Buried in the middle of a neighborhood filled with car repair shops, car lots and a paint store or two, a Mexican bakery quietly operates in a low-slung building brightly painted lime green.
Call it a pastry beacon in a neighborhood of industry.
Its grand opening was Feb. 17, but chef/owner Miguel Hernandez has been making cakes and pastries locally long before before he officially opened in Tacoma.
The Tacoma area is home to a handful of terrific panaderias featuring pan dulce and other classic Mexican desserts. Pasteles Finos Del Angel is slightly different. It focuses on cakes and pastries both Mexican and European.
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Visitors will find tiramisu, cupcakes topped with fluffy buttercream clouds, fruit tarts, Napoleons, chocolate-filled croissants and cream puffs in the shape of swans.
There are also cinnamon-dusted churros, jiggly flan and tres leches cakes.
Did I mention the wall of doughnuts?
Here’s what you need to know before you visit:
The owner: Hernandez officially opened Pasteles Finos Del Angel on Feb. 17, but his baking career backs up several decades. He’s been making cakes since he was 12. His first job was working at the only bakery in his village in Mexico. He started with clean-up and worked his way to decorating. The bakery name is a reference to his middle name, Angel.
About those cakes: His heart is in cake baking and decorating. Before opening in Tacoma, he operated his cake bakery out of Maya’s, a Mexican restaurant in the Rainier Beach neighborhood in Seattle.
He’s made special-order cakes for everything from quinceañera celebrations to birthdays and giant weddings. He described one cake he designed that fed 700 wedding guests. A book sits on the front counter featuring a plethora of designs.
A tiered unicorn cake comes with sly, winking eyes. An elaborate tiered wedding cake was festooned with pretty flowers. A quinceañera cake came in pretty pastel shades.
The doughnuts: At the rear of the bakery was the neatest doughnut display I’ve encountered in Tacoma. A long strip of white pegboard held removable dowels displaying row after row of frosted cake and raised doughnuts. On a shelf above were disposable coffee travelers big enough to caffeinate a small office. Below were trays of churros. If you sample one doughnut, make it the frosted raised doughnut coated in nuts ($1.20).
Cookies: Next to the doughnut wall, a bakery case held close to a dozen variety of cookies. The case held buttery corn-flavored cookies dusted with crunchy cinnamon-sugar, two kinds of nut cookies, butter spritz, Mexican wedding cookies, a buttery cookie embedded with toasted coconut and cookies with sticky jam centers. The next one was richer than the last. Well priced at 40 cents each. A box, $4.
Single-serve pastries: A refrigerated case at the front of the store was stacked with small plastic containers of single-serve pastries. Don’t miss the cherry-topped flan that jutted out like a sweet caramel mountain from a sticky base of exquisite chocolate cake ($4).
That was my favorite dessert of my first trip along with a fruit tart built on a blocky wedge of puff pastry, saturated with a sticky glaze and pastry cream, with fresh sliced kiwi, strawberries and peaches on top ($4). There were also full-sized version of the tarts ($8)
Single-serve flan held a satisfying creamy texture and a sweet sugar syrup nestled in the bottom ($2.50).
There were also pastries split open and filled with pastry cream ($3.50), fruit-and-cream-filled croissants ($3.50), big cupcakes ($3.50) and oversized wedges of tiramisu ($4).
Muffins and more: Find muffins and turnovers across the store ($2). Flavors included coconut, apple and chocolate.
Note: The bakery is cash only.
Pasteles Finos del Angel
Where: 5102 S. Washington St., Tacoma (across from the back entrance of Jonz Catering).
Info: 253-448-2649, facebook.com/angels.pastry
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, 2-6 p.m. Sundays.
Note: Cash only