Miette Bakery: A Piece of Cake

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Condé Nast, a company that publishes the likes of The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, recently rated San Francisco’s Miette one of the top ten pastry shops in the world. After a long and grueling exam, a classmate and I decided to drown our academic sorrows in calories. What better place to do so than Miette? When we arrived at the Ferry Building, where Miette’s main shop is, there was a small line of people ogling the wares for display inside gleaming glass cases. On one side lay large cakes labeled with names such as Carrot, Lemon Debutante, Gingerbread and Raspberry Tomboy. On the other side lay an inviting range of individual-portioned desserts. I made a bee-line for this display case and saw a range of sweets including cupcakes, chocolate pots de crème, macaroons and panna cotta topped with fresh strawberries. After several minutes of agonizing contemplation, my classmate and I decided on a classic cupcake (chocolate with vanilla frosting) ($3.50), a gingerbread cupcake with cream cheese frosting ($3.50), a mini Scharffen Berger domed cake ($6.50) and a pot de crème ($4). As a spoiler, yes, we did feel extremely sick after eating all of our plunder – but it was definitely worth it.

We gathered up our purchases and went outside to enjoy our sugar high in the sunshine, complete with a clear view of the bay. First up: the chocolate pot de crème. It came in a small glass container (returnable for $1). The chocolate custard had a deliciously soft texture and was topped with a pillow of freshly whipped cream. The base also had an intriguing and coffee aftertaste.

Both of us gave this dessert top marks – our only complaint was that there wasn’t more to go around.

Second: the mini Scharffen Berger domed cake. This treat was certainly a looker – a beautiful dome of chocolate cake glazed with a thick layer of glistening chocolate ganache and topped with a flower made of sugar. When we sampled a forkful however, we were sorely disappointed. The cake was dry and completely tasteless. Where was the delicious chocolate-y cakeiness we were promised? Did the people at Condé Nast actually taste this thing? I would have put it on my list of top ten worst cakes I’ve ever had. After the first bite, both of us sat on our bench listlessly picking the ganache off the top of the dome and poking at the dry body. I attempted to return the disappointing item to the bakery but the salesgirl merely looked at me and shrugged her shoulders. Oh well.

There was redemption to be had, however. Both the chocolate and gingerbread cupcake were moist and flavorful. We praised the spices in the gingerbread cake, set off nicely by the tangy cream cheese frosting. The vanilla frosting on the chocolate cupcake had a luxuriously silky texture and felt as if it was melting in our mouths. Both cupcakes were especially good when we removed the bottom of the cupcake and squashed it on top of the frosting, creating in essence a sort of cake sandwich. I doubt if these cakes deserved to be on any top ten world list, but I’d feel pretty good about including them in a list of top ten cupcakes of San Francisco.
Miette was started in 2001, uses local ingredients and boasts two locations in San Francisco. Its Hayes Valley store also sells old-fashioned candy and canisters of cookies. Incidentally, Miette’s gingersnap cookie is on 7x7 magazine’s list of top 100 foods in San Francisco to try. At $8 a canister however, I couldn’t bring myself to spend the money, no matter how good the cookie.

I’d stick with the cupcakes and custard-based desserts – worth a taste and for treating out-of-towners at the Ferry Building.

Miette Bakery

Ferry Building Marketplace, Shop 10


Recommended: Gingerbread cupcake, chocolate pot de crème

Price range: $3.50 and up

Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Payment: Cash, credit cards for orders over $5