You might be surprised by a long-risen creme brulee doughnut.
You might be surprised by a peanut butter and jelly doughnut coated with a fuchsia dusting of freeze-dried raspberries.
You might be surprised by a corn flake eclair, a cake that looks like a tree stump, or a bourbon-plum-chai-latte-orange-blossom "cruffin" — a croissant-muffin hybrid.
These are some of the sweets Danielle O’Day, self-taught baker, has been pulling out of the oven in her bake shop, sweetDee’s, now open for two months. On an Old Town Scottsdale street within earshot of the beat of a dozen clubs, sweetDee's is churning out some of the more innovative pastries in metro Phoenix. Roughly 50 percent are gluten-free, including almond flour doughnuts, and some are vegan.
O'Day learned from trial, error, and watching YouTube videos.
She bakes in a novel tradition — the tradition of whimsical, nationally known bakers like Milk Bar's Christina Tosi (known for Crack Pie and cereal milk ice cream) and Dominique Ansel (inventor of the cronut). She doesn’t have the training or the uncountable hours these giants have — she got started professionally not long ago in a creperie in Cave Creek, and is just beginning at sweet Dee’s — but her carefree baking spirit feels similar.
You might be surprised by a mirror-glazed mousse cake rained with Funfetti.
You might be surprised on August 18, when all her cupcakes will be themed after couples from Wes Anderson movies.
And you will certainly be surprised by what has to be one of the coolest doughnuts in Arizona.
O’Day lets her doughnut dough rise for four hours and proof overnight. She uses laminations when shaping this dough, the arduous sequence of repeated fold-overs that give croissants their flakiness.
On Saturday mornings from 8 to noon, she makes an eggs Benedict doughnut.
“I wrap a poached egg in Canadian bacon in brioche dough,” she says, “then I fry it.” The egg, yolk still a little jammy, lives inside of a puffy doughnut drenched in a velvety robe of hollandaise.
Not all of O’Day’s pastries are so ambitious, so gonzo, so Candyland. She "always" has cream puffs, macarons, croissants, doughnuts, cookies, and various small cakes in her front display. Some of these sweets keep things more classic; some veer more into the new.
“It’s heavily French-inspired,” she says of her style. “We wanted to do heavily French with a modern twist.”
The spacious bakery feels French. The interior is decked out with glass and brassy accents and tasteful concrete floors. Stand mixers are pink. The vision for the layout belongs to Cathy Hayes, who also designed Farm & Craft and a number of visually tasty LGO Hospitality Group restaurants (Chelsea’s Kitchen, La Grande Orange).
A few design elements belie the freewheeling nature of O’Day’s style, like the chaotic floral wallpaper on the ceiling, and the old-school French opera house scene plastered on bathroom walls, black-and-white spectators wrapping around.
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O’Day takes an open-ended approach to cake-making. Some “99 percent of the time,” she is given near-total creative license. When the person the cake is for doesn't have a specific vision for that cake, she hopes to get to know that person a little. She asks for intel. Hobbies. Favorite color. She then makes a cake.
A recent cake melded the binary themes of forests and skulls.
SweetDee’s serves breakfast and lunch. Each brings options more quotidian than what you find in the pastry case. Still, dishes like avocado toast with edible flowers and an everything bagel platter served with numerous cream cheeses keep things cool and different, which seems to be the norm for this baker, and for this free-spirited young bake shop.
sweetDee's bakeshop. 7350 East Stetson Drive, Suite C101, Scottsdale; 480-994-6733.
Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.; closed Sunday.