Scene of the Crime: Vanilla Bakeshop
512 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Urbandictionary.com, a longtime favorite website of mine because it once taught me what it really meant to superman a ho (gross), defines the word vanilla in the following ways:
1. Unexciting, normal, conventional, boring.
2. The opposite of kinky.
Well, I think vanilla has gotten a bad rap and so does the Santa Monica bakeshop Vanilla. Run by husband and wife team Amy & Jeremy Brennan, this charming bakery is anything but boring and many famous dessert lovers have definitely taken notice. Vanilla was the winner of The Food Network Cake Challenge “Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame” competition and has been featured on The Martha Stewart Show and in tons of wedding magazines.
The bakeshop itself is a charming affair, complete with a chic damask awning and a rainbow display of retro glass canisters filled with different colored coarse sugars. Their desserts are equally as cute: they have a vast array of mini cupcakes called ‘babies’ (the flavor choices rotate by the day), along with mini tarts, cheesecakes and dessert shots (more on these in a moment). I love the mini dessert trend that seems to be on the rise because it allows you to try a variety of different flavors and types of desserts without feeling like you’ve committed one of the seven deadly sins.
Over the course of two visits I tried lots of different Vanilla treats, my favorite of which was the Meyer Lemon Raspberry baby. One of their fantastic ‘stuffed cupcakes’, the Meyer Lemon Raspberry cupcake has a delicious dollop of lemon filling hidden inside the cupcake and a fresh, ripe raspberry perched on top. Mmmm mmmm good!
My other favorite was the mini Passion Fruit Cheesecake, which was exquisite. The passion fruit flavor was tart, delicious and present, which is definitely what you are looking for when you order a passion fruit flavored cheesecake. I can’t stand it when flavored cheesecakes have nothing but a hint of the advertised flavor, but this wasn’t the case here. Topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and lightly drizzled with a passion fruit syrup, the mini Passion Fruit Cheesecake was wonderful!
I also tried the Turtle Pie dessert shot, which was a shot glass sized portion of their larger Turtle Pie icebox dessert (the offer all of their icebox desserts in 3 sizes: large jar, small jar and dessert shot). One might expect the smaller version to lose some of the goodness of the larger version, but I thought that the layers of chocolate mousse, nuts, whipped creamed and assorted other yumminess were really well put together in the mini version. My friend Katie is a big fan of the Dirt Cake flavored dessert shot, which she implored me to try next time around.
I rounded out my Vanilla experience with a few macarons (all were great, but I really loved the hazelnut one because the filling is made of Nutella!) and a Vanilla Cake Lollipop (a white chocolate shell around a dense, rich, DELICIOUS cake ball — I only got to eat a bite because my husband loved it so much that he gobbled the whole thing down before I knew it).
All in all, Vanilla Bakeshop was the opposite of those pesky urban dictionary definitions; I found their desserts to be interesting, creative, delightful and delicious. So next time you’re on the Westside be sure to stop by Vanilla for some mini (and full-size) treats!