Sometimes, messing up directions can take you on a better path. This sounds like a big life lesson- but really I’m just talking about pastries.
A couple months ago I missed my bus stop and ended up a few blocks out of my way. No big deal, really. And it became even less of a deal when I smelled the most wonderful smell coming from one of the shops nearby. I was over in San Francisco’s Richmond District in a stretch known as “Little Russia,” which hosts a number of Russian bakeries and grocery stores. I’ve tried a number of the businesses in that area, but only now do I have an absolute favorite. Because on that day when I was so lost in my book I missed my stop, I bussed right up to the door of the Moscow and Tblisi Bakery.
I know I’ve walked into this bakery before, and think I might have tried a hamentaschen sometime a couple years ago. This time I decided to buy a treat called the “Rose” that looked like a bun with meringue wrapped into a sweet outer layer. But then as I went to pay I noticed their cake. Oh, the cake! So many options of beautiful, layered cakes, in so many tempting flavors and intriguing combinatons. I decided to add a slice of Sunshine cake to my order because I just couldn’t resist its citrus-y orange base or the its delicious-looking pastry cream.
Boy am I glad I did that. The cake was wonderful, the perfect combination of light spongey cake, cream, and spots of zest throughout thanks to the jellied fruit layer and orange essence baked in there. My Rose was delicious too: rather had to describe, but a mix of a chewy sweet bun with a crunchy meringue layer, as well as meringue inside too.
So of course I went back. The next time I was in that area I purposely went a block too far to make sure I ended up back at the door of Moscow & Tblisi. That time I went in with advice from friends who grew up in the area. I picked up a Mushroom Piroshki, a cheese blintz and a piece of what’s called “Popyseed Cake.” I resisted the urge to also buy another cake but just barely- it was sure tempting! The blintz and piroshiki I ate on the spot as lunch. I loved the piroshki especially: a deliciously chewy outer dough and a nice, balanced filling. The piroshki is huge, and cheap- combined with the blintz, I felt full for a while.
I managed to go back yet again a couple weeks ago, this time bringing my boyfriend with me and therefore getting to try more baked goods at once. Genius, right? We got 3 piroshki to split, as well as a cherry danish and a mini pistachio cake. We liked the potato piroshki the best out of all 3. By the time we got done with those, we barely had room for the cherry danish but like real bakery troopers, we persevered. I really loved the cherry filling- just the right balance of tart and sweet.
And finally, the piece de resistance: our pistachio cake. Like the Sunshine Cake I’d tried before, this cake had so many layers: cream, fruit jelly, cake, mousse. It’s incredibly well executed, so all those layers work together for a fantastic flavor combination. I think it’s really hard to find good cakes in the U.S., especially cakes with more intrigue to them than a simple cake/frosting pairing. So I certainly salute Moscow & Tblisi for their great cakes.
In fact, I salute them for everything. If you ever find yourself in San Francisco, I highly recommend venturing out to the Richmond to visit them. In fact- why don’t you do it on your way back from visiting Marla Bakery in the Outer Richmond? Now that’s my kind of tasty, tasty tourism.
Address: 5540 Geary Boulveard, San Francisco, CA, 94121