A ranking of all the 85°C Bakery breads we could get our hands on.
A ranking of all the 85°C Bakery breads we could get our hands on.
Photo by Erika Kwee

85°C Bakery's Pastries, Ranked

When we set out for 85°C Bakery Cafe on Sunday morning, the fun and gluttonous goal was to taste each of the pastries at the hot new Chinatown addition so we could rank them all. However, even at the semi-ambitious hour of 9 a.m. with minimal lines, several of the bread cases were already bare (the three trays of the signature swirl taro bun set out during opening were reportedly gone by 8 a.m.). So while this is not an entirely comprehensive ranking of all of 85°C's breads, it's as representative a sample as we could get on a weekend.

After tasting more than 30 items from the bakery, we quickly determined the crowd favorites and the (relatively few) duds of the bunch. The following guide is broken down into pastries, drinks and cakes, so make sure to check out our favorites and which ones to skip.

From left to right: 85°C coffee bread, cheese bites and matcha red bean jelly roll.EXPAND
From left to right: 85°C coffee bread, cheese bites and matcha red bean jelly roll.
Photo by Erika Kwee

Least favorite pastries

  • 85°C coffee bread: To be honest, most tasters hated this roll, but I kind of loved it. The pillowy bread tastes faintly of coffee, with a slightly crumbly, crusty cookie layer that hugs the domed top. It's stuffed with red bean and a gooey bubble of mochi in the center, so it's kind of like four breads in one — which some felt was excessive and not well-executed. I beg to differ. Worth a try if you like red bean, mochi and coffee.
  • Cheese bites: Although these perfectly cylindrical, golden-topped bites looked highly appealing, they were a little too sticky and almost gummy in texture, with an artificial, caramel-like aftertaste. Those hoping for a fluffy, Japanese-style cheesecake were disappointed. Unless you're a diehard cheesecake fan of all types, skip these. “We’d rather eat the cheese tart," commented multiple tasters.
  • Matcha red bean jellyroll: Sadly, this cake was dry, crumbly and virtually tasteless; it tasted as though it had been sitting in its plastic case for a week. Whole red beans dotted into the cake added nothing (though one taster suggested a layer of red bean paste alongside the nearly undetectable cream might be nice). It's a beautiful color, and that's about the best thing we can say about it. “I’m sure they’re good fresh,” said one optimistic taster.
From left to right: coconut twist, squid ink bun, coconut strudel.EXPAND
From left to right: coconut twist, squid ink bun, coconut strudel.
Photo by Erika Kwee

Pastries we were meh about:

  • Squid ink bun: "Tastes like a Hawaiian roll," said one taster, which we generally agreed with. Despite its dramatic color, this was a very simple roll and we puzzled over why one would buy it. Maybe to make a unique-looking sandwich? Other similar-looking buns appear to be stuffed with cheese, which sounds much more exciting — so be sure to try to grab a stuffed one, if possible.
  • Coconut twist: Although this twist looks impressive, the coconut is ground up into tiny, gritty particles instead of the typical larger shreds, which gave the pastry a weak coconut flavor. All tasters were pleased with the pillowy golden bread base, but were split on the issue of coconut: "I don’t like the way they do coconut because it doesn’t taste coconutty enough. I wouldn't go back to order it," said one taster. "I like that it’s not giant flakes — the coconut is more pulverized. It's very different from the way other bakeries do coconut breads and I like it because it's not in your face." It smelled more like coconut than it tasted, but it was at least good with coffee.
  • Coconut strudel: Similar to the coconut twist, this strudel didn't blow us away with an intense coconut flavor, and most of the tasters didn't really like the way it paired with the puff pastry. The not-quite-toasted almonds on top were a bit jarring. “Not my favorite” pretty much sums up our thoughts on this one.
From left to right: cranberry cream cheese, chocobun and almond half moon.EXPAND
From left to right: cranberry cream cheese, chocobun and almond half moon.
Photo by Erika Kwee

Pastries we had conflicted feelings about:

  • Cranberry cream cheese: A rather plain, slightly sweet cranberry-studded dough surrounds a blob of unsweetened cream cheese. It reminded the tasters of a bagel bomb — good for eating on the go, but not necessarily a destination pastry.
  • Chocobun: With a dense exterior, this was slightly reminiscent of a bagel. Luckily, the outside is not super-sweet, since the filling is studded with chocolate bits and is extremely sweet. “It'd probably be better if you microwaved it so it’s gooey inside," commented one taster.
  • Almond half moon: While the cloud-like chiffon was flawlessly soft and puffy, with an even crumb, there wasn't a whole lot of flavor in the cake, and the ratio of cake to cream leaned heavily on the cake side. The almonds were displeasing and chewy; we felt that toasted almonds would have been a better choice.
85°C Bakery's Pastries, RankedEXPAND
Photo by Erika Kwee

