Sunday, December 14, 2008

Berko Bakery - Paris

And Now For Something Completely Different...
I did a double-take as I passed a window full of cupcakes on rue Rambuteau. Cupcakes? Ain't that as Americana as you can get?

I stepped back from the storefront to take it in. It is a beautiful, modern shop with a lot of color.

There are nicely lit glass-covered counters on either side leading to the back of the store and two more counters. Two small benches at the front of the store seat six, in case you're not patient enough to eat your selected treat at home.

There was a variety of savory and sweet treasures for sale, but I was heart-set on a cupcake. The owner, teasingly objected: "Cupcakes sont pour les enfants!" (cupcakes are for children) and then walked me through the myriad choices.

There were quite a few to choose from. My french being what it is, I cannot recount the flavors - sorry. I settled on something very American - an Oreo cookie cupcake.

I got it with a cafe creme. The presentation was promising. I settled into one of the front benches.

There were even two min-oreo cookies stuck into the top, which was a nice touch. I really wanted to like this cupcake - the store is so beautiful, the service so friendly. But, sadly, there was nothing to like about it. The cake-top was hard, the icing was lackluster - just not a good cupcake. I even tried another cupcake on a subsequent day - same result.

I tooled around the internet to see what others had to say. I found an excellent write-up on Berko at MyKugelhopf. What I learned is that cheesecake is one of their specialties. They even make it with Philadelphia Cream Cheese, which is what I use when I make my world-beating version (yes, I am arrogant about my cheesecake.) I went back for a try - thank goodness I did. It is pretty good. Smooth, rich, with a graham cracker crust as you would expect. Now, I would like to try some of their other tartes.
Update: Sept 1, 2009:
I noted that Berko no longer has cupcakes propped up in the front window and the writing on the window touts their cheesecake and other treats, mentioning cupcakes last. Wisely, I might add.
4th Arondissement

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  1. Ahh... now that you took a picture of the shop front, I recall going into this shop but never buying any to try as I am always tooooooo... full in Paris.

    I am sure if you say it ain't any good then it definitely isn't. Far from Baked cupcakes I suppose.

    Am kinda surprised you would actually give a nod on the cheesecake.. if Mr Arrogant Cheesecake Critic gives a nod, it's a must try!! I am suffering from sweets withdrawal back home.... help!!!

  2. Yeah, sweets withdrawal, what you said, yeah.

  3. Thanks for the link! Looks like you just saved me a trip, I'll pass on those cupcakes - plenty of other French stuff to try in Paris - especially with your great recs. I'll just wait until I get back to NYC for cupcakes.

  4. thanks for the review. I'm sure that your cheesecake IS world beating, but for my money, Sacha Finkelstajn's on Rue des Rosiers has cheesecake to die for...

  5. Anonymous - thanks for the feedback, I will definitely check out Finkelstajn's.

  6. Hi there,
    I haven't try those Berko's cupcakes yet but I did try and turned totally addict to Cupcakes and Co 25 rue de la forge royale 75011 which cupcakes are made from organics and natural ingredients and very sophisticated and elegant they'll soon open a corner in Galeries Lafayette gourmet which is close, very closed to my office.... Let me know when you taste...

  7. Anonymous - thanks for the cupcake recommendation, I will check out Cupcake and Co in a week when I arrive back in Paris.

  8. I've never gone to Berko but I am constantly at Cupcakes and Co. The first time I had a cupcake at C&C it was really disappointing, hard and cold just like you described. Because C&C is on an out of the way street, I was sure they didn't get a lot of business and that cupcake was not made the day I ate it.

    The woman behind the counter asked me what I thought so I was honest and told her. She said that because of the strict regulations in France they had to keep store the cupcakes at a certain temperature. She recommended letting them thaw for 10 mins before eating them.

    OK, so I tried thawing them for 30mins by doing taking away and eating at home. Still yuck.

    Then I bought another one! (I really, really wanted to like them) I stuck it in my fridge and forgot about it till the next day. When I remembered I decided to stick it in the microwave because I was sure it was going to be no good.

    And...perfection! The frosting kind of melted but the cupcake was moist and delicious...

    So lesson: If you buy cupcakes in Paris, you must reheat them because they are stored way too cold.

    For what you pay, you might as well make your own. I just suck at baking though.

  9. @Anonymous - thanks for the feedback. I went to Cupcake and Co once and was disappointed but now that I've read your comment, I think nuking it would have made it better. It was stiff and cold. No amount of nuking would have helped the Berko cupcakes I've tried....

  10. same experience with Cupcakes & Co just yesterday! next time I will try to reheat them!

    thanks for this post, I was about to cancel all my appointments for today and rush to Berko to have a cupcake. now I know this can wait :)

  11. Hi everybody,
    I haven't tried Berko yet but I will soon...
    Anyway, you should try Coupe Foudre, 39Bis rue de Montreuil 75011 Paris. Their website :
    They got lovely & delicious Cupcakes.
    Quite a lot of choices, depending on the day you go.
    Morever, there's a bunch of good beers.and more I guess...

  12. @Anon - I am game to try Coupe Foudre when I get back to Paris in June. Gonna be tough for these Parisian cupcake makers I have spent the past month in NYC....

    The bar is HIGH.

  13. mm yah as a new yorker, same gross experience with berko and cupcakes and co. theyre not good or even real cupcakes. the best though are from Cup and Cake made by two American girls. ahhhh delicious!!--it's

  14. I find that many of the cupcakeries here in Paris make a cupcake for a French palate and so the cake itself is more like what we Americans would consider a poundcake (or quatre quart as they call it here). I grew up on a much moister cake and that is what I find missing here in the stores run by the French.