Belle Cakery 1437 East Passyunk Ave. (215) 271–2299
Don't Miss: Hazelnut–topped chocolate cake Skip: Coming alone (so you can sample a lot of different things)
It’s sometimes hard to know the difference between dessert that’s good simply because it’s dessert and dessert that’s doing something most desserts don’t do. Belle Cakery’s sweets fall into the second category.
A flight of stairs in the bakery's entryway leads to a small seating area. The kitchen is visible beyond the glass dessert case, a confident demonstration that there’s nothing to hide. Red walls, red tables and red silk chairs covered in plastic inch towards kitsch, but stop just short, allowing Belle’s focus to rest squarely on the baked goods. Clearly, this is a place about producing strong desserts; this refreshing objective helps to stave off the cuteness that seems to distract sweets shops lately.
What stands out most at Belle is the intention and creativity in the desserts. This is not the sort of outlandish creativity involved in, say, a gummy hamburger or a cupcake covered in sugary leaves. These are standard desserts done well with clever accents.
The creme brulee has vanilla bean black dots in it, and it's seriously good. Sliced kumquats on top of towers of carrot cake and icing make you forget you’re anywhere near a vegetable. The salted caramel cheesecake is simple and satisfying, with big white tufts of frosting on top that look like the marshmallows that usually accompany candied yams. It all simply tastes good, the way dessert should taste, but with an added element to make it just a bit more interesting, like they’ve thought about all the ingredients and made some changes to make the desserts even better.
A beautiful window opens out onto the small street, across from which there’s an elegantly overgrown garden. The window is framed by drapes tied with ribbons that are cozily plump. It’s a dainty and ideal spot for slicing into a stack of different preparations of chocolate with the side of your fork so you get a bit of each of the different types of chocolate.
Belle Cakery isn’t exactly close to campus, but if you look at that as a perk, the opportunity to take an hour or so with some friends for an amazing slice of cake, then it’s the perfect distance away.