Turns out, you can have your cake – or cupcake or pie or brownie or even a cranberry-white chocolate cookie – and eat it, too. Over the last few years, more than a baker’s dozen of independent pastry chefs with a flair for homemade American-inspired creations (i.e. rich chocolate, elaborate designs, decadent frostings … George Clooney cakes) has hit the Prague market.
Cup of Cake
Israeli baker Lana Libin Mayer is one of the pastry scene’s earliest success stories. After pioneering her own small cake company, she was approached by the owners of Můj šálek kávy, and since 2011 has been in charge of all things sweet and savory at the popular Karlín coffeehouse. “In the very beginning, we were making classic American treats – at that time in Prague there were only a handful of places that could do cupcakes, brownies, and such,” says Mayer. “However, as we evolve, we go further and further from classics towards our own signature style.” For example, Mayer uses mascarpone instead of butter for her icings and fruit to color her creams. “The biggest challenge was to adapt to local flour and sugar – it behaves differently then American or even British flour,” she says. “I can guarantee that there’s not one package labeled ‘instant’ or ‘ready-made’ in my kitchen.”
Top sellers: carrot cake, cheesecake, anything with chocolate
Prague Pie Hole
What started off as a small hobby to help friends quench their cravings for “real American-style” pies has taken on an extraordinary life of its own. American Lisa Darnell recently inked a deal to work out of Bohemia Bagel’s kitchen and plans to be a regular at the Jiřího z Poděbrad farmer’s market. You can also sample one of her delightful wonders at Javánka and Co. in Vinohrady. Darnell wants to bring variety to a city that’s already overloaded with strudel, sachr dort and honey cake. “There are some pies and cakes on the market; however they are priced so high. I want everyone to feel like they can afford dessert every day,” she says.
Top sellers: salted caramel apple pie and walnut/pecan
Tom’s Cakes Prague
Tom Hollestelle may still be in high school, but it seems the Dutch teen may have already found his calling. Just 12 months after launching Tom’s Cakes, Hollestelle, who’s in his last year at Prague British School, has developed quite a fan base. And with good reason: his strawberry cheesecakes, chocolate-cranberry-walnut brownies, and M&M-Kit Kat creations are, quite simply, dazzling and dangerously addictive. “Every cake is different as they are all made by hand with fresh products on the day or the night before they are scheduled to be delivered,” he says. “I think there is a demand for American-style cakes in Prague, because these cakes are becoming more and more international, and Prague is slowly turning into a multicultural and multinational city.”
Top sellers: strawberry/raspberry/blueberry cheesecakes, apple pie, and brownies
Where to order: www.facebook.com/TomsCakesWebpage
Golden City Cupcakes
If cupcaking is an art form, then American Patty Small could very well be the Prague pastry circuit’s very own Leonardo da Vinci. Her cupcakes aren’t just party favors or after-school snacks: They are like mini Mona Lisas with frosted Marge Simpson up-dos carefully packaged in ribbon-laced boxes. It seems almost criminal to bite into one of her peanut butter Swiss meringue dipped in dark chocolate and decorated with sprinkles and hearts. “I love experimenting with old-fashioned techniques,” Small says. “Many people don’t think ‘high-end patisserie’ when they think of American baked goods, but we have some pretty amazing flavors and techniques that are unique to our country. For instance, peanut butter and chocolate – how has the rest of the world not caught on?!”
Top sellers: strawberry, peanut butter, dark chocolate
American Marena Canese’s cupcakes have long been a favorite of the city’s expat community. They certainly pack quite the punch, whether you’re munching on a giant classic chocolate or a bite-sized mini carrot coated with a delectable zesty cream cheese frosting. In addition to seasonal flavors like mocha, banana and raspberry, she also offers vegan and gluten-free options, so there’s a little something for everyone. “My operation is still small and very niche, because I love serving the local expat community in Prague,” says Canese. “I truly want to remain small in operations and focus on the quality and experience my customers receive.”
Top sellers: vanilla, chocolate and carrot
After taking a month off, Tajik baker Sarvi Safarova is back in the kitchen whipping up personalized birthday cakes featuring the likes of My Little Pony and George Clooney yumminess. “I really want the pastries to be personalized by the customer, because this way it means more and makes the customer a little bit happier,” she explains. Offerings range from layered cakes and cupcakes to savory treats like samosas, filled with your choice of potatoes, meat or pumpkin. “I also do want to give people a bigger choice in what they like,” Safarova says. “I am thinking of adding more flavors in cakes and trying to get the hang of making brownies. These are really the two things that are most sought after when people are ordering.”
Top sellers: chocolate cakes, sponge cupcakes, samosas
Where to order: www.facebook.com/sarvisbakery
Top of the Cake Prague
Sometimes what’s on top is just as important as what’s inside a cake. Just ask Samantha Hussey, an expat from Britain who specializes in creating elaborate sugar-craft decorations. She often will make a novelty fondant cake to complement the decoration. “Believe it or not, when I first moved here I was importing all my sugar ingredients from the UK, often traveling back with my hand luggage full of fondant,” Hussey says. “However, last year I made a big step to purchase a large stand mixer, and I have now also began making my own.”
Top sellers: sugar-craft cake decorations
Where to order: www.facebook.com/topofthecakeprague
All photos by Michael Heitmann unless otherwise noted.