Note. This post originally appeared in the Pittsburgh Observer, October 2009.
Entering Vanilla Pastry Studio is like walking into every little girl’s dream—and even a few dreams of some of us thirty-somethings. From the moment you step in from the sidewalks of Centre Avenue in Shadyside, it’s as if you are transported to another world altogether. Gone are the cold, gray sidewalks and streets, replaced with a more feminine and delicate space, decorated mostly in white with touches of soft pinks and greens.
The first thing you’ll notice is a counter filled with confections: cupcakes, brownies, biscotti, coffee cakes, and Vanilla’s own creation, “lollys” (desserts on a stick), among others. If you can get past the baked goods for a second, take a glance through the glass doors to observe the open kitchen, where you can watch the pastry chefs create the very goodies you’re about to eat. If you’re lucky, you might catch them working on a more elaborate cake, some of which approach Ace of Cakes caliber.
Of the cupcakes I’ve tried from Pittsburgh cupcake bakeries, these are by far my favorite. Although their flavors are a little more traditional, the buttercream frosting really stands out—smooth, rich, and yet light as air. I could eat a whole bowl of this stuff with a spoon.
On a recent visit, my dining companion and I tried the pumpkin cupcake and the chocolate peanut butter cupcake ($2.25 each). The pumpkin cake was perfectly spiced, moist, and dense, just the way pumpkin baked goods should be. It was topped with a spiced buttercream and rolled in purple and orange sprinkles—a perfect fall treat. The second cupcake was an elaborate stack of chocolate cake, peanut butter buttercream, and redskin peanuts. Again, the buttercream was delicious, although the cake was slightly on the drier side, but it certainly didn’t stop us from finishing it.
Even after we finished our desserts, I didn’t want to leave. Vanilla’s space is such a retreat, visually refreshing, and, well, girly when compared to the darker furnishings most eateries gravitate toward today. And the intoxicating smell of sugary treats may have had something to do with it, too.
Vanilla Pastry Studio
6014 Centre Ave.
Tues–Fri, 9 am–6 pm; Sat, 9 am – 4 pm; Sun, 10 am–2 pm