Borohs: We chose several borohs, thinking we had a selection of plain, taro-filled and custard-filled, but we either misread the signs or mistakenly grabbed the wrong items because all of ours ended up being plain ol' bread rolls with a sweet, slightly crumbly, pineapple bun-style design on top. Those who had eaten borohs before were not impressed by 85°C's rendition, but I was impressed by the softness of the bread and the good balance of sweetness. Definitely seek out the filled kind for an extra thrill if they're available when you go.

From left to right: chocolate chip bowl, hokkaido cheese tart and chocolate brioche.EXPAND
From left to right: chocolate chip bowl, hokkaido cheese tart and chocolate brioche.
Photo by Erika Kwee

Recommended pastries:

  • Chocolate chip bowl: This large boule was surprisingly dense (think chocolate chip bagel-dense) and tasted the most like a traditional American pastry. It was very popular among the tasters even though one commented that she "would never think to order this normally."
  • Hokkaido cheese tart: The cute mound of cheese filling is a little tangy and a little sticky. Overall, it's a pleasant, cheesecake-like bite with a shortbread-like crust that's not quite as light as coconut tart.
  • Chocolate brioche: This soft brioche is stuffed with a strong, coffee-flavored paste that's a little gritty, as if it contains granules of instant coffee that also produce a coffee aftertaste. If you like the flavor of coffee, this is the bread for you. "The chocolate chips are sweet, but the bread isn’t punch-your-face sweet,” said one taster.
From left to right: coconut tart, guava strudel, red bean bread.EXPAND
From left to right: coconut tart, guava strudel, red bean bread.
Photo by Erika Kwee

Recommended pastries:

  • Coconut tart: A crunchy, buttery short crust holds a lightly coconutty filling. Several tasters were surprised at how subtle the coconut flavor was, and all tasters were impressed by the overall flaky and buttery flavor of the tart. If you like coconut, definitely try this one.
  • Guava strudel: All the tasters were pleasantly surprised at the clear guava flavor present in this strudel's filling. While the quality of the puff pastry is mediocre, this is a fairly unique pastry that you won't find at many other places (look for one that looks as if it's filled with tomato sauce).
  • Red bean bun: We accidentally grabbed two red bean buns and spent much time debating whether they were two different kinds of red bean or just two of the same buns from inconsistent batches. Ultimately, we hated one of the buns (too much red bean, too sweet) and liked the other (the filling was significantly saltier and not as crazy-sweet). Red bean fans will love these thanks to the very generous amount of red bean paste in the middle — the paste is generally smooth, with just a few small chunks of red bean, and the glossy surrounding bread is flawless.
From left to right: the winning egg tart, a surprisingly good mangotale pastry, and the delicious garlic cheese bread.EXPAND
From left to right: the winning egg tart, a surprisingly good mangotale pastry, and the delicious garlic cheese bread.
Photo by Erika Kwee

Best breads:

  • Portuguese egg tart: With a super-flaky crust and a torched custard, crème brûlée-like interior, the egg tarts at 85°C are just plain delicious and were dubbed a "must get" by all tasters.
  • Mangotale: The golden brown, puffy, semi-overflowing mango-studded bun already had an A+ appearance, but all the tasters were shocked at the pure mango flavor that pervaded the creamy filling (much like the guava filling in the guava strudel). The bread was also particularly soft for a stuffed bun. Mango aficionados should definitely grab this bun if it's in stock.
  • Garlic cheese: Although tasters remarked that for a savory item this breadstick had a sweeter dough than most, the garlic cheese topping had the perfect level of salty, savory and greasy. Could be that most of our taste buds were fatigued on sugar, but this was universally appreciated for its savoriness.

Conclusion: Tarts and fruit-centric breads are done really well here. Coconut-centric pastries are executed very differently from the way they are at most other Asian bakeries. Nearly all the breads we tried were undeniably well-risen, plush and tasty — 85°C definitely has a variety of yeast breads on lock.

We tasted only two savory items (the bakery was out of the coveted hot dog buns), leading one taster to ponder, “Maybe everyone got the savory ones earlier because they’re better.”

