What: Sweet as Pie Bakery
Where: 2700 E. Louisiana Avenue, #102, Denver
Pros: Pastry Chef Christe Chen focuses on classic Southern bakery staples here at this cute neighborhood spot. Don’t miss the cookies, like the Nutella sea salt, or the ultra-tender scones.
Cons: There’s not quite as much selection for walk-in customers as other bakeries. This is because Chen is focused on larger dozen and custom orders.
Despite growing up nearby, I never knew that there was a small strip of businesses on the mostly residential Louisiana Street in the Bonnie Brae neighborhood. But Pastry Chef Christe Chen has chosen this tucked-away location for her new bakery, Sweet as Pie, in hopes of providing the neighborhood locals with a true gathering place. Walking in, little details like the muted teal tables, mismatched mugs, and shelves of cookbooks make the space feel cozy and welcoming. Behind the pastry case, you’ll find a demure selection of recognizable pastries that just about every American grew up eating.
While Chen is originally from China, she spent most of her youth in Memphis, hence the menu full of Southern classics like biscuits and gravy and hummingbird cake. Although Chen is a recent graduate of Johnson and Wales pastry program, she didn’t want a bakery full of overly fancified, complicated desserts. She wanted to feature the standards of her upbringing, done well.
“I wanted it to feel like a classic Southern bakery, where I could serve the Southern sweets I grew up on.”
I think she’s succeeded in crafting a rotating menu with a nice balance of nostalgic and updated, more modern flavors. Biting into her chocolate chip cookie, I was transported to a bakery my mom used to take me to as a kid. The large cookie had crisp outsides, yielding to a chewy, buttery center. No surprises, just a favorite baked to perfection. The more contemporary chocolate salted Nutella cookie was equally delicious, with a sweet-salty balance that I always welcome.
When I asked Chef Chen what her favorite was, she mentioned that she loved the scones. No offense to scones, but they’ve never been my first choice (especially when presented with Chen’s cream cheese icing-topped cupcakes, strawberry-flecked whoopee pies, and walnut brownies). I associate scones with the tasteless, stale ones they sell at coffee shops just to fill up space—almost never worth it. But one bite of this scone, filled with dark chocolate chunks and smoky bacon, and I understood her enthusiasm. Golden and slightly crisp on the outside, the inside was superbly tender and flavorful without being sugary. Just the thing to pair with the Novo Coffee Chen brews daily.
And of course, there is always pie. Like just about everything else on the menu, Chen rotates her selections based on the seasonal produce. The mini pie of the day was a rhubarb-strawberry with a crumb topping and a flaky, all-butter crust. It was a reminder of how good simple desserts are in the hands of a talented pastry chef.
While I mentioned above that this bakery might not have quite the selection for walk-in customers that others do, this is definitely a quality over quantity situation. You can taste that everything is made fresh daily, and I really enjoyed everything I sampled. While she doesn’t make full-sized pies or cakes to sell in the shop, Chen welcomes custom orders and is happy to sell everything she makes by the dozen. If you’re planning on stopping by, make sure to check the Facebook for the day’s offerings. Whatever you do, don’t leave without one of those scones. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.