Hold on to summer with these seasonal Vancouver desserts

Don't let the summer pass without tasting these delectable desserts.

Credit: Catherine Roscoe Barr

Keep the summer alive with these tasty desserts from Thierry, Trees Coffee and Butter Baked Goods


Armed with my best stretchy pants, I put my waistline on the line to discover Vancouver’s ultimate summer desserts.


The ties that bind my delightful discoveries are a passion for creating homemade, quality treats and the gratification that comes from sharing the joy with others—one cafe owner insisted on watching me try the first bite of a freshly made dessert.


Thierry, a wonderland for dessert fiends

It’s rather difficult to know where to start upon entering the brand spanking new Thierry, a chocolaterie, patisserie and cafe in downtown Vancouver designed by Vancouver-based Bricault Design.


The shop has an environmentally conscious bent, using reclaimed palmwood for the custom-made tables and front doors, and palmwood tambour (a flexible panel of closely set wood strips) on the curvaceous walls.


Every treat you see is crafted by the cafe’s namesake, Thierry Busset—called “one of the best pastry chefs in the world” by former colleague Gordon Ramsay, and who was previously the pastry chef at renowned Italian restaurant CinCin (also part of the Top Table Group).


When you enter, you’re first met by a large table resembling a grand piano, with a sumptuous matte dark chocolate marble top covered with confectionaries (like Earl Grey caramels and pistachio nougat), exclusive “Thierry Espresso Blend” organic coffee and cookbooks from sister venues Araxi and Blue Water Cafe.


Look left and you’ll spot a glass freezer cabinet with homemade ice creams and sorbets in colourfully-striped containers; look right and the bar beckons with decadent liquors, craft sodas, a daily quiche and gazpacho, plus a selection of sandwiches on whole wheat baguettes baked fresh every morning.


Thierry tarts

Local fruits dictate Thierry’s decadent tarts and cakes. (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)


But straight ahead are where my summer dessert picks lie, in individually climate-controlled displays (topped with right-out-of-the-oven croissants, turnovers and danishes) that house handcrafted chocolates, rainbow-hued macaroons, and cakes and tarts with juicy summer berries.


The raspberry and blueberry tarts ($6.75 each) are quite spectacular, with every perfect berry set on a custard filling surrounded by expertly made pastry. The Savarin (sticky rum cake, $5.75), however, stole my heart. It’s true it had me at rum, but the topping of rich cream, tart red currants and sweet raspberries really sealed the deal.


Be sure to enjoy these summer treats on Thierry’s outdoor patio, open from early morning till late in the evening.


Thierry Chocolates, 1059 Alberni Street, 604-608-6870


Trees Organic Coffee lives up to the hype

Trees Mango Cheesecake

Vancouver’s best cheesecake? You be the judge (I vote yes). (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)


If you have fond memories of sitting at a sun-warmed picnic table with sweet, peppery mango juice dribbling down your chin, you’ll go crazy for the more civilized mango delivery system available at Trees Organic Coffee this month.


Touted as having “Vancouver’s best cheesecake”, Trees’ “Mango Splash” certainly suggests that statement’s truth. It’s the lightest, fluffiest cheesecake I’ve ever tried and has chunks of ripe mango mixed into the New York-and-mango-puree swirl.


Trees’ cheesecake recipe, using as many local ingredients as possible, evolved from owner Doron Levy’s mom’s cheesecake.


“You see those black flecks?” Levy asks as he points to a New York cheesecake in the glass display case full of its cousins, blueberry, mocha and key lime. “Those are real vanilla beans. We also always use BC dairy, and use BC produce when it’s in season [like the sour cherries in ‘The Sin’ cheesecake paired with Belgian chocolate] and we make everything in small batches.”


Trees has four cafes and its original location on Granville Street is where all of the cheesecakes, pastries, muffins and sandwiches are made from scratch. In addition to supplying the Yaletown, Gastown and Richmond locations, Trees also supplies local restaurants and cafes with their cheesecakes, including the Donnelly Group Public Houses and the Bellaggio Cafe.


Also handled at the Granville Street cafe is the coffee roasting, and Levy personally selects all of the organic beans, which you can see in large burlap sacks ready to hit the roaster at the back of the cafe.

“Organic coffee wasn’t widespread when we opened in 1996,” says manager Chris Hannah. “It was something different, something unique.” Now their cheesecake has added an extra something-different-and-unique, and you can pick up your own slice of Mango Splash while quantities last for $6.99 (or a whole six-inch cake for $24.99).


Trees Organic Coffee and Roasting House
Downtown: 450 Granville Street, 604-684-5022
Gastown: 321 Water Street, 604-633-3880
Richmond: 7700 Minoru Gate, 604-783-6024

Yaletown: 1391 Richards Street, 604-689-1020


Butter Baked Goods, just like grandma’s (maybe better)

Butter Baked Goods

Nuke Butter’s s’mores in the microwave for the full summer vacation effect. (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)


When you walk into the utterly charming Butter Baked Goods bakery you’re not only hit with a wave of freshly baked aromas, but nostalgia washes over you as you lay eyes on all of your favourite homemade bars, cookies and cakes from your schooldays.


Butter’s owner, interior designer Rosie Daykin, realized a childhood dream when she purchased the space in 2007. It had previously been a bakery (in some form or another) for almost 85 years and Daykin got to work creating an inviting, old-fashioned ambience using pistachio-green wainscoting and cabinetry, quaint wild rose wallpaper and retro-inspired cake stands to display the tantalizing treats.


Made from scratch every day, much of the offerings are scooped up by delighted patrons before closing time, but what has really put Butter on the map are their homemade marshmallows, which now sell in over 300 stores across North America. An antique cabinet holds the dozen or so flavours of marshmallows, which also have limited-release seasonal flavours like pumpkin spice, eggnog and peppermint.


Fortunately Butter thought to use their famous marshmallows to create the quintessential dessert of the summer holidays: the s’more.


“You can warm them in the microwave ever so briefly if you want to pretend you are camping,” says Daykin. The delicate graham crackers and bittersweet chocolate are also made on site, and as Daykin told Style at Home magazine, “There’s nothing in our kitchen that isn’t in yours.”


Everything is made in small batches without preservatives or artificial colours and flavours to retain that fresh-out-of-grandma’s-oven taste. Butter’s individually packaged s’mores come in eight flavours (with seasonal additions) and retail for $4.25 each.


Butter Baked Goods, 4321 Dunbar Street, 604-221-4333