Let’s get real: The spirit of giving is great and all, as are the domestic tranquilities such as a warm house and the joy of reuniting with family and friends, but when it comes to the holidays, nothing beats feasting —especially on sweets.
From homemade gingerbread men to elaborate Yule log cakes, wintry holiday desserts are among the finest of life’s simple pleasures. What else besides baked goods have the power to completely turn around an otherwise awkward holiday office party? What else shuts up your bickering extended family members more than mouthfuls of creamy-crunchy sugar bliss?
Thankfully, Eugene has at no shortage of festive confections.
Sweet Life Pâtisserie, winner of EW’s Best of Eugene Best Bakery title this year and many years past, is offering perhaps the largest selection of goodies, most of them fresh takes on familiar holiday staples.
“Our traditional pizzelles are especially near and dear to our hearts, because that’s what our grandma used to make,” co-owner Catherine Reinhart says. The thin, round cookies come in orange, vanilla and anise, among other flavors.
Sweet Life also makes peppermint bark, handmade nougat, cookies frosted to look like vintage holiday cards, apricot brandy fruitcake, gingerbread people and sugarplums (which are raw and vegan).
No old-fashioned holiday bakery menu is complete without a beautiful bûche de Noël, known to the less bourgeois as a Yule log. Sponge cake and chocolate buttermilk are rolled together in an oblong shape to create this indulgent dessert, traditionally decorated to look like a real log. Sweet Life’s version uses cocoa sponge cake and it’s gluten-free.
Metropol Bakery also serves up a bitchin’ bûche. Metropol owner Donna McGuinness says her Yule log is “pretty different. It’s really elaborately decorated.” Metropol’s white sponge cake is filled with raspberry crème and adorned with dark chocolate buttercream bark, marzipan holly, meringue mushrooms and a final dusting of cocoa powder.
Metropol will be baking mitten-shaped, frosted sugar cookies, a holiday stollen, a sweet bread with dried apricots, pineapple, raisins, sliced almonds and lemon glaze, as well as a decadent black bottom eggnog pie and chocolate cappuccino torte, among others.
While Metropol’s selection of holiday yummies is centered largely on shareable dishes, Marché Provisions’ menu is more focused on single-serving confections.
Marché’s pastry chef Steve Boswell says the bakery’s gingerbread men are always popular, but that they expect to “get really into the truffles” this holiday season, experimenting with fillings like whiskey, peppermint and ginger. Other tasty offerings include apple-spiced macaroons and walnut cranberry tarts.
Red Wagon Creamery co-owner Stuart Phillips says the scoop shop will be “going crazy with handcrafted goodies” this holiday season, and not just ice cream. Red Wagon will be making handmade, all-natural candy canes, occasionally sprinkling them into their Lucy’s Cracked Candy Cane ice cream pie — a cookie crumble-crusted, chocolate-drizzled dream filled with Oregon mint ice cream and candy cane bits. A sweet potato maple cumin version of an ice cream makes for a surprisingly savory option, and a brown butter bourbon pecan is a more classic holiday treat.
Don’t let the increasing cold keep you away from the ice cream shop. Red Wagon will also be doling out scoops and pints of deliciously exotic seasonal ice cream. The “Tannenbaum” flavor is swirled with pine needles (seriously), and made-from-scratch eggnog is used in the spiced eggnog flavor.
A slew of exclamatory adjectives, ecstatic interjections and satisfied guttural noises come to mind when thinking of the delicious seasonal food to come. Everyone needs some extra padding this time of year, right? Eat your heart out, Eugene: You have plenty of options.