakes in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. I was pleasantly surprised to find them open at 9:30pm on a Sunday night. They have an option for you to “create your own cupcake” while you wait (they actually do the ‘making’ for you), but we each chose one of their famous pre-made center-filled selections. I opted for a Cookee Monster — a vanilla cupcake filled with an artery (not just a vein!) of chocolate chip cookie dough and a light buttercream frosting with mini chocolate chips and a  mini chocolate chip cookie! Very messy and gooey, but sooo good!

Vanilla Creme Brulee Cake at Decadent Delight, Ann Arbor, MI

I returned to Decadent Delight in Ann Arbor this past weekend with their creme brulee fruit tart on my mind. I’ve reviewed the tart before and it’s fantastic. After walking in the door I had to add to my order when I found they were selling slices of vanilla cake with creme brulee filling and a vanilla buttercream frosting. I’ve heard a number of people make the comment that vanilla is such a plain and boring flavor. I highly disagree. Vanilla can be very interesting and complex and comes from the exotic orchid plant (what’s boring about that?).

Wow! The cake was really good… the vanilla cake tasted like a rich pound cake, the brulee filling was rich and delicious and the buttercream was decadent (no pun intended). My heart felt like a ring of butter was surrounding it after the last bite, but worth the taste experience.

Decadent Delight, Ann Arbor, MI

There’s a great little pastry shop/bakery tucked behind a building on Huron Street just on the edge of downtown Ann Arbor. It’s called Decadent Delight.
When we stopped in last weekend we were greeted warmly and told that in addition to the lovely pastries and cookies in the case that cinnamon rolls were due out of the oven in about 20 minutes. Oooh, warm cinnamon rolls? It was tempting to wait, but we were still full from that morning’s breakfast so we decided to run a couple of errands and come back to take one home for the next day instead. The cinnamon roll did not disappoint the next morning. It was very tasty and nicely glazed, but not thickly sweet, though I’m sure right out of the oven would have been amazing.

I also sampled a creme brulee tart from this visit. The tart shell was exquisite! Great texture, crumb and flavor, but the custard was definitely the star. It was satiny, rich and similar to what you’d expect from traditional creme brulee. The fruit on top was impeccable, the strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and kiwi were perfectly chosen. A nice balance to the rich filling. This creme brulee tart may have taken the place of my favorite dessert, traditional creme brulee.

I’ll definitely have to add this to a list of places to stop at frequently!

Just Baked, Livonia, MI

I had heard great things about Just Baked cupcakes for a while, but didn’t get a chance to try it for myself until recently. While I was in Livonia last week, I stopped by their original store at Seven Mile and Farmington.

I picked out a Fat Elvis cupcake for me – banana cake with a pillow of peanut butter frosting then dipped in their chocolate ganache; and a Chocolate Peanut Butter cupcake – chocolate cake with peanut butter butter cream, dipped in chocolate ganache topped with Reece’s Pieces candy. I can attest that both were quite tasty as I stole a bite of my husband’s, a woman’s got to do a little direct research for her blog, right? The cakes were nice and moist, the ganache was an unusual touch that made it more interesting and it wasn’t too rich. The peanut butter buttercream ‘pillows’ were a nice light texture and the right balance of sweetness just under the ganache glaze. Believe it or not, I saved half of a cupcake for the next day and it was still moist. I’ll have to remember that next time I’m in because the sell day-old cupcakes for $1.

When I was in the store the case was stocked with most of the flavors they show on their website, at least 20 the day I was there. I scoped out their ‘menu’ online beforehand and was a little sad that they didn’t have the Sweet Potato Pie flavor when I was in, I’ll have to try that next time. There’s a wide variety to choose from and the choices play on dessert favorites, such as Oreo Cookie, Cinnamon Donut, Peach Cobbler and S’more. You’re likely to find something to fit the pickiest of palettes and the child in you.

Just Baked also has a location in Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, and, I’m excited to say, are opening up a location very close to me in Ann Arbor around Febuary or March as well as another shop in Royal Oak.

UPDATE: NOW OPEN IN ANN ARBOR!
24633 West Stadium
Ann Arbor, MI 48103