Pies & Cakes
Sometimes finding really good homemade pie and cake, like breaking up, is hard to do. Not so in Portland, where you can’t hardly slosh more than a block or two down the street without tripping over a crackerjack pie maker or cake baker. Here are the very best.
Baker & Spice
Baker & Spice and everything nice is what you’ll find at this popular Hillsdale bakery, where the pastry wizards craft cakes so pretty, you’ll probably want to bronze them. Work with the kitchen to make your own custom cake, or go with one of their trusty classic combinations, like the Pink Cake–devil’s food layered with chocolate ganache and raspberry buttercream, Lovely Lemon–lemon chiffon with lemon curd and lemon buttercream, good old carrot cake, or the Super Duper Chocolate Cake–four decadent layers of devil’s food, chocolate ganache, and French chocolate buttercream.
Bakeress extraordinaire and author of the James Beard award-winning Good to the Grain cookbook, the lovely Kim Boyce, won a special spot in the heart of Portland pastryphiles by opening a pretty little bakery in the Rose City Park ‘hood, where beautiful vintage platters piled high with freshly baked rustic ricotta tarts, sweet apple and tart rhubarb hand pies, corn and gruyere muffins, figgy buckwheat scones and apricot crumble bars tempt from behind the gleaming glass partition that separates you from the open kitchen. Warning—you must resist the urge to run back there and sink your face into a bowl of Sweet & Salty cookie batter. Really, have some self control. I’m talking to me you.
This charming Montavilla cafe might play it neutral politically, but they have a strong message, told through a more than century-old New York Times quote: “Pie is the food of the heroic. No pie eating nation can ever be vanquished.” You and your heroic self can eat pie until the cows come home here–they’ve got over 30 kinds of pie on their menu, from classic apple, berry, and peach to more exotic flavors like butterscotch cream and pear candied ginger. True to its name, Bipartisan is about pie inclusion for all–they always have vegan, sugar-free, and wheat-free pies on hand.
Frice Pastry + Philippe’s Bread
If post-New Seasons opening, your final gripe about the culinary state of affairs on N. Williams was that it was missing a great bakery, behold this divinely doughy new superduo—Frice Pastry, helmed by St. Jack pastry chef Alissa Frice, andPhilippe’s Bread, helmed by French-born baker Philippe Garcia, which together equal Jen’s Dream. Sharing the building with new Lardo III, the light-filled space houses a shiny glass case protecting colorful rows of Frice’s caneles, sables, matcha yuzu chiboust, and caramelized apple bavarians from soon-to-be sticky fingers, and a full lineup of Garcia’s sublime breads—try the olive thyme loaf.
Grand Central Bakery
Grand Central Bakery wants you to have good pie, or, at the very least, good pie crust. They will sell you one of their fantastic seasonal fruit pies–blueberry, raspberry, marionberry and peach in the summer; apple in the fall; pumpkin and bourbon pecan for the holidays ($14.95 each)–either already baked if you’re en route to a party, or frozen and oven-ready, so that you can put your pie in the oven before dinner and have warm fresh pie for dessert. If you want to fill your own pie, but would like to bypass the laborious crust making and rolling process, Grand Central understands. For $6.95 you can buy two already rolled out discs of pie dough that fit a standard 9″ pie pan, or if you don’t own a pie pan, for $4.95 you can purchase a pie shell in the tin. See? Grand Central has thought of everything. You have absolutely no excuse for not eating pie tonight.
Sure, we all got teary-eyed/openly wept when Pix Patisserie departed their longtime Division digs in search of bigger Burnside pastures, but fans of new tenant Kate McMillan’s dreamier than thou treats danced a cherry lattice jig, because now the pastry case is filled with her fresh-baked fruit pies, chocolate cream sliders, swirly apricot almond scones, savory quiches, and good old fashioned chocolate chip cookies. Brunchers, this is one of the city’s best kept Saturday and Sunday morning secrets, most times you’ll sail straight into a seat during prime brunch time for a peaceful plate of smoked ham benedict, warm baked egg-topped breakfast galette, or ethereal housemade biscuit with strawberry preserves.
