CakeSpy Undercover: Nook Bakery and Cafe, Philadelphia

Apple custard bar, nook bakery, philadelphia

There it is, hidden in plain sight in the middle of a busy city block: Nook Bakery. 

I say hidden not because it really is, but because somehow I had walked by roughly a zillion times without ever actively noticing that it said "Bakery" on the door. I thought it was just a coffee shop! No offense to coffee shops, of course, but for me, bakeries hold higher interest. 

Nook Bakery, Philadelphia

But you can bet your bottom dollar that on the day I had my glasses prescription updated and finally noticed the word bakery, I went right in to buy something. 

Nook bakery, philadelphia

They have a very nice bakery display, including cupcakes, brownies, cookies, and bars. I hope nobody minds, but I snagged a few photos from their Yelp page to give you a better idea, because I only had my phone camera. Here are some of the things you might see there. 

Nook Bakery, Philadelphia Nook Bakery, Philadelphia

After much debate, I settled on a brownie and an apple custard bar.

Nook Bakery, Philadelphia

Mostly, I am going to talk about the apple custard bar, though, because that was my favorite. Apple custard bar, nook bakery, philadelphia

What seemed a pie like pastry molded into a Napoleon shaped brick, this apple custard bar had a sturdy bottom shortbread-y layer and a sturdy brown sugar crumb topping, but the inside was all gooey yum. The custard was smooth and played oh so nicely with the light spice of the apples, which permeated all parts with a sweetness that was most welcome to this mouth.

I would definitely need another. 

Apple custard bar, nook bakery, philadelphia

I will certainly be visiting Nook again, and I have my sights set on more bar cookies and the delicious looking cupcakes (one of which is pictured above, courtesy the Nook Yelp page).

Nook Bakery and Cafe, 15 South 20th Street, Philadelphia; online here.

CakeSpy Visits Hershey, Pennsylvania

Hershey, PA

Can you guess where I got this sweet treat?

If you guessed Hershey's Chocolate World, you'd be correct. I followed in Milton Hershey's steps for the journey, starting out in Philadelphia, which just so happens to be where he opened his first store:

Hersheys first location

...but then, unlike Milton, who probably had a different mode of transport in his time, I hopped in a car with a friend and headed westward to Hershey.

On the way, I couldn't help but stop for a store called Dutch Haven:

Dutch Haven

This is a magical place where, upon walking in, they give you a small slice of complimentary Shoofly Pie:

Dutch Haven

...and then we continued on to the Hershey attractions. When you get there, the first thing you'll notice is that the streetlights are capped with decorative Hershey's Kisses on them.

Hershey, PA

And the streets have names like "Chocolate Avenue". Forget Electric Avenue, this is the street I wanna rock down to. That's the Hershey factory in the back, by the way.

Hershey, PA

Now, it's time to walk into the Welcome Center. You'll see a big desk where you can sign up for activities such as "Create Your own Candy Bar", "Chocolate Tasting Adventure", and "Dessert Creation Studio". Most of the activities, you have to pay for.

While deciding which activities to do, we hit the gift shop. There, you'll find an amazing array of Hershey's products, with dramatic displays. It's very special to have a chance to walk around a land so laden with candy.

We decided on the (free) intro tour, officially called "Hershey's Great American Chocolate Tour" followed by the (pay for it) trolley tour.

The intro tour was sweetly hokey, and very fun. I mean...singing cows. I love it!

Hershey, PA

Oh, and they give you candy at the end!

Hershey, PA

Between the tour and the trolley ride, we hit the bake shop in the welcome center, where you can get sweets made using various Hershey products, such as cookies, parfaits, and more. Mental note: let's come back here after the trolley tour.

Hershey, PA Hershey, PA

And on to the Trolley Tour it was. Unfortunately, the museum (a more historical attraction) wasn't open on the date of our visit, but we were able to take the Trolley tour, which is a kind of song-and-dance tour around town wherein actors perform and between songs and gags, explain some of the history of the town and show you some of the sights, including the school Milton Hershey founded, his private house, his birthplace, and of course the factory.

Hershey, PA Hershey, PA

Off the trolley with our ears ringing from all that singing, we decided it was time for a sweet treat before heading back home. We settled on a cookie and a frozen hot chocolate. The dark chocolate cookie, which the employee informed me was made with Hershey's Special Dark cocoa, was a pleasant cookie. Fueled with sugar, we were ready to head back to Philadelphia.

Hershey, PA

Oh, but before I forget... if on your trip you've gotten your clothes covered with melted chocolate, you could go here to have them cleaned. Even the dry cleaner's logo looks like a candy bar! Hershey, PA

Have fun--go visit Hershey! Find out more here.

