Five bakeries in a two-block radius make Capitol Hill’s new pastry zone, but which one is best for your Valentine?
However you might feel about the rampant construction on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, it’s had one sweet unintended side effect: the creation of a new pastry zone, with two doughnut shops, two French bakeries and one cupcakery all within a two-block radius.
This fresh baked-good density centers on 11th and Union, and its embarrassment of riches is an excellent problem to have. Each of the five puts a great deal of care into sourcing high-quality ingredients, and with prices to match, you’ll want to put care into your choice. (Though before you get bent out of shape about a $4 cupcake, consider how much a cup of coffee costs these days.) Which place should you treat your sweetheart — or yourself — to this Valentine’s Day? Here’s a tour to help you choose one … or maybe two.
Specialty: possibly the world’s best macarons ($3/$4 each, $1.75 mini)
Who will love it: gourmands, Europhiles, those who are chic
What you’ll find: Amandine Bakeshop is the brand-spanking-newest addition to the Capitol Hill pastry zone, and it also arguably has the fanciest pedigree: Owner/baker Sara Naftaly was for years the pastry chef of Seattle’s marvelous Le Gourmand. The shop’s name means “almond” in French, and the nuts come up in myriad ways in her refined, scrupulously sourced French-and-other-European baked goods.
For Valentine’s Day, Naftaly is playing Cupid with her all-natural-ingredient, spectacularly good macarons, making mini sizes so an assortment may be had. Special flavors will include intense chocolate brownie; smoked chipotle and dark chocolate; rhubarb and strawberry; and, for maximum love, heart-shaped rosé Champagne. Orders to go will be packed in Amandine’s uncommonly pretty balsa-wood boxes, and if you’re stopping in, the contemporary-chic, shotgun-shaped bakery space has an understatedly gorgeous upstairs lounge, with a handful of two-tops for hand-holding.
Where: 1424 11th Ave., Seattle; 206-948-2097, amandineseattle.com
Hours: Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday-Sunday 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
Specialty: cupcakes galore (around $4 each)
Who will love it: children of all ages, ladies of all genders, advocates of frosting
What you’ll find: In New Capitol Hill time, Cupcake Royale can be considered an old-school favorite — it’s been open since way back in 2009 (with, currently, five other locations). Owner Jody Hall has been perfecting her Valentine’s special, the Deathcake Royale, for 10 years and has declared this year’s edition the best ever. Made with sea-salted dark-chocolate decadence, chocolate cake and Stumptown-espresso ganache, it is, Hall says, “meant to be shared by lovers and loved by haters.” It is absurdly good (and for $9.50, it better be). A new jarred format allows for heating up, in case you like your over-the-top richness molten, and there’s a gluten-free version, too. Cupcake Royale also has a set of boozy-flavored cupcakes for grown-up V-Day thrills (one of them even has a video about how to eat/drink it), but you really can’t go wrong with the Deathcake.
And even after all these years, the Cupcake Royale cafe is still a charmer with its adorable Neapolitan-ice-cream color scheme. Sit in the right spot, and you might get the bonus entertainment of a baker deftly swirling huge pads of pink frosting onto cupcakes.
Where: 1111 E. Pike St., Seattle; 206-701-9579, cupcakeroyale.com
Hours: Monday-Thursday 8 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 8 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
General Porpoise Doughnuts
Specialty: filled doughnuts inspired by London’s St. John ($4.50 each)
Who will love it: doughnut-o-philes, fancy cops, Champagne drinkers
What you’ll find: Opened just three months ago, General Porpoise might make the priciest doughnuts around, but look at it this way: You’re not paying for the hole. Each specimen of preternaturally airy dough — puffed up and golden, almost sparkling with sugar but somehow not overly sweet — is filled with lush custard, cream or curds, or jam made with local fruit. Eggs come from the “happy and spoiled” chickens on owner Renee Erickson’s picturesque Whidbey Island farm — maybe a Portlandia distinction, but also a difference you can taste. These doughnuts are truly outstanding.
Valentine’s Day here will involve special fillings including malted-milk chocolate cream and passion fruit curd, and there’s always sparkling wine by the glass (or by the bottle to go, for one-stop breakfast in bed). The small cafe feels airy and spacious, and with its white marble counter and nautical brass lamps, it looks as lovely as everything Erickson does. Don’t miss the portrait of the General or the sweet balcony seating, and they’ve been known to sell out, so you may want to come on the early side (or pre-order online).
Where: 1020 E. Union St., Seattle; 206-900-8770, gpdoughnuts.com
Hours: 7 a.m.-3 p.m. every day
Specialties: French pastries (around $5 each), crêpes ($12-$17), entrees/plates ($15-$26)
Who will love it: Francophiles, rosebud-eaters, wine-drinkers
What you’ll find: This very French bakery, named for owner/baker Nohra Belaid’s daughter, moved from the Madison Valley to 11th and Madison in summer 2014. Belaid seems to have found her niche in the high-ceilinged, windowed space — the big open kitchen looks both elegant and lived-in, her family stops by, and she comes out from behind the counter to kiss beloved patrons on both cheeks. She’s also branching out beyond the strict definition of a pâtisserie, serving crêpes and more for breakfast and at midday, plus a brief menu of entrees, charcuterie and cheese plates in the evenings (with wine to drink, in the French style, all day long). Service can have unexplained European foibles, but if they’ll only make you one crêpe, well, it turns out one is big enough to share.
On offer just for Valentine’s Day: a tart topped with apple rosebuds, because, according to Belaid, “Nothing says more ‘Je t’aime’ than edible roses.” She’s also making almond-orange Grand Marnier cake (which she promises is “absolutely decadent,” as well as gluten free) and more.
Where: 1150 11th Ave., Seattle; 206-992-5186, inespatisserie-seattle.com
Hours: Wednesday 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursday-Saturday 9 a.m. -10 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Specialty: vegan doughnuts ($1.75-$3 each)
Who will love it: vegans, vegan-lovers, vegan-doughnut-lovers, families
What you’ll find: In a very New Capitol Hill moment last fall, the all-pie bakery/cafe at the corner of 12th and Madison was replaced by this organic/vegan doughnut shop. The good news is that you’d never know these are do-gooder doughnuts: The cake ones are on the dense side, but not dry, while the raised ones have the right slight greasiness to them (from palm oil made by a company that’s reforesting the Amazon delta to help save endangered species … awww!). Also, no GMOs or cholesterol are allowed in these happy rings.
For Valentine’s Day, Mighty-O is making “Love Bites”: chocolate mini-doughnuts covered in a combination of chocolate icing and raspberry glaze (homemade, like all the doughnut toppings here). The family-owned company (with two other shops) is the right spot for a family Valentine’s outing — the pleasant, slightly retro cafe feels more stroller-friendly than other, tonier Capitol Hill pastry zone places (though despite the dog-grooming outfit next door, no dogs — organic or otherwise — are allowed).
Where: 1400 12th Ave., Seattle; 206-547-0335, mightyo.com
Hours: 7 a.m.-5 p.m. every day