Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life
Even in our postmodern age of the meta-brunch, the fusion brunch and the world-cuisine brunch, nothing signals late-morning elegance like a beautiful coffeecake. Fortunately for Angelenos, there’s no need to futz around in the kitchen, as plenty of first-rate bakeries in town offer gourmet versions of this timeless delicacy.
Sweet Lady Jane
8360 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles
Dessert virtuoso Jane Lockhart bakes four decadent varieties: a New York babka with chocolate chips, cinnamon and nuts topped with streusel and drizzled with chocolate; a caramelized-apple babka; a New York marble cake with almond paste covered with poured chocolate; and a cinnamon-pecan cake. Tea loaves ($7.50, serves two); 9-inch bundts ($22, serves four to six).
Joan’s on Third
8350 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles
This bustling shop offers a lovely coffee-glazed version (butter cake with an espresso layer swirled through) and a sour cream cake scattered with streusel. Whole sizes can be ordered through the catering department ($35, serves 10); single portions of the coffee-glazed cake ($4.50) sell fast.
1751 Ensley Ave., Century City
Every morning, customers happily pick the streusel off the blueberry-sour cream coffeecake, which is known for its fantastic crumb topping. Three sizes: 8-inch ($12, serves six to eight); 10-inch ($15, serves 10 to 12) and individual muffins ($2.75).
La Brea Bakery
624 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles
The rustic summer-camp coffeecake here evokes a nostalgic dessert served in elementary school thanks to simplicity (ingredients: walnuts, sugar, eggs, sour cream, baking soda, kosher salt and butter) and the bakery’s artisanal flair. Streusel-topped loaf ($30, serves 12 to 15); individual slices ($2.50).
Auntie Em’s Kitchen
4616 Eagle Rock Blvd., Los Angeles
Even Westsiders schlep in for the from-scratch cupcakes, but pastry chef Barbara Monderine’s coffeecakes shouldn’t be overlooked. The cinnamon bundt has walnuts, raisins and a ribbon of Valrhona chocolate; the New York coffee crumb cake features a brown sugar and butter topping; and then there’s the sour cream model with pears and pecans. Whole cake ($17, serves 12 to 15); single pieces ($2.25).
245 E. Green St.
(inside Gelson’s Market), Pasadena
Located in Gelson’s stores, this Euro-style bakery churns out more than five elegant coffeecakes, but the top seller by far is the alligator coffeecake, so named for its croc-like texture created by pecan slices. Large ($11.95, serves eight), medium ($7.70, serves four) and individual ($1.85) sizes.
7122 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles
A sinfully rich cinnamon-pecan sticky bun is a creative alternative to traditional coffeecake. The dessert here is made with Danish dough, vanilla cream and “lots and lots of butter,” says owner Jenna Turner, who sells the pastry to Jar restaurant and the Sunset Marquis hotel, among other places. Huge single portions from a 12-inch round are $4.50, and the whole bun, which serves eight to 10, is $28. Susina also does a wonderful cinnamon-sour cream coffeecake with Belgium chocolate chips on special order ($8, serves four to six).