Drinks

From left to right: taro slush, rose milk tea, matcha latte.EXPAND
From left to right: taro slush, rose milk tea, matcha latte.
Photo by Erika Kwee

Least favorite drinks:

  • Taro slush: If you are a taro fan, you'll likely enjoy this icy, über-sweet, violet-hued slush. Most tasters found it too sweet, however. Some tasters might order this again, but most would go elsewhere (like an actual boba tea place) before coming here again.
  • Rose milk tea: The special drink of the month was a beautiful-looking rose milk tea. Unfortunately, none of us agreed with the floral flavor combined with its powerful milky sweetness. None of us would order it again.
  • Matcha latte: Perhaps this melted a bit too much in the car, but this latte tasted like straight-up milk with just the faintest grassy hint of matcha. None of us would order this again.
From left to right: 85°C coffee, sea salt caramel coffee, sea salt jasmine tea.EXPAND
From left to right: 85°C coffee, sea salt caramel coffee, sea salt jasmine tea.
Photo by Erika Kwee

Drinks We Loved:

  • Sea salt jasmine tea: The floral flavor was much more palatable in this tea compared to the rose milk tea. Some tasters enjoyed this one — with its faint salty notes—alongside some of the sweeter pastries.
  • 85°C coffee: The signature coffee comes premixed with just enough cream and sugar to mellow any bitterness in the coffee, and is highly enjoyable. It provided a particularly good, not-too-sweet balance to many of the sweet pastries.
  • Sea salt caramel 85°C coffee (iced): Straight-up delicious. It's easy to see why this salted coffee is one of the most popular drinks at 85°C, since it masterfully balances sweet and salty with the bitter coffee undertones.

Conclusion: Overall, we felt that 85°C would not be a beverage destination (other locations around Chinatown are generally more satisfying). However, we were big fans of the coffee and signature sea salt beverages.

Cakes

From left to right: white chocolate cup, the very dry and sad tiramisu, red velvet cake.EXPAND
From left to right: white chocolate cup, the very dry and sad tiramisu, red velvet cake.
Photo by Erika Kwee

Least favorite cakes

  • Red velvet cake: While a beautiful, vivid color, this cake was, sadly, dry. Even layers of cream cheese couldn't remedy the dryness. Perhaps it was stale?
  • Tiramisu: While fluffy, this chiffon also erred on the dry side and the cake unfortunately lacked any hint of the classic coffee soaking. The cream was also virtually tasteless.
  • White chocolate cup: Not really offensive — the mousse was smooth and the puddle of raspberry compote on top added a nice foil to the creamy white chocolate — but...who likes white chocolate that much? None of us did. If you love white chocolate, you'll love this. If not, this likely won't be your cup of tea.
Left: cheesecake; right: taro cream cake.EXPAND
Left: cheesecake; right: taro cream cake.
Photo by Erika Kwee

Cakes we were meh about:

  • Cheesecake: This was fluffy and had about the right level of sweetness, but a layer of chiffon cake at the bottom added weird dryness that none of us were digging.
  • Taro cake: This chiffon cake was perfectly fluffy and layered with an ethereally light cream and a layer of taro paste. Some found the taro layer a bit too gritty, and the cream didn't taste like much, though the macaron half on top was nicely chewy. Overall, it looked better than it tasted.
Left: mango crème brûlée cake; right: chocolate raspberry cake.EXPAND
Left: mango crème brûlée cake; right: chocolate raspberry cake.
Photo by Erika Kwee

Cakes we loved:

  • Mango crème brûlée: Unlike the other tasteless creams, this unbelievably smooth cream tasted as though it had been whipped with the mango puree until seamlessly smooth and light. A layer of mango cream added just the right note of acidity and fruitiness to this well-done chiffon cake.
  • Chocolate raspberry cake: Everyone loved this cake. Layers of light chocolate cake are sandwiched with a thick layer of milk chocolate ganache and a subtly fruity layer of raspberry cream and are topped off with a bitter dark chocolate glaze that keeps the whole slice from being sickeningly sweet. It's pure, rich decadence...but (is it our imagination?) somehow also feels relatively light compared to American cakes.

Conclusion: In general, the cakes looked better than they tasted. Freshness may have been an issue for some of these cakes since what looked like otherwise identical chiffon in some of them varied greatly in quality. Stick to 85ºC's most popular cakes and probably anything with chocolate.

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