Memorable | One of the Best
Review by: Georgia Kral
In 1936, San Jose was a different place than it is today. The fertile valley, nestled between the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west and the Diablo Range to the east, was, until the mid 20th Century, home to mostly orchards. One constant that’s survived the region’s shift from fruit to tech is Peter’s Bakery.
Today the bakery is located in a nondescript storefront on Alum Avenue in East San Jose. Staff in bright pink aprons pile treats into bright pink boxes. Cakes, cookies, bread, and pastries are turned out from early morning until dinnertime every day but Sunday.
Specialty of the house is a regional favorite: burnt almond cake. Locals know it as the party cake of choice; if you grew up around San Jose, you’ve had it at birthday and anniversary parties. One bite transports you to a happy land filled with sweet cake that is special thanks to the addition of almonds. Almost ethereal in its texture and taste, it’s one part cloud-like white cake and one part creamy-rich custard. Each piece is topped with a healthy dusting of crunchy, crumbly toasted almond pieces. It’s sweet, but not overly so. The almonds have a slightly salty finish.
(For the local specialty to feature almonds is no surprise. The nut is one of California’s top agricultural exports, and has been for decades. The state produces 80 percent of the world’s supply.)
More standouts to sample: Coconut white cake topped with luxurious buttercream that stands up nicely to its fresh coconut shards; apple pie, redolent of cinnamon, with an interior that’s gooey and sweet; and the cream horn — well, it’s a riot to eat. Pastry shards fall from it when you take a bite and the filling tastes of heavy cream; the mouthfeel is rich and soft.
If you drive through any neighborhood in San Jose, doughnuts appear to be the doughy baked good of choice; both chains and mom and pop joints are everywhere. But Peter’s has been doing cakes right for 82 years, and that’s a feat worth detouring for.
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