CakeSpy Undercover: Gerenser's Exotic Ice Cream, New Hope PA

Gerenser's Ice Cream, New Hope PA

Is there a more distinct pleasure than ice cream on a hot summer day?

If there is, it has yet to come to my mind. 

But if you happen to be in New Hope, Pennsylvania, your pleasure in ice cream eating is bound to be particularly sweet, because this sweet little town is home to an establishment called Gerenser's Ice Cream.

For over 50 years, this shop has been serving up scoops of delicious and sometimes exotic flavors of ice cream. And it's truly a labor of love--as I learned from this website,


The story of the Exotic Ice Cream really is a love story. Stephen J. Gerenser who was teaching at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. would meet his sweetheart Julia Pelikan who lived and worked in Manhattan. New Hope was the half-way mark. Like many people that come here, the young couple were enchanted by the natural beauty and charm of the little story book town. They were married and made plans to settle in New Hope and raise a family.

One of their favorite places to meet was a little restaurant called the "Village Snack Shop." When they discovered it was for sale they decided to buy it and a new enterprise was born. Through the fabulous family recipes of Mrs. Gerenser the little restaurant thrived. The magic really began when Mr. Gerenser discovered a small ice cream machine sitting in one of the back rooms of their new establishment. Julia and Stephen were not satisfied with the commercial ice creams available, they wanted something better to compliment there wonderful meals. Stephen was raised in a dairy in New Brunswick New Jersey and he knew exactly what to do with that machine! He would make the best ice cream any one ever tasted.


Gerenser's Ice Cream, New Hope PA

As the story goes on, after a while the ice cream was clearly the most popular item on the menu, a popular snack for theatre-goers attending shows at the nearby Bucks County Playhouse. So after creating some fantastic ice cream concoctions in flavors like pumpkin, peach brandy, rum raisin, and more, they rebranded it as an ice cream shop. 

On my recent visit, I went for the CakeSpy-iest flavor they had: vanilla birthday cake ice cream with rainbow sprinkles. Yup.

The gorgeously creamy vanilla ice cream was studded with respectable but not overwhelmingly-sized cubes of yellow cake, and was pretty much so delicious that I all but licked the cup clean. While not necessary for the enjoyment of the ice cream, I firmly believe that we eat with our eyes first, and therefore the sprinkles were a Very Good Idea.

A friend got a chocolate shake, which had to be re-made because the first time the sweet but slightly confused employee only made a shake which filled about 2/3 of the cup (and when a shake is in the $5-6 range, it had better fill the cup!) and was none too chocolatey. But version two was far superior, and so we both left happy.

Gerenser's Ice Cream, New Hope PA

The ice cream shop feels fairly old timey but the prices are definitely geared toward today's gourmet - a small ice cream is $4.50, and the prices go up from there. But it is a tourist town, so while I found it expensive, I didn't find it totally unreasonable.

The array of flavors was pretty comprehensive, and they had the usual roster of flavors in addition to some more "exotics" - German Peach Brandy, Cotton Candy, Spanish Rum Raisin, and more.

If you find yourself in New Hope, please, do yourself a favor and go here.

Gerenser's Exotic Ice Cream, 22 S Main Street, New Hope; more info here.

Sweet of the Day: Ice Cream in Pretzel Cones, Miller's Twist, Philadelphia

The best invention, possibly ever: ice cream in pretzel cones. Honestly, the combo is all WIN, no lose. 

I discovered this feat of awesomeness at Miller's Twist, a pretzel-hot-dog-ice-cream vendor in the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. 

After being drawn in by the sign for Butter Brickle ice cream (a flavor you really don't see enough), I noticed that I could get a cake or wafer cone, like a jerk...

or, for a mere $1.25 more, I could get either a waffle, chocolate, cookie, or pretzel cone.

Pretzel Cone! No contest!

The sweet, creamy ice cream against the sturdy, salty-carby-crackery pretzel cone, was basically the best thing ever. It was a sweet and salty combo which called to mind the decadence of french fries and a shake, but was devoid of the greasy sogginess that can occur when you dip your fries. The pretzel cone stood the test of cone consumption time, not collapsing under the weight of the ice cream, and not leaking or getting soggy toward the end. 

Butter brickle in a pretzel cone was a very delicious combo, but to bravely test out another option for you, I returned the next day and got another pretzel cone, this time with peanut butter ripple ice cream.

It was also, I am happy to report, quite delicious. So, to review: if you are in Philadelphia, get yourself to Miller's Twist for a pretzel cone!

Find Miller's Twist on Facebook here.

Sweet of the Day: Maple Pecan Doughnut from Beiler's Bakery, Reading Terminal Market

Maple pecan doughnut, Beiler's

From Wednesday through Saturday at the Reading Terminal Market, some very magical things can be obtained at Beiler's Bakery, one of the Amish vendors at the market.