You know how you meet someone, and their entire aura exudes goodness and calm, and you believe for just a moment that the world is a magical beautiful place filled with sugar and spice and everything nice? That’s what it’s like to meet Miss Zumstein, aka, Anja Spence, baker extraordinaire and truly lovely person. Anja has been baking up a storm for nearly two decades, supplying Portlanders with beautiful individualized wedding and special event cakes, and filling local pastry cases with her delicious pies and tartlets. She also specializes in tasty little things–profiteroles, tea cookies, mini cupcakes, lemon cream tartlets, marzipan petit fours, cappucino brownies, hand-rolled chocolate truffles, lemon-scented shortbread, coconut mararoons, and Mexican wedding cake cookies, among so many others. And each pastry comes with an invisible sprinkling of Anja’s sugar ‘n spice aura…can’t beat that.
For brief spells in my gluten-loving life, I’ve attempted to live the GF lifestyle–during cleanses, after reading Kris Carr’s inspiring books, and once out of guilt caused by a rather severe bread binge that somehow resulted in me eating three Ken’s baguettes by myself over the course of 36 hours. It’s never stuck permanently, but something great came of these dietary forays–I discovered this beautiful bakery hidden away in the inner Southeast industrial district, such an unexpected oasis among the warehouses, auto shops and distilleries, that one’s wheat-dusted jaw drops a bit when confronted by the case of GF cookies and pastries, racks of breads, and long communal table of happy diners devouring slices of thin crust pizza and strawberry cream pie and vegan ice cream sandwiches made with coconut sorbet and chocolate brownies. And whether you’re GF by necessity or choice, that chocolate blood orange cupcake will taste just as sweet.
Pacific Pie Company
While our knowledge of savory pies here in America is largely confined to the supermarket frozen food section, savory pies are huge in Australia, land of Vegemite, Shrimp on the Barbie, and Hugh Jackman. So we Portlanders are bloody fortunate to have this spunky Southeast pie shop filling the culinary void with warm golden fresh-baked Australian-style pies–beef and stout pie, roast lamb pie, Moroccan chickpea pie, creamy chicken pie, PLUS deliciously savory sausage rolls and a whole lineup of carefully crimped pasties. Like your pies sweet? The Blueberry Anzac pie, peanut butter chocolate pie, and cherry whiskey tarts should do, especially paired with some sparkling Australian wine and a rugby game on the bar telly. So, sorry my dear Hugh Jackman, you’re lovely and everything, but I’ve decided that pie is Australia’s tastiest export.
Giving recommendations for must-eats at this pretty European-style Pearl District bakery is easy–I wholeheartedly endorse anything you might find in/on a cake pedestal, plate, shelf, or bread basket, a few of my favorites being the chocolate panini, walnut levain, almond croissant, cinnamon crown, espresso walnut brownie, lemon crème fraiche cake, macarons, huckleberry fromage blanc tart, and chocolates. Yes, Pearl Bakery makes their own line of chocolates, and they are predictably excellent. On a warm summer morning, take an hour before work and order a cappuccino and an almond croissant or piece of orange-rind studded gibassier bread, sit outside at a sidewalk tables, and read or watch passerby—it’s one of life’s greatest little joys.
Petunia’s Pies & Pastries
Fans of this pretty-in-pink downtown bakery’s Portland farmers’ market stand nearly dropped their salted double chocolate chunk cookies when they heard Petunia’s owner/baker Lisa Clark was opening a four-walled mothership, and would not only stock a full lineup of food allergy-friendly pies, sticky buns, bars, cobblers, tarts, sandwich cookies and pink glitter-festooned cupcakes, but would also shake and stir a specialty cocktail menu designed by Ryan Magarian, the liquid half of Oven & Shaker’s culinary team.
There seems to be some confusion over the term “pie hole”–most people think it’s something best shut, whereas here in the loveably alternative universe of Portlandia, it’s something to be stuffed. This turquoise travel trailer-gone-brick and mortar has come to the semantic and culinary rescue, stacking the case of their airy Northeast bakery (part of NE Glisan’s The Ocean mini-restaurant mall) with delectable miniature chocolate, marionberry, and banana cream-filled pies (aka pie holes) that fit snugly in one’s palm, just before being transported to their, well, pie hole. So that clears that up.
