Prantl's Bakery Pittsburgh

I’m beyond thrilled to be featuring legendary Prantl’s Bakery! Read on to find out what inspired Henry Prantl to create Pittsburgh’s most popular cake, Burnt Almond Torte, how many cakes Prantl’s prepares each week, and the biggest challenge to getting a tiered cake to guests at Pittsburgh weddings.

Thanks to co-owner Annette Mich for sharing with us!

Prantl’s is a Pittsburgh institution! What was your role with Prantl’s prior to taking ownership in 2007? Has the business changed much since then?
Prior to buying Prantl’s Bakery, the co-owners were just Burnt Almond Torte lovers who thought we could preserve a Pittsburgh icon with a set of values-based business principles that we brought from other industries. Since 2007, the recipes and core of bakers have remained the same but the business has grown exponentially, especially wedding cakes, our 2nd location in Market Square and our ability to ship Burnt Almond Tortes all over the country, especially since the Huffington Post declared Burnt Almond Torte “The Greatest Cake America Has Ever Made“.  In fact, many out of town couples ship a Burnt Almond Torte for each guest table to embellish with fresh flowers and serve as an edible centerpiece in lieu of a wedding cake.

Prantl's Bakery PittsburghHow have wedding cake styles have changed in the past few years?
Wedding cake styles have become more customized, more personal and more streamlined. We feature many variations of almond encrusted Burnt Almond Torte Wedding Cakes but it has also become very popular to choose a design that does not include almonds and have the kitchen staff sprinkle almonds on each slice of cake as it is served.  We call this “Burnt Almond Torte in Disguise”.  Couples who would like to serve their guests a variety of flavors have fallen in love with our Junior Pastry collection and build dessert bars around our most popular flavors with small ceremonial cutting cakes to maintain a bit of tradition.

Do you find that brides and grooms tend to have a clear vision for what kind of cake they want? Do many come in with no idea, looking for guidance and inspiration? How do you help them through what can be a very overwhelming decision?
Since every cake we make is custom, we find great diversity among our clients.  Many come with hyper-specific visions and want to guide every detail while others look to us to understand the ambiance and mood they are trying to create and ask us to guide them toward a one of a kind creation.  We take design cues from invitations, flowers, bridal gowns and even just verbal descriptions of the experience the couple is trying to create.

Wedding cakes are often decorated with fresh flowers. How does the florist-cake baker collaboration work?
We like to say that we make fresh flowers taste great (even if they are removed before serving).  We have a silent collaboration with many outstanding florists with the couple sharing the layout with each of us and the bakery coordinating delivery at the florist’s convenience.  It works out beautifully.

Of course you are most famous for the legendary Burnt Almond Torte. Is it true that this cake came about because of an abundance of almonds, and needing for find ways to use them?
Prantl’s Bakery’s Famous Burnt Almond Torte was conceived by Henry Prantl after a Retail Baker’s Association trip to California. There was an almond glut the year he went and the Almond Board was trying to get bakers to use almonds in new and inspiring ways. Henry picked up a few ideas and brought them back to Pittsburgh where he refined them into our current recipe for “Burnt Almond Torte.”

In the height of wedding season, how many cakes are you likely to prepare on a busy day? How far ahead of time can cakes be prepared?
Our production space on Walnut Street is very small and operating at capacity so we can only accept about 15 tiered cake orders a week.  Couples are able to secure their date on a first come first serve basis with the payment of a $100 non-refundable deposit at  Preparation time varies based upon each cake’s specifications but with limited storage space we begin our tiered cakes much closer to the wedding than the bakeries you see on TV.

What are some of the challenges you face preparing and serving wedding cakes?
Pittsburgh’s heat and humidity can make wedding cake transportation a little nerve-racking, especially with cake as tender as ours but, knock on wood, we have captured a method that allows our Wedding Cakes to be showcased in many outdoor venues throughout the summer.

Detail on burnt almond torte, Prantl's Bakery PittsburghCan you describe one or two of your favorite cakes from the past year?
While we are truly blessed to serve as a pallet for so many talented florists, in 2015 we were asked to work with gumpaste flowers more than ever.  We had a lot of fun configuring massive cascades of gumpaste on some cakes while displaying small clusters on others.  The “Torte Border” design that features gumpaste dog roses, berries and burlap bows was hugely popular with couples who chose rustic venues.

How long does it take to ice/decorate a wedding cake?
There are many factors that contribute to the length of time it takes to ice and decorate a wedding cake.  We analyze the complexity of the flavor combinations and the design elements for each order as part of a wedding week and drive a flow of human capital into the process to balance the workload of the cake icers and decorators as  part of an overall weekly plan.

In addition to cakes, do you also bake cookies for the famous Pittsburgh cookie table?
Our most popular cookies can be found on cookie tables all over town.  They can be ordered in any variety or quantity but many couples choice our 12 dozen Event Cookie Tray or our 90 piece Cookie-Pastry Super Deluxe Tray.  We are also often asked to customize our Decorated Cookies as individually wrapped gifts or favors.

Prantl's Bakery, Prantl's Bakery Pittsburgh, sugared icingIf you didn’t work in a bakery, what other job would you like to have?
Our co-owners share a passion for helping people succeed at doing work that is meaningful to them but it is very rewarding to make and sell products that customers love as much as they love Prantl’s Bakery.

Do you have a favorite venue?
Prantl’s Bakery has special relationships with Phipps Conservatory,  the Pittsburgh Marriott North and the LeMont but we also enjoy the diversity of the venues to which we are asked to deliver.  Some of Pittsburgh’s historic spaces have an elegance that can take your breath away but you can’t beat driving up to the Polar Bears after the Zoo is closed or seeing the intimacy that can be created in a backyard  wedding.

Lightning round of randomness!

Favorite restaurant?
We deliver to many fabulous restaurant weddings but I  must admit that I once delivered a wedding cake to the Hyeholde on a day that Bill Chisnell had decorated each room with a different palette of linens and flowers and it truly felt like I had walked into a fairy tale that I never wanted to leave.

What was your wedding cake like?
My wedding was a fabulous affair at the Pennsylvanian.  Many years later, I had the great pleasure of delivering a smooth iced wedding cake to the Pennsylvanian on my anniversary.  It was a great way to reminisce but on this particular day, Hepatica Florist created such a masterpiece that to this day customers have trouble believing that the cake was decorated with fresh flowers.

cake monogram, Prantl's Bakery, Prantl's Bakery PittsburghFavorite coffee shop?
As bakery staff we are highly dependent upon caffeine so our proximity to Coffee Tree Roasters in Shadyside and Nicholas Coffee in Market Square is a blessing.

Favorite place to go for a walk?
Between the shopping district in Shadyside, Frick Park, the Farmer’s Market in Market Square and the river walks, there is no shortage of places for us to enjoy walking.  Getting us to leave work to take a walk is another story.

Thank you for sharing, Annette!

Prantl’s Bakery
5525 Walnut Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15232



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