Let Us Eat Cake: Berkeley Baker Serves Up Sweet Teatime Treats

By PATTI DACEY Special to the Planet
Tuesday April 01, 2003

“So, let me get this straight,” said my recently-transplanted-from-the-East-Coast friend. “Is everybody in Berkeley a foodie?” 

Well, yeah, pretty much. 

And why not, surrounded as we are with a profusion of truly fabulous foods. From nationally recognized restaurants to locally acclaimed coffee shops, from cheese merchants to pasta purveyors, from the Monterey Market to the Farmers’ Market, there’s a whole lot of good eatin’ out there. And if it is indeed the end of the world as we know it, as the Mayan Calendar, Nostradamus and the Bush Imperium all seem to indicate, so little time in which to eat it.  

So I thought I might take this opportunity to force myself upon some of Berkeley’s most talented chefs and weasel recipes out of them appropriate for the home cook. You, dear reader, can then amass over time a Berkeley Dish Cookbook for free, a useful strategy in a tanking economy! Just another public service brought to you by the Berkeley Daily Planet.  

Tough times require carbohydrates, and plenty of them; hence my decision to inaugurate this column at my favorite bakery, Crixa, with a recipe from its gifted proprietess, Elizabeth Kloian. 

Crixa, with its pale saffron walls and beamed ceiling, provides an oasis of delicious calm on busy Adeline Street, just a stone’s throw from the Berkeley Bowl. 

Elizabeth takes inspiration from the Russian bakeries of her youth, explaining how her sophisticated creations attempt to balance textures and tastes, the sweet with the tart and the sour, providing a rounded-mouth feel. 

“But I think of Crixa as the quintessentially Berkeley bakery,” she adds. “I am influenced by all the different cultures here, and by all the extraordinary ingredients available. I don’t want to be limited in my baking to just the usual suspects.”  

Her display case is filled with wondrous delicacies, like Tiramisu cakes and miniature Boston Cream pies. Seasonal fruits grace flaky tarts and gallettes, while such old-fashioned treats as a Dolly Madison Whim cake are also proffered.  

Nobody does tea better. An interesting selection brewed in individual teapots is served up on small silver platters, a lovely little luxury. Add an almond tea cake or a poppyseed rugelach, and even the most looming anxiety attack can be successfully navigated. You can also choose from an array of coffee and espresso drinks (organic milk only, of course). 

Whether you order a deeply chocolate Soprano cake for a birthday celebration or a homey piece of gingerbread, you’ll definitely experience a spike in your serotonin levels. And speaking of ginger, Elizabeth offered a recipe for soft, spicy ginger cookies that’s both tasty and easy to make.