Bakeries share their holiday treats

The buche de noels at Pearl’s Bake Shoppe depart from tradition with unique designs and customizable fillings. Photo by Tom McGovern The buche de noels at Pearl’s Bake Shoppe depart from tradition with unique designs and customizable fillings. Photo by Tom McGovern

’Tis the season to gather around a table piled high with foods galore. And, thankfully, Charlottesville artisans are preparing plenty of specialty items for the holidays. Here is a sampling of seasonal treats you can find around town.

Albemarle Baking Company

Panettone, the much more popular Italian cousin of fruitcake, is available at Albemarle Baking Company from November through January. ABC makes a traditional panettone with raisins and candied oranges, and uses naturally fermented dough, farm fresh eggs and butter with no preservatives, which give it a rich texture. For many, holiday baking can bring back memories of simpler times, and for Gerry and Millie Newman, owners of Albemarle Baking Company, the panettone does just that. “We like to bake holiday favorites from around the world (including panettone from Italy and stollen from Germany) and share the histories and folklore behind those treats with our customers,” Gerry says.

For the Newmans, one of the best parts of holiday baking is hearing how customers have made panettone part of their own traditions: Some make French toast out of it or hollow it out and fill it with ice cream for a decadent treat.

MarieBette Café & Bakery

Stollen is a type of fruit bread made with candied and/or dried fruits that originated in Germany. At MarieBette, this holiday treat is a departure from tradition with a buttery and dense fruit bread rather than a dry and preserved loaf. They use brioche dough and dried fruit soaked in golden rum then sprinkle the loaf with powdered sugar.

Head baker Hilary Salmon adds a unique rich twist by filling the stollen with crystallized ginger, apricots, raisins, almonds and pockets of housemade marzipan. The hints of crystallized ginger and orange zest come through upon first bite and complement the creamy texture of the marzipan. “I love that it’s a childhood memory [Salmon’s mother is German],” Salmon says. “The spiciness of the crystallized ginger and the sweetness of the bread make for a sweet and spicy combination.”

Pearl’s Bake Shoppe

Buche de noels (also known as yule logs) are a holiday tradition for many, usually made from sponge cake and layered with icing. At Pearl’s Bake Shoppe, they create custom buche de noels for the holiday season. You can choose from a vanilla or chocolate base (the chocolate base is naturally gluten-free, but the vanilla can be made gluten-free as well), and from unique designs that include a birch tree or a vertical log. “We love making them because not only is it a great dessert, but it can also serve as a centerpiece for your holiday celebration,” says Laurie Blakely, co-owner and operator of Pearl’s. With the holidays around the corner, demand is high for this seasonal specialty, she says.

Arley Cakes

In celebration of her first year in business, Arley Arrington, owner of Arley Cakes, is making unique pies for the holiday season. Her spiked eggnog is a custard pie filled with holiday spices and booze—what could be better? Arrington also prides herself on adding unique visual elements to her pies. “This one has a decorative edge made of little pie-crust ‘gingerbread’ people. Spicy, cute and boozy,” she says. Her inspiration for the pie comes from her limitless childhood desire for eggnog. “Each year when I was a kid, once the temperatures dropped and the days got shorter, I’d always start searching for it in the grocery store—it was never too early for eggnog season,” she says.

The Pie Chest

The Pie Chest is known for its seasonal flavors, and this time of year is no exception. The peppermint crunch pie is a play on a truffle, with Callebaut dark chocolate, natural peppermint oil and crushed-up candy canes for layers of crunch. The filling is placed in a chocolate cookie crust and topped with a mint-infused whipped cream. “Nothing says winter quite like this pie,” says Rachel Pennington, owner of The Pie Chest. “The contrast of colors (white, red and black) and textures (fluffy, crunchy and smooth) make for the perfect slice of holiday pie.”