Let Them Eat Cake (for breakfast)
If dessert for breakfast is so wrong, then why does it taste so right?
I discovered the glorious pairing of cake and coffee a few years ago. It was an accident, of course. A leftover piece of cake too tempting to make it past 9:00 a.m. But the experience was so sinfully delicious, I began saving all my treats - cookies, brownies, pie - for morning consumption.
After years of indulging in this combination, I can say with complete confidence that I think we’re all doing it wrong. Dessert is actually meant to be eaten in the morning.
Listen. I’m not suggesting eating dessert for breakfast every morning, but if you’re going to eat dessert, why save it for the evening? Is the appropriate time to binge sugar really right before bed? It disrupts your sleep, and provides no time to burn off the calories. On the contrary, when you eat dessert in the morning, you start your day with a pep in your step, and have the entire day ahead to be active.
Best of all, the pairing is divine. Coffee and cake work in perfect harmony. The bitterness of coffee cuts the sweetness of cake, which in turn mellows any astringent flavors in the coffee.
Yes, there will always be those that scoff at the idea of cake for breakfast, but feel free to remind them that donuts, French toast, cereal, Pop-Tarts, and pancakes are all “acceptable” breakfast foods. Is a slice of cake really all that different? (Dentists, please refrain from answering.)
To fully enjoy, we’ve outlined a few of our favorite local bakers and coffee roasters to help you indulge in style. Enjoy! And could you save me a bite?
Confections By Casey Renee
Two-time James Beard semifinalist, Casey Renee, has started her own dessert venture and the results are pretty sweet. Prior to founding Confections, Renee was the acclaimed pastry chef at the Ace Hotel Pittsburgh. Through her new business, Renee is offering cakes, cookies, and other treats for custom orders, events, and wholesale.
“When it comes to cakes, I definitely have a nostalgic-ness to what I do because that speaks to everyone,” says Renee. “The things you remember being good as a kid, like confetti cake or Red Velvet.”
Confections from Confections combine whimsical decorations with rich flavors like buttermilk icing and chocolate olive-oil cake. For decoration, “I usually ask for inspiration, even if it’s just a couple of colors,” says Renee. “Then I just go until I love it. My inspiration is the person that the cake is for.”
The Butterwood Bake Consortium
Sit back and relax with a slice of cake at the Butterwood Bake Consortium. This one-of-a-kind shop in Pittsburgh is inspired by Viennese coffeehouses with lots of velvet, wood, and porcelain detailing.
Butterwood takes custom cake orders, but a quick-fix can be satisfied by just walking into the shop.
“A slice of cake and a pour-over, that’s what most people order,” says owner Ally Slayden.
Butterwood’s cakes are available in a myriad of flavors, from Chocolate Sweet Potato and Blood Orange to Matcha Green Tea and Creme De Violette.“Our cakes are not super sweet, a bit more European, like German Chocolate Cake,” adds Slayden.
For decoration, the shop takes a natural approach. “The ingredients are all organic, and that’s350° Bakery
Salted Caramel, Raspberry Almond, Lemon Meringue, oh my! These are just some of the cakes offered by 350° Bakery, a fun bakery located on the South Side Slopes. There’s a good chance you’ve already tasted their goodies, as they supply Pittsburgh spots such as Constellation Coffee, Piper’s Pub, and Big Dog Coffee.
350° Bakery prides itself in making classic homemade treats, like pies, layer cakes, fudgy brownies, and cookie sandwiches. (We’re particularly smitten with their Oatmeal Cream pies.) Currently, the bakery is in the process of transforming their production kitchen into a small grab-and-go bakery, but in the meantime, they offer wholesale, personal orders, and event catering.
Mediterra is a Pittsburgh institution, selling their artisanal baked goods at local grocery stores, farmers’ markets, restaurants, and their brand-new Mediterra Café in Sewickley. (Have you been yet? It’s stunning.) While they are known for their breads, they also have a brilliant pastry program that supplies the confections for the cafe, including: lemon tarts, eclairs, homemade toaster pastries, and mini Oreo cheesecakes, all of which happen to taste great with coffee! Mediterra takes custom orders for pastries and cake, styles varying from classic to funky and everything in-between (donuts on a cake, anyone?).
Local Coffee Roasters
La Prima Espresso Company
La Prima has been serving Pittsburgh with gourmet, locally roasted coffee for over 30 years. They are a certified organic roast-to-order company, with over 50% of their coffees purchased with fair-trade practices. Find their beans at Market District and Whole Foods, or stop by their cafes in the Strip District and on the Carnegie Mellon campus. laprima.com
De Fer Coffee & Tea
This small, local roaster has a European-style cafe on Smallman Street, serving coffee, cocktails, and small bites. As a roaster, they focus on very small, high-end micro lots, with the goal to excite even the most hardcore coffee connoisseur, and help average coffee drinkers experience something new. defer.coffee
KLVN Coffee Lab
The name KLVN is a nod to 19th century scientist Lord Kelvin and the first law of thermodynamics, which states that “energy is neither created nor destroyed, but transformed from one form to another.” This quote gives a representation of KLVN’s coffee, which provides drinkers with caffeine from sustainably produced, washed specialty arabica beans from around the world. klvncoffee.com
After attending coffee school in Italy, Ispirare Coffee owners Amber & Michael Rizzo began their Kittanning-based roasters to create inspirational coffees for all of life’s moments. Find them at Labriola’s Aspinwall, Madeleine’s Bakery & Bistro, and Heirloom SuperFood Market. ispirarecoffee.com