Words by Emma Kopelowicz, Photos by Natalie Thibodeau
In a city filled with thousands of students, it only makes sense that there would be enough coffee shops to keep up with everyone’s caffeine addiction. Aside from the high demand for the liquid fuel that keeps the brain buzzing, many coffee shops boast beautiful pastry cases filled with delicious, baked-to-perfection goods. Yet, many of these pastries only get a quick glance from customers because it’s hard to choose between a gorgeous slice of pumpkin bread or a blueberry muffin when you’re in a rush to get to class. Never fear! I’ve gone ahead and done the hard work for you (with my trusty photographer/roommate as my accomplice). After visiting some of Boston’s favorite coffee shops, I curated a list of the best sweets behind the glass, so you’ll know what’s worth the extra cash/time.
Pavement’s Pear-Almond Scone
Scones can be a big hit or miss at most coffee shops, but Pavement clearly knows what’s up. A scone is essentially supposed to taste like a giant lightly-sweetened biscuit, so it pairs perfectly with an aromatic black tea. The pear-almond scone does just that, and it tastes fantastic with a pot of Earl Grey. This hearty baked good is just what you need in the morning to kickstart your day in the *classiest* way.
Caffè Nero’s Pistachio Muffin and Apple Coffee Cake
I’m not one for pistachios, but this muffin has shown me that maybe I need to reevaluate my distaste for the humble nut. While studying at Caffè Nero, my friend bought this muffin for a little snack break. I looked at her questionably, but after I got a taste I immediately fell in love. The pistachio flavor was subtle, and the moist consistency of the muffin was spot-on. The buttery streusel on top also gives this pastry a big old gold star. Well, I guess that makes me a convert, and I apologize for not giving pistachios a chance earlier.
After having the delicious pistachio muffin, we went ahead and bought the seasonal apple coffee cake because A. it’s fall, and B. we just had to. This pastry checks all of the right boxes for a traditional coffee cake (moist consistency with a crumbly top), but the rich layers of apples and cinnamon really gave it that extra “wow factor.” Thank you Caffè Nero for blessing our stomachs, yet again.
Japonaise Bakery and Cafe’s Totoro Kashi (Sweet Bread)
In the mood for something tasty AND downright adorable? A quick walk over the bridge to South Campus will bring you to the whimsical wonderland that is Japonaise Bakery and Cafe’s pastry case. The Totoro Kashi is a sweet bread bun filled with a chocolate custard pudding that will melt your heart. The bun is something of a cross between a golden-brown crusted brioche and a donut. Once you break into the fluffy Totoro’s belly, you’ll find yourself getting emotional as you discover that a perfect chocolate filling awaits you. The custard inside is light, yet incredibly creamy (think chocolate pudding), and its richness pairs perfectly with the subtly sweet flavor of the bun. Plus, it’s shaped like Totoro (a cuddly Japanese cartoon), so it gets extra points for cuteness.
Tatte’s Berry Cheesecake and Passionfruit Krembo
If you need a break from the dining hall’s dessert bar and want to feel super fancy for a hot second, then Tatte’s pastry case is the place for you. I promise that the extra bit of cash you’re about to drop on a stunning piece of pastry is absolutely worth it. Okay, I lied, because you’re actually about to buy two sweet masterpieces. Tatte just does not make it easy to choose! The berry cheesecake is light and whipped, unlike the typical dense cheesecakes you’d find at a diner (which are beautiful in their own right). If you’re looking for a dessert that is a bit on the heavier side, but not totally overwhelming, then this is the sweet for you. If you want something on the total opposite end of the spectrum, then look no further than the Passionfruit Krembo. I like to think of it as lemon meringue pie’s “tropical cousin.” The outer white chocolate coating is infused with passion fruit, so it has a nice tangy zing. The inside consists of fluffy meringue and the most glorious passion fruit curd I have ever tasted. The crust of this little guy is made out of shredded coconut, which gives this soft dessert some crunchy texture. The key is to get all three flavors into one bite for the perfect symphony of chocolate, passionfruit, and coconut. If you learn anything from this dessert experience, it’s that you don’t need to leave the city to go on a tropical vacation!
The pastry case can be a daunting place, but now that you know what’s worth it from where, you can confidently say “YES” when the cashier asks if you’d like anything else. Maybe next time you pull up this guide for a refresher you’ll have a latte AND a pistachio muffin nearby.