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Bakeries all over Philadelphia see sales surge in December — but which treat is most popular varies quite a bit. We checked in with 12 of the city’s top pastry shops to find out what their customers like best. Read the results below, then take advantage of the excuse to splurge and order some sweets for your own winter celebrations.
Termini Bros: Cannoli
1523 S. 8th St.
This South Philly classic with outposts at Reading Terminal Market and the Comcast Center has one item that reigns supreme during the holidays — the same one that’s the best-seller all year around. Yep, the famous cannoli. And with good reason: These crisp Italian pastry shells filled with sweet ricotta are made just like they were when the bakery opened in 1921. You don’t even have to be in Philadelphia to enjoy them, since online orders can be shipped anywhere on the east coast. Also available online are the tins of holiday cookies, which Termini employees tell us are a close second in popularity. (AO)
Denise’s Delicacies: Pound cake
2916 N. 22nd St.
It’s now the first holiday season since this North Philly bakery reopened following a fire — and the place is packed almost all hours of the day. Denise Gause, longtime owner of the shop at 22nd Street and Cambria, says butter cookies are popular this time of year. Even so, they don’t come close to matching the amount of pound cake the bakery sells, which remains by far its most popular holiday item. Especially because that’s what Gause’s red-and-green specialty cakes are made with. Just don’t leave this treat in your car too long, she warns. All that butter might harden up in the cold. (AO)
Night Kitchen Bakery: Christmas cookies (and Yule log)
7725 Germantown Ave.
The most popular Christmas item at this Chestnut Hill staple has to be its wide assortment of Christmas cookies, according to owner Amy Edelman. The secret, she says, is that their vanilla shortbread cookies are rolled out extra thick and then cut into holiday shapes. But the second-most popular item — and by far the most beautiful — is the decorated Yule log. It’s a light chocolate sponge cake with fresh whipped cream coated with dark chocolate icing that’s then garnished with meringue mushrooms and little fondant characters. (AO)
Sweet Life Bakeshop: Banana pudding
740 South St.
Around the holidays, Megan Kennedy’s South Street bakery sells a lot of regular banana pudding, but she moves even more of her modern twist on it with salted caramel. You can order the best-seller by the cup (choose small or large), which come filled with pudding, whipped cream, banana slices, vanilla wafers and sugary drips of caramel. Also worth checking out at the shop: Cupcakes, handpies and the magic pudding — its flavor is like a Snickers bar. (CO)
St. Honore Pastries: Egg tarts
935 Race St.
We’re happy to report that the most popular Christmas season item at this Chinatown bakery will only set you back 80 cents. That would be their egg tarts, and it’s no wonder they go over so well: The custard is nearly perfect and the flaky crust is all kinds of wonderful. The shop is also well known for its assortment of buns — clutch for folks who love desserts that aren’t overpoweringly sugary — and its milk teas, which are suited for sweet tooths with no shame. All options, however, are super affordable. (CO)
Bredenbeck’s Bakery: German cookies
8126 Germantown Ave.
Ten thousand pounds of cookies. That’s how much this Chestnut Hill bakery expects to make this December. It’s a lot, sure, but nothing a shop that’s been around since 1889 can’t handle. Most holiday cookies are of the traditional German variety — intricately detailed springerles, crunchy filbert bars, iced zimtsterne (cinnamon stars) and the miniature spice biscuits known as pfeffernusse. (MD)
Las Rosas: Conchas
1712 S. 8th St.
Opened five years ago in a South Philly building previously home to German and Italian bakeries, this shop features Mexican and Italian favorites. Owner David Meneses and his staff rely on family recipes — Menses’ father operated bakeries in Puebla and Mexico City before the family moved to Philly 17 years ago — to make everything from cheesecake to tiramisu and cookies to breads. This time of the year, sales jump for just about all items, but the most popular is likely conchas, Mexican sweet breads that come in a variety of flavors. Heads up: In the coming weeks, Meneses plans to open a second restaurant in the River Wards. Called Pancho’s Cafe, it will specialize in breakfast and sandwiches. (MD)
Holmesburg Bakery: Stollen
7935 Frankford Ave.
Traditions run deep at this Northeast Philly shop, including a rare, OG Philadelphia-style cheesecake with zero cream cheese in the recipe. Their most popular item during the holidays is stollen, a sweet German bread with fruits and nuts that’s like a dense panettone or much lighter American fruitcake. Buddy Gouger, who represents the fourth generation in his family to run the bakery, says it’s wildly popular with older customers — although he only tried it himself for the first time last year. Younger customers favor the sticky buns, butter cakes and neighborhood-famous donuts, while cookies are popular across the board. (CO)
Stock’s Bakery: Pound cake
2614 E. Lehigh Ave.
This fifth-generation-run Port Richmond bakery is also famous for traditional pound cake — the stuff is so popular it’s not even sold by the slice. What kind moves best? The vanilla iced and the marble are among the top sellers, especially during this time of year. Take note: To get one for the holidays, you’ll have to come in with cash only, and be prepared to purchase by weight (whole cakes usually run $10 or $11). Another a word to the wise: Try going at odd hours. The line can get long in lead-up to Christmas. (AO)
Schenk’s Bakery: German cookies
7951 Veree Rd.
When German immigrants John and Pauline Schenk opened this Northeast Philadelphia storefront 1938, they relied on recipes from the old country, and those same recipes are still in use at the family-owneed bakery today. Old-fashioned butter and sugar cookies sell in mass amounts this time of year, but the most popular Christmas items — springerles, pfeffernusse and stollen — are only available during the holiday season. (MD)
Whipped Bakeshop: Ugly Christmas sweater cookies
636 Belgrade St.
This Fishtown sensation tapped into the ugly Christmas sweater trend of the last few years by matching the craze with a cookie, which was such a hit that it was featured on the Today Show. This year the bakery is on pace to sell over 2,000 of them. Aside from the cookies, pastry whiz Zoe Lukas’ next most popular treat around the holidays is the Crackle — a toffee-covered saltine cracker dipped in chocolate and topped with almonds and pecans. (MD)
Manakeesh Cafe Bakery: Baklava
4420 Walnut St.
Baklava is the year-round best-seller on the sweet side of things at this Lebanese bakery just west of University City, and that holds during the winter holidays, too. Manakeesh chefs don’t play games when it comes to that dessert — they bake the flaky, nutty phyllo treat in a ton of different varieties and have even held baklava-making classes. Billy Penn’s Angie Nassar, the former executive editor of Beirut.com, hasn’t tried the baklava specifically, but gives a big thumbs up for the rest of the authentic Lebanese offerings. (CO)