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Strip District's Dulcinea Bakeshop gives delicious twist to classics

Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
Pastry chef Tabrina Avery, owner of the Dulcinea Bakeshop, with cream puffs and strawberry fruit tarts in her Strip District bakery Thursday, July 24, 2014. Avery specializes in wedding cakes and other cakes for all occasions.

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Lemon bars with candied rosemary ($2). Chai-infused oatmeal cream pie ($2). Bacon cinnamon rolls ($3.25).

Doesn't that make walking just a few blocks farther seem worth it?

Penn Avenue in the Strip District is packed with food — grocers, restaurants, outdoor vendors, purveyors — but it peters out pretty quickly once you get past the Public Market between 24th and 25th streets. By then, you're in the other Strip District, the old, industrial one, with more trucks than people, and weeds grow 4 feet tall from the sidewalk.

Here, you half-expect to see tumbleweeds rolling down the middle of Penn Avenue. (Insider's tip: This is where you should park, instead of fighting for a spot four blocks down.)

And this is where Tabrina Avery, 25, of Mt. Washington chose to open Dulcinea Bakeshop. Her Penn Avenue site shares a kitchen with Opening Night Catering, which purchases many of her cakes.

Baking isn't all sugary-sweet. It involves a lot of manual labor in a hot kitchen, crack-of-dawn wake-ups and long hours. But that's the part Avery likes.

“It's the reward of the process,” Avery says. “You start with flour, eggs, sugar and butter, and you can make something so beautiful.”

She came to Pittsburgh to attend the former Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts, now closed, and began working by “cooking breakfasts on the line.”

Now, with Dulcinea, she feels as though she fills a niche in a city that's becoming increasingly crowded with bakeries. Wedding cakes and made-to-order cakes are part of it. Small desserts are another.

“I like to take classic desserts and put a little twist on them,” she says. “Find something that complements it, and elevates it.”

Cinnamon buns can be elevated with bacon, for instance. “Those are a fan favorite,” she says. “I sell out of those almost every day.”

Her chai-infused oatmeal cream pies are hard to picture, but easy to devour. “It's a single serving,” she explains, “like two cookies the size of a lemon bar, with creme in the middle. Like, what do they call them (in Pennsylvania)? Whoopie pies, but a little more gourmet.”

With expansion happening in the Strip, Dulcinea's part of Penn Avenue isn't going to stay quiet forever. And all that easy parking will disappear with it. It's a good idea to break in those walking shoes now.

Dulcinea Bakeshop, 2627 Penn Ave., Strip District. Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Details: 412-709-6188

Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at mmachosky@tribweb.com or 412-320-7901.

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