CakeSpy Undercover: Brown Betty Desserts, Philadelphia

Brown Betty

Let's sit for a spell and chat about the magic that is Brown Betty Dessert Boutique in Philadelphia.

First, because I know you like to get the nasty bits out of the way straightaway, I need to tell you that the only flaw in this delectable beacon of sweetness is their hours. They have two locations: the main, have-a-seat-enjoy-a-treat spot in the Northern Liberties neighborhood. This one doesn't open til noon. The second location, a tiny spot at the Liberty Place mall in Center City, doesn't open til 10am. I know. Don't they know I need cake for breakfast?

But--and it is hard for me to say this, trust me--it's worth waiting til 10 or noon, depending on where you are. Because the desserts are really good.

Brown Betty

The bakery definitely veers toward southern sweets, and has a very cute story (per their website):

Brown Betty Dessert Boutique is named after our mother/grandmother, Elizabeth Ruth Hnton (friends and family call her either Betty or Liz). Every Sunday when we'd go to visit there'd be a few baked goods already baked: hard tacks (a country word for biscuits), apple pies (always two at a time) or those mile high poundcakes. Everyone loved them! Elizabeth's love and talent for baking and the stories she told of her youth while doing so are the inspiration for Brown Betty. While Elizabeth doesn't bake as much as she used to (she is still our most trusted and toughest critic) - we still remember how good it all used to taste.

The menu is heavy (pun intended) on pound cake, which is a specialty and the base for many of their cupcakes and layer cakes. But while cakes dominate the menu, they're not the only item available. There are also some very nice looking cookies available, and they also do rice pudding, peach cobbler (seasonally), and, of course, Apple Brown Betty.

Brown Betty

After doing the jerk thing I do and asking "what is the best thing here?" to the employee working at the time, I was advised to go for the "Only For Eliza"--sweet potato poundcake with spiced Vanilla buttercream. A lovely poundcake with a nicely rounded-out flavor, earthy and soothing, from the sweet potato; sweet as can be and far more enjoyable with frosting. "That's a good cupcake" I say. Only for Eliza...and ME!

I have also sampled their "Sing Little Alice"--Chocolate and Vanilla Cake Swirled and Vanilla or Chocolate Buttercream. And their "Company's Comin'"--Vanilla Poundcake and Coconut Cream Cheese Buttercream. I freaking love how they use poundcake as the base of many of their cakes and cupcakes. It makes them so enjoyable, and the cake is rich and nice and buttery, so it isn't a bummer if you ration out the frosting wrong in your eating and end up with a bite or two of just cake. The cookies are good, too. They are nice, big softies. Just the way I like it.

Of course, if you're not in Philadelphia, or even near Philadelphia, they have a cookbook: The Brown Betty Cookbook

They do weddings too, and--I love this--their guiding principle is, "We are obsessed with the concept that our wedding and special occasion cakes taste as good as they look (if not better)."

Brown Betty Dessert Boutique, two locations; main location, 722 N. 2nd Street, Northern Liberties neighborhood; petite location, Liberty Place mall in Center City, near the 17th Street entrance; more info on the website.