We followed our throbbing sweet tooth in search of the North’s best dessert confections. Here’s where we ended up.
1. SWEET TARTLETTE | TRAVERSE CITY | 231.642.5333
Backlit by bright fluorescent rows of rose pink, green pistachio, and brilliant yellow, macarons are laid out in a delectable checkerboard at Sweet Tartlette in Traverse City. Cake stands under glass proffer red velvet cupcakes snow-capped in a towering spiral of cream cheese frosting and lemon bundt cakes drizzled with translucent icing. Behind the counter, Chef Sarah Steele and her crew work in a spotless jungle of steel racks, whirring mixers and shiny countertops. A sheet tray from the oven gives up roasted pineapple to be puréed into macaron filling, and the air is suddenly suffused with the smell of chocolate chip cookies. Opened in 2015, Sweet Tartlette has garnered a devoted following for its macarons, chocolate-dipped luna cakes, and hands-on pastry classes.
Sarah Steele | Owner/Baker, Sweet Tartlette
Lansing native Sarah Steele trained in French Pastry at the Culinary Institute of America and crafted sweet confections in Chicago kitchens for 12 years before moving north to launch Sweet Tartlette in 2015. Between mouthfuls of macaron, we chat with Sarah about deep winter desserts, the anatomy of a macaron and her popular pastry classes.
What’s the driving force behind your baking style at Sweet Tartlette?
Customer service and seasonality are our big things. My baking mentor said the best pastry is local, seasonal and sustainable. That’s why you won’t see raspberry desserts in the winter.
So what flavors can we expect to find in February?
Well, locality becomes difficult this time of year so we look to source sustainable ingredients from the tropics. Passion fruit, guava, kiwi, mango, and citrus all work their way into our cakes and macarons. Winter spices are also part of the mix.
We’re addicted to your macarons. What makes them so good?
We make big batches three times a week and offer at least nine flavors. It’s also all about the filling and cross-utilizing ingredients from our other offerings. If we’re making German chocolate cake, we’ll feature a German chocolate macaron. If pineapples are in season, I’ll caramelize half for buttercream, make the other half into jam and build a macaron around that.
Yum. And you’ll teach us to make them at home?
Yep. We offer classes every other week on Wednesday evenings. We keep the class sizes small so it’s highly personal and you get a lot of one-on-one instruction.
What does the perfect Valentine’s Day box from Sweet Tartlette look like?
Macarons, of course. A luna cake—our take on the Ding Dong—some chocolates, cookies, and probably a chocolate-dipped passion fruit shortbread sandwich. That should do it.
2. PATISSERIE AMIE | TRAVERSE CITY | 231.922.9645
Eclairs, tartlettes, and handmade truffles. Classic French technique.
3. FRESH COAST CHOCOLATE | TRAVERSE CITY | 231.943.1078
Single origin chocolate bars. Dangerously rich hot cocoa.
4. THAT FRENCH PLACE | CHARLEVOIX | 231.437.6037
Local small batch ice creams. Sweet crèpes, like caramelized banana and Nutella.
5. SIMPLY SWEET BY JESSICA | PETOSKEY | 231.622.8322
Exquisite cakes. Brightly colored, airy macarons.
6. SMALL BATCH BAKERY | HARBOR SPRINGS | 231.242.4655
Insane carrot cake, cookies, and moist, generously frosted cupcake creations.
Traverse food and drinks editor Tim Tebeau writes from Petoskey. firstname.lastname@example.org // Dave Weidner is a freelance photographer based in Traverse City. email@example.com