Food & DrinkFebruary 16, 2011 at 7:40 am

Review: Tartes Fine Cakes and Pastries

Great desserts through a window.

Jennifer Sun

Dessert tends to come as an afterthought to a meal, a sweet ending that is easily foregone if you’re feeling particularly stuffed after a series of soups, salads, appetizers and entrees. But at Tartes Fine Cakes and Pastries, a popular bakery in Old City, dessert takes center stage.

Though nestled in a nook slightly removed from Arch Street, Tartes catches your eye with its bubblegum–pink exterior. The bakery has no indoor place for customers to sit, browse the menu or wait for their pastries. Instead, to order you request your baked goods for takeout through a quaint slide–open window.

A fervent worshipper of all things pastry myself, I happily settled into a sampling of Tartes’ baked goods after returning home from Old City. The bakery offers a selection of tartes (in large and small sizes), cakes, cupcakes, cookies and bars in flavors varied enough to satisfy any sweet tooth. I commenced my own feast of dessert with a massive Snickerdoodle Cookie ($1.75). Its golden, puffy interior was soft and sweet with a hint of vanilla: a perfect, melt–in–your–mouth texture and flavor. Given that it was a snickerdoodle, though, the proof had to be in the cookie’s signature, crackly cinnamon–sugar topping — and Tartes didn’t disappoint.

I moved on to what would be the ‘piece de resistance’ of my meal: a 4–inch, Plum and Ginger Brown Butter Tarte ($5.75). The entire dessert was extraordinary, but the crust was the standout: a sweet, buttery pastry that is soft and flaky on the sides, and just a bit thicker on the bottom to give it a softer textural layer that you can really bite into. The slight tartness of the juicy plum slices complemented the sweetness of the crust, and both of these components were delicately unified with a suffusion of ginger.

The Lemon Bar ($2.25) also proved a solid choice. Bordering on the sweet side, with a thick blanket of powdered sugar coating the lemon curd filling, the bars are nonetheless chock–full of lemon flavor. The gooey, lemon–y interior pairs nicely with a buttery shortbread crust that is just as magnificent as that of the plum tarte.
A Chocolate Cupcake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting ($2.50) was pleasant (and decorated with festive heart–shaped sprinkles), though it fell short of reaching the same glorious heights as its predecessors. Together, the cake and the icing complemented each other well, but they probably would not be so successful as standalones. The cake had a wonderfully deep chocolate flavor but was a bit dense for my taste. Tthe icing, meanwhile, lacked notable flavor.

Rounding out my dessert binge was a delightful little treat: a Coconut Macaroon with Chocolate Chips ($0.50). The crispy, browned exterior of fragrant baked coconut gave way to a soft, chewy and equally “coconut–y” inside; mini morsels of semisweet chocolate served to balance the macaroon’s texture and sweetness.

If there’s one thing that Tartes’ pastries can attest to, it’s that dessert can and should be a “meal” in its own right. Perhaps we shouldn’t always swap out lunch for a 5–course track to a sugar coma like I did, but dessert doesn’t always have to be an after–dinner option. And when confronted with options like Tartes’ Plum and Ginger Brown Butter Tarte, who can say no to dessert?

212 Arch St.
(215) 625–2510
Don’t Miss: Plum and Ginger Brown Butter Tartes
Skip: Chocolate Cupcake with Vanilla Buttercream

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