At this fairyland of carbohydrate and butter, one can obtain sticky buns, cookies, shoofly pie, cakes, breads, whoopie pies, and more. 

But the most recent sweet treat I knew and loved by Beiler's was the Maple Pecan Doughnut.

Because I realize you probably don't have one in your mouth right this instant, let me tell you about eating it.

First off, it has a sweet maple frosting on top, which is dotted with toasty pecans with a maple drizzle. It makes for a sweet, candied pecan type of taste. 

Then, inside of the doughnut, there's a generous amount of sweet cream filling, which acts as a very nice complement to the maple on top. 

Doughnut from Beiler's

To temper the excessive sweetness, the yeast doughnut itself is not extremely sweet, acting as a carbohydratey jacket for all that sugary, creamy goodness.

This is an extremely enjoyable doughnut to eat; personally, I have found that filled doughnuts are the way to go at this stall, as they are baked off premises and the filling keeps the doughnuts moist, whereas non-filled doughnuts can tend toward slightly dry.

Beiler's Bakery, Reading Terminal Market; online here.

Batter Chatter: Interview with Town Crier Bakery of Pennsylvania

In the Philadelphia suburbs, there is a magical place called Town Crier Bakery. It's open seven days a week, and they specialize in carbohydrates of all sorts: cakes, cookies, pies (some even square! See pictures below), and bread. What's not to love? If you, like me, want more of the story, then you're in luck: I recently caught up with some of the ladies behind the baking magic, Kerry & Roseann Burns. Read on:
So...what's your story? The Town Crier was my husbands dream sine he was 13 years old. He started in local bakeries washing pans. It was not until he was almost 40 did it become a reality. I remember Kerry telling me he was eyeing a location in Peddlers Village, I told him yeah ,yeah go for it, never thinking it would happen, that is until the day he told me he quit his job for this bakery dream. I said oh boy here we go!!! Hard work indeed but it really does give you gratification, not just in the waistline but in the people you meet and the events you help shape.
I have heard of something called Philadelphia Butter Cake. Is this a real thing? How is it different from, say, pound cake? Butter cake is indeed a VERY REAL thing, the only thing it has in common with pounds cake is butter and the word cake! Philadelphia buttercake is a German tradition using sweet dough rolled out into a square foil pan and filled with the butter topping. The dough rises along with the gooey topping which at this point has melted and slightly soaks the dough. Bake at 400 degrees for a golden brown sweet addictive goodness!!!
I see something called a George Washington cake on your menu. What's that? George Washington cake is actually a spice cake, it has been a staple in my shop and in all the bakeries I have worked in for over 30 years, our spice cake uses cakes crumbs as it base and is mixed into a cake batter with spices molasses and topped with a warm fudge icing striped with a with soft fondant icing. INCREDIBLE EATS!
Do you consider yourself "known" for a particular type of baked good? if so, what? Why? We have more than a few--our pound cake is a favorite of many customers as well as my most popular cake, the forementioned buttercakes are a crowd pleaser. We can’t forget our old fashioned Philadelphia Cinnamon Buns with nuts raisins or just plain you can’t loose. The words I hear most often from customers as they enter my store are OMG , this smell alone adds calories, and WOW what variety of items you have.
I have a personal question. When I go into a bakery, sometimes I will specifically ask for a particular baked good in the case--usually "the big one". When I do this, am I being an annoying customer? No you are not, customers like yourself when they say they want the biggest or the most icing is a chance for our staff to engage you and your visit truly a memorable one!
What are the busiest times of the week at your bakery? Friday, Saturday, Sunday between 12 and 5 with Saturday being our most busy day!
What is your most popular icing? Buttercream, fondant, or ganache? Our French Buttercream, soft and not so sweet looks like marshmallow as it smoothes on cakes!
I like to say that there is no bigger bummer than a bad dessert. In your opinion, what makes a "bad" dessert? If it is to have a filling it is the “where the beef ?” when you expect a filling you should never have to search for it, but if it is dry then it is a killer. You never hear the comment my cake was to moist, but man was that a dry dessert ouch that is a death sentence.
Tell me a junk food guilty pleasure (sweet OR savory) honest. I have two fresh mozzarella with plum tomatoes (not junk) but I can not pass it up ever! The second one is Chocolate chip cookies, where ever I am at I MUST try the competition's chocolate chip cookies, even if I am away from home. I just love cookies.

What's next for the bakery? We are toying with a Center City location, and work to keep our menu fresh and unique, while still keeping the traditional menu in place. Our newest items the cupcake bar with over 20 different varieties and toppings is a huge hit and our ability to service customers who require gluten free or sugar free products continues to expand our customer base.

Want more? Find Town Crier Bakery online here. Follow them on Twitter here.