Nothing beats the familiar aromas of cinnamon, pumpkin and peppermint to remind us that the year-end holiday season has arrived. Along with these fanciful fragrances come the rewarding flavors that accompany them.
Nowhere are these captivating scents and tastes more apparent than at the area’s local bakeries. Endeavoring to capture the epicurean spirit of the season, we visited eight first-rate bakeshops already geared up for Thanksgiving and Christmastime. Each one presented its finest holiday delicacies as evidenced in every mouthwatering image you’ll see over the next several pages. But just in case the pictures don’t convince you, go try these treats yourself!
Tina Yuhl loves buttercream so much that she painted the interior walls of her quaint new bakery in downtown Apex, Buttercream’s Bakeshop, the sunny color of the decadent frosting. Yuhl also presides over the shop’s personal pies, giant cookies and inventive cupcakes along with gourmet coffee and European teas.
Among the holiday offerings are the distinctive buttercream bites, which consist of a cookie-base layered with — what else? — buttercream that’s then dipped in chocolate. “Flavors vary from chocolate raspberry and maple rum to hazelnut and chocolate peppermint,” said Yuhl, owner and pastry chef.
German Christmas Stollen
Celebrate in traditional fashion this holiday season with authentic, handmade German Christmas Stollen from Annelore’s German Bakery, made from a generations-old family recipe that features 11 spices and aromatic flavorings, many imported from Germany, plus candied citron, nuts, raisins, currants and more.
Owners Norbert and Annelore Gstattenbauer, who have a downtown Cary retail site in the works, note that stollen is one of the few baked goods that improves with time — wrap it in foil for three weeks, they recommend, to allow the spices to blend for a moist, aromatic, melt-in-your-mouth treat.
All Annelore’s products, including Lebkuchen and Pfeffernüsse, are made without preservatives, additives or dough enhancers, the proprietors say.
Don’t be fooled by Great Harvest Bread Co.’s modest 1,200-square-foot establishment. When it comes to sweet and savory bread, this “freedom franchise” bakery mills its wheat in-house and produces swoon-worthy provisions. Need proof? Look no further than the indulgent eggnog teacake. “It’s essentially a rich pound cake with homemade eggnog and a hint of rum
flavoring,” said co-owner Paige Williams, whose husband, Tom, bakes the bread early each morning. “I consider myself a baker’s wife.”
Buche De Noel
La Farm Bakery’s artisan breads have put Cary on the culinary map, and when it comes to holiday treats, the bar is set equally high by master baker Lionel Vatinet. To “partager le pain”
at the holidays, or “share the bread,” he offers items such as French stollen, and festive, personality-laden bread snowman whose bellies can be hollowed for serving dips.
For cake lovers, La Farm’s Buche de Noel in multiple flavor combos is a can’t-miss holiday classic. Here, the hazelnut praline version features ladyfinger biscuit wrapped around a whipped nutella ganache and topped with hazelnut praline buttercream, dotted with meringue mushrooms. The “Yule log” is also available in Belgian chocolate and vanilla buttercream with a raspberry coulis.
Red Velvet Cheesecake
Inhale deeply as you step into Once in a Blue Moon Bakery & Café, so as not to miss the just-baked aromas wafting from the holiday handiwork of Chef Roger Dragan and company. Now in his 11th year as owner of the downtown landmark, Dragan says hits include holiday-shaped, hand-decorated cookies.
But the star of this holiday show is Red Velvet Cheesecake, featuring irresistible rich swirls of red velvet cake batter and cheesecake, perched atop a fine layer of red velvet cake.
Smothered in dark chocolate ganache and piped buttercream snowflakes, you might want to ask Santa for your very own.
Peppermint Ganache Cake
If ever a locally owned business has been embraced by the populace, it’s downtown Fuquay-Varina’s Stick Boy Bread Co. Since opening in 2008, the bakery has continually
churned out artisan breads, pastries, cookies, pies and cakes with aplomb.
Seasonal items are no exception. Witness, for example, the scrumptious peppermint ganache cake. The four-layer chocolate cake features white peppermint buttercream between each layer, then has chocolate ganache poured over it and crushed peppermint on top. “We also add some peppermint schnapps and peppermint extract,” revealed co-owner Katie Dies, who runs the bakery with her husband, Josh.
The door swings open early and often at Sugar Buzz, a new boutique bakery and café located in Cary’s Saltbox Village. Serving up tantalizing treats like chocolate mousse cups, coconut cream tarts and cranberry orange scones, it’s no wonder the place resonates so strongly with patrons.
When it comes to holiday selections, you’ll be hard-pressed to beat the pumpkin cheesecake with candied pecans, gingersnap crust and spiced whipped cream. “It’s scratch-made from fresh ingredients like cream, eggs, vanilla and spices,” said proprietor Laura Forrest.
This delectable special-order item requires a 48-hour minimum notice.
Nothing says festive like Whoopie Pies from Sweet T, a Cakery. Moist red cookies — made with raspberry puree rather than red dyes — are sandwiched with delicious French buttercream lling, then rolled in crushed peppermint for holiday air. Available in seasonal filling avors from chocolate peppermint to cranberry, Sweet T chef and founder Tammy Calaway says this meringue-based French buttercream is softer, lighter and fluffier than the traditional version.
Other Sweet T favorites include Snow ake Cake and Baby Rum Cakes. Calaway creates her dreamy desserts from farmers market inspirations, using local-only ours, eggs, butter and produce. A retail storefront is in planning.