Once upon a fairy tale time, artistic souls added spice to the mundane in life. As scribes tediously copied manuscripts, they illuminated the page with bold strokes of fantasy and beauty. Clocks were not just time-keeping devices, but stately poems from a master carver.
The walls of Hermine’s Old World Confections shop are a landscape of those traditions. Cuckoo clocks echo from another era, one before etchings were replaced by photocopies and hand-spun wool gave way to spandex. Imported toys; ornate clocks with intricate figures frozen in pastoral life; and collectibles like a tiny tin stove with miniature utensils and a delftware backsplash peer out from the perimeter of the space. But center stage is clearly the beautiful displays of cakes, confections and classic German sweets -- apfelkuchen, strudel and lebkuchen.
Hermine’s baking is a dichotomy, on one hand a lovingly detailed reprisal of tradition, from the hazelnuts toasted and sliced in house to the spotlight given to marzipan; An old-world decadence, marzipan is an almond flavored, sweet delicacy with a fudge-like consistency used throughout Europe in confections and cakes. But, on the other a chorus of her adventurous, modern spirit.
Hermine Sittel Kubista left her German childhood behind, moved to America and worked as a tailor for decades before opening her own confections shop in 2003. Her creations are an art, but are crafted in a modern, practical workspace which includes a stainless-steel kitchen, imported Australian stove and spacious counters. Her modern twist on tradition shows in her best-selling, whimsical nod to Idaho, a scoop of marzipan, shaped into a potato and dusted with cocoa powder.
We sampled the marzipan log, coated in chocolate and subtly luxurious. The marzipan torte was an intoxicating light cake, iced with a chocolate ganache and filled with marzipan cream. In addition, her Buttercream Cheese Cake, a vanilla cake lined with fruit filling and iced with a heavenly frosting, literally melted on your palate to the smooth richness of raspberry cheesecake.
Her shop is located in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, near a resort area nestled on a natural lake in the mountains. The physical shop may not be universally accessible but she will take online orders and ship her specialty confections anywhere in the continental US. Modern amenities like social media and online shopping are only a tool and never a focus, however, as Hermine reminded me, “The people that matter most are the ones standing right in front of me.”
The way she twines old with new has a comforting depth in our world of sharp corners and pristine manufactured perfection. Near the register hangs a photograph of the wedding cakes she prepared for a grandson’s wedding in Italy. Spurning our pristine geometric tiered cakes, which she refers to as sugar towers, she instead created a bold celebratory mosaic of traditional cakes in honor of the occasion, dozens of creamed, filled, dusted platters of love in strudel, torte and pastry form.
Stop by- a sample of the Old World is worth the visit.