t’s been quite a year for Dozen and its co-owners James Gray and Andrew Twigg. Their first venture together, Dozen Cupcakes, made an enormous splash in Squirrel Hill, capping off its year by claiming Pittsburgh City Paper’s title for “Best Place to Indulge your Sweet Tooth.” To start a second blockbuster year, the pair’s newest project, Dozen Bake Shop, opened today in Lawrenceville.
As bakeries go in this fair city, Dozen Bake Shop offers something a little bit different. Part Wi-Fi coffee shop and part grandma’s kitchen table, the new bake shop offers homestyle indulgences like cinnamon rolls, scones, cheesecake and of course, Dozen’s signature cupcakes. And just like sitting at the kitchen table, you can watch industrious and approachable bakers getting their knead, whip and mix on in the beautiful open kitchen.
“It’s not about being fancy,” said an aproned James this morning. “We’re serving things you might make at home but didn’t: muffins, fruit crisps, cheesecake. We want this to be a place where you can feel comfortable, because you are an important part of our bakery experience.”
What does that mean? With an open kitchen and serving area, eating at Dozen Bake Shop feels like pulling up a stool at a friend’s kitchen counter – supposing, of course, that your best friend is an award-winning baker. And just like your friends’ house, there’s no extra charge for a dollop of real freshly whipped cream on anything you desire. You bus your own dishes, because friends don’t leave a mess (also, this helps to keep Dozen’s prices in line with Pittsburgh pocketbooks). And you take your time – leaning on the counter or lounging at one of the many cafe tables, there are magazines to peruse, conversations to start with chatty neighbors and the kind of people-watching that only bohemian Lawrenceville can offer.
Speaking of Lawrenceville, the neighborhood’s influence on the bake shop is evident. “We didn’t want to put the new shop in a neighborhood that’s already completely established, like Shadyside or the South Side,” said James. “Until very recently, there were no bakeries in Lawrenceville. I think our homey, casual feel fits the neighborhood to a T. And the location is ideal – we’re a stone’s throw from the Strip, Bloomfield, even downtown.”
I’ll second that. As a downtown resident, I can barely contain my excitement over skipping the parkway shuffle to get my baked goods. This morning, I sampled a massive, buttery cinnamon roll, while people around me devoured fruit crisps, apricot-cardamom scones and complimentary mini-cupcakes. Each recipe is the result of the full team’s suggestions, trials and refinements, from the muffins to the bread pudding to the granola to the lemon curd tart. Only one recipe is truly off-limits for experimentation: James’ signature buttercream frosting: “I’ve done the trial-and-error on that one already. For years.”
Dozen Bake Shop will feature brunch every Sunday with meaty and vegetarian quiches, made-to-order waffles, French toast and more. The company’s catering stands to benefit greatly from expanded kitchen space, so consider cupcakes – or more! – for your next celebration. And they’re offering a beautiful and inexpensive Valentine’s Day package, four designer cupcakes in aphrodisiac flavors for just $14.
So, yes, I’m excited. I’m such a raving fan of Dozen’s original shop in Squirrel Hill that a Dozen cupcake graces my masthead. But don’t let my lack of journalistic objectivity dissuade you from visiting the new bake shop. If nothing else, you’ll feel at home and eat cookies… and there’s nothing wrong with that.