“Save room for pie,” Random Order Coffeehouse reminds you. “Pie to the people!” they cry. “If you’re not having sex, you should be eating pie,” is their advice. This funky little NE Alberta Street coffeehouse has a lot to say about pie, and why not? They live and breathe it, baking, slicing and serving some of the best pies in Portland everyday from the wee hours of the morning nearly until the stroke of midnight. Strawberry Rhubarb pie, Brandied Peach pie, Flirty Berry pie, Oregon Cherry pie, Kentucky Pecan pie, Coconut Cream pie, Maple Nutmeg pie, Banana Rum pie, Irish Coffee Cream pie, Peach Berry Amaretto pie, Rhubarb Cardamom pie, Lemon Meringue pie, and good Old Fashioned Apple pie. You can eat your slice of pie in the coffeehouse with an expertly made Stumptown coffee drink, you can eat your slice of pie at home alone in bed, or you can order a whole pie to go and take it to someone you love–maybe they’ll be so happy you can have your sex and eat your pie too.
As fun to say as it is cute, funky, and downright delicious, this petite light-filled space sits quietly in a previously breakfast-barren stretch of North Albina Street, and from the moment they open the doors at 8am, the staff is cutting slices of ethereal homemade honey pie, doling out gooey sticky buns and blueberry cornmeal muffins, pouring hot cups of Extracto coffee into mismatched crockery, and dishing up hearty breakfast and lunch plates as fast as they can, to overjoyed neighborhood residents and gastro-tourists alike, all whom pack themselves into the handful of tables and window bar like happy hash-devouring sardines.
Sweetpea Baking Company
I’ve never been very sensitive when it comes to my vegan friends. I’m constantly forgetting their convictions and trying to feed them custard in my excitement over the first fresh strawberry tartlets of summer, bragging about the new triple creme I found, callling them from the dairy I’m doing a feature story on to gush about the fresh sheep’s milk I just drank. They are very gracious about my egregious faux pas, but I’m always looking for a way to make it up to them. So, every now and then, I pop into this cute Buckman bakery to get them a little something special from the case, because nothing says I’m sorry for being an insensitive omnivore like Sweet Pea cake. For bigger apologies or parties, you can special order a whole batch of gorgeous vegan cupcakes or a gluten-free lemon, coconut, carrot, banana or German chocolate cake.
Whiffies Fried Pies
Whiffies Fried Pies has built a devoted fanbase since hanging up their shingle at Cartopia, Hawthorne’s beloved late-night food cart pod. Maybe it’s the masked and red cape-wearing little pieman-on-a-plate mascot, maybe it’s the fried pie eating contests, maybe it’s the linguistic joy of wrapping your lips around the word Whiffies, maybe it’s the gustatory joy of wrapping your lips around a piping hot, moon-shaped sweet or savory hand pie that’s been fried, wrapped in foil, and placed into your eager possession 10 seconds later. Whether you’re craving savory or sweet, all pie needs are covered with specialties like the barbecue brisket, chicken pot pie, Oregon mixed berry, and my personal obsession, peanut butter pudding with Ghiradelli chocolate. Note to those whose personal trainers disdain fried pies: come summer, season of late evening strolls, you can incorporate Whiffies into your nightly exercise routine and not feel a bit guilty about your new fried pie habit.
Woodlawn Coffee & Pastry
Firehouse pastry chef Gretchen Glatte’s sweet and savory treats can be enjoyed all day long at Woodlawn Coffee and Pastry, a beautiful neighborhood coffeehouse and dessert catering kitchen right across the street from the restaurant. Relax with Stumptown coffee or a pot of Tao of Tea looseleaf, fresh-baked pastries like walnut anise scones and almond macaroons, and a slice of quiche or homemade pie. Or, place your order for an Oregon blackberry cake or corn syrup-free pecan bourbon pie.