ROUND LAKE -- To paraphrase the French philosopher Voltaire: If Leah’s Cakery didn’t exist, Pinterest would have to invent it. It’s that cute.
Situated in the historic West Side General Store building on the village’s winding main street, the scratch bakery encompasses the ground floor, with two rooms for customers in the front and seating outdoors in the good weather.
The village of Round Lake is not only picturesque, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places for its “notable collection of late-19th century structures, which are remarkably homogeneous.” And they are, every one, adorable.
Leah’s opened in 2013 as a custom cake shop and over the years evolved into the bakery-cafe it is today. Everything is “One hundred percent from scratch,” said chef Leah Stein. She still does custom cakes (the website showcases her spectacular, mind-boggling, artistic creations), but now Leah’s is a gathering place as well. It seems like a good fit for the small village.
And so is the Cakery, with its homey feel, mismatched tables and chairs (and plates and cups), plants in the sunny front windows, displays of cookie cutters, and merchandise by local artisans and vendors for sale on shelves made for browsing.
“I want my own cup here,” Sheryl said, looking at the racks of coffee mugs with owners’ names beneath. They’re not all called for; you can use any of the remaining mugs, mismatched, of course.
Take a good look around at the tempting pies, gorgeous cakes, all the cookies and perfect cupcakes, and then check out the blackboard menu. Give your order to one of the nice people behind the counter. It’ll take a few minutes, so grab a table or keep looking around.
The front door opens into the store area, with counters and two small tables. There is a second, larger dining area with plenty of tables to the left. Peek into Leah’s small kitchen as you go. It’s remarkably tiny, but filled with industrious-looking equipment and supplies — and light.
The Cakery has options for breakfast and lunch, and selections change daily. There’s one soup, one salad and one sandwich choice each day. Sheryl and I were presented with several irresistible bakery-style lunch options, like you’d find in Europe. It makes sense: they’ve got the bones, like pastry and pie crust; the addition of savory fillings makes it lunch. I’m surprised more bakeries don’t do it.
In addition to a neatly assembled and packaged, freshly made chicken Caesar salad, we could choose from quiche, egg sandwiches, a variety of turnovers and soup. Then there’s the difficult task of choosing a dessert, a reason in itself for being at Leah’s Cakery.
We put in our order and took a seat at a cafe table in the window. We’d both ordered turnovers, chicken pot pie for me, spanakopita for Sheryl ($3.50 each), and they were being warmed in the oven — and we were looking at our desserts.
By the way, Leah’s gets big points for not heating pastry in the microwave — nuking pastry makes it soggy and it loses its structure.
Sheryl couldn’t wait. Her beautiful glazed fruit tart ($5) was Pinterest-perfect, with the fresh fruit arranged tidily and attractively over a filling of sweet custard in a flaky crust. “I could tell at the first bite it was going to be good,” she said. And she had dessert first.
Our turnovers were delivered soon after, sensibly tucked into paper-lined baskets, accompanied by a fork. I started by forking off the corners, carefully, and was impressed with the light, dry-to-the touch buttery puff pastry. You can tell Leah only uses butter in her kitchen because her baked goods leave no film in your mouth as shortening or other substitutes do. And of course, it’s got better flavor.
Then I forked away the top to expose the steaming filling — white meat chicken chunks, sliced carrot, peas and a bit of sauce, with flecks of seasoning. Very nice.
Sheryl took the other route, picking up her turnover to eat it. That worked fine, too, and was probably more efficient. She liked the traditional spinach filling very much. “It was gone before I knew it,” she said, looking at her empty basket.
My dessert was a generous slice of crumb-topped apple pie ($3) and I can report that all components were excellent. The crust is tender, browned everywhere, even on the bottom, and tastes good. Close examination shows where it’s been folded under around the edge, and it’s not too thick, because Leah knows pie should be about the filling. The apples are spice-flecked, moister on the bottom and chewier at the top. Like the apples, the crumbs are not too sweet, but perfectly formed and there’s plenty of them. It’s a very satisfying slice.
“I don’t ever want to leave,” Sheryl said, as we sat in the warm sunlight, full of pastry and surrounded by flowering orchids and baked goods.
The tab for our lunch came to $18.75 with tea for Sheryl and water for me, plus a few bucks in the tip jar for the friendly staff.
Business was steady in the early afternoon, but we had no trouble getting a table when we arrived. By the time we left, there was a line to the door.
If you’ve never been to Round Lake, it’s worth visiting to see the charming houses, large and small. Leah’s Cakery gives you even more reasons to visit: It’s locally owned, charming and unique — and everything is delicious.
WHERE: 3 Curry Ave.,,Round Lake; 518-899-5324; Leahscakery.biz
WHEN: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.,Sunday. Closed Monday.
HOW MUCH: $18.75
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Parking lot. Not ADA compliant but there is a ramp to the door.