East Liberty just got a
sweeter. Vanilla Pastry Studio—which took the top cupcake prize in a 2007 Pennsylvania Culinary Institute
student test—has set up shop at 6014 Centre Ave. (a.k.a. Penn Circle S.) in East Liberty.
Two years after opening a 950-square-foot West End shop, Vanilla owner April Simpson-Gruver has doubled the size of her business with a new location along the burgeoning East End corridor. “We needed a larger space, and really feel in love with this one,” says Gruver, who rents from Dardanell Properties. “It’s in an area that’s truly developing—so many exciting things are opening.”
The bakery’s decor features celery green walls, bamboo flooring, white custom-designed cabinetry and wainscoting, and Chinese lanterns. French doors provide patrons with a glimpse into the bakery’s inner workings. The two-story space also includes cozy seating, a second production room and offices.
Vanilla works with Big Burrito and UPMC and regularly creates items for high-end bar and bat mitzvahs and large parties. In addition to award-winning cupcakes—the shop’s number one seller—Vanilla also conjures cookies, blondies, fresh tarts, and its signature confection, the “Lolly,” or dessert on a stick. New for Vanilla are cheesecakes, bread puddings and cinnamon rolls.
California-born Gruver has baked around the nation, at Rover's in Seattle, The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and The Fairmont Hotel in Chicago. In Pittsburgh, Gruver has baked at the Duquesne Club and taught Pastry Arts at the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute. With seven employees, Gruver looks forward to possibly offering brunch and classes.
Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: April Simpson-Gruver, Vanilla Pastry StudioPhotograph copyright Brian Cohen