2119 Murray Ave.
My visit to Sweet Tammy's bakery in Squirrel Hill couldn't have been better timed. I was enduring the sort of piled-on week that can at least be brightened with one or two pastries.
Sweet Tammy's has been open less than two years, but it's already carved out a niche in the local cupcake-and-pie scene. Its goods are kosher pareve and non-dairy. What, no butter? Baker and owner Tammy Berkowitz hastens to re-assure me that her from-scratch cakes and pies meet the standard for moist and delicious, enumerating the various trans-fat-free butter-substitutes she uses. Berkowitz continually experiments with recipes, until a cookie or a frosting is just right, and on par with its dairy-laden cousin.
Berkowitz began baking as a child with her family, and is largely self-taught. Before moving with her husband to Pittsburgh in 2006, she worked in the hospitality and event business in Washington, D.C. Once here, and charmed by Squirrel Hill's traditional shopping corridors, she opened Sweet Tammy's.
The bakery offers fruit-and-nut breads; a large variety of cookies and cupcakes (including seasonal flavors, such as pumpkin); pies and tarts; and colorfully decorated special-occasion cakes, bedecked with fondant flowers, ribbons and other whimsical themes.
Among the shop's best-sellers are challah bread and macaroons. Yes, macaroons, even though Berkowitz generously offers the recipe on her website. "So simple,' she says. "Just egg whites, sugar, coconut."
You don't even need to visit Squirrel Hill to sample these treats. Currently, three Market Districts carry her baked goods, and eight more Giant Eagle stores will be added soon. Sweet Tammy's also does mail-order, should you, say, wish to ship an apple-and-honey tart to your favorite relative.
But stopping by is a treat in itself. The interior of the shop is utterly charming: Its pink-and-brown color scheme is suggestive of a dessert. (I'm already imagining a chocolate cake with raspberry icing.) Berkowitz explains how she aimed for a "modern Victorian" feel, incorporating a new pressed-tin ceiling, chandeliers and stained-glass. All the goods are displayed in a custom-built, glass-front patisserie case, which suggests a genteel European bakery.
In the front window, there are tables and chairs, should one wish to linger with a sweet and coffee (and partake of the wi-fi), while watching Murray Avenue stroll by.
I wished I could have stayed. But, I did leave with a red-velvet cupcake, a lemon bar and my mood considerably lifted.