Boyden’s Bakery serves up delicious baked goods "Old Fashioned Pastries For Over 50 Years,” reads the motto for Boyden’s Bakery — and, for once, it’s more than just a nice-sounding slogan. Boyden’s cookies, cakes and danishes are made today exactly the same way they were when the shop first opened, back in 1932. There has never been the first attempt to modify or adapt the original formulas to modern ideas of taste or nutrition. The result is the some of the richest, most delicious baked goods that Indianapolis has to offer. Holly Nave offers Boyden’s Bakery brownies. Francis Tobias Boyden opened that first shop in the 3800 block of East New York Street, at the outset of the Great Depression. In a pre-supermarket era of neighborhood bakeries, Boyden’s was an immediate hit, known especially for their French-inspired pastries. At its height, in the 1950s, there were nine Boyden’s locations around town.
Today, there’s just one, at Meridian and Hanna, operated by Francis Boyden’s grandson Bob and his wife Tina. Most of Indianapolis’ better bakeries tend to do one thing extremely well. Long’s has their glazed donuts, Taylor’s their cakes, etc. Boyden’s does everything well, in part because they do it all from scratch. “
Our bakery suppliers and salesmen are the ones who know all the different bakeries,” Tina Boyden says, “and they say this is the most scratch bakery in Indianapolis.”
That means everything from making their own icings to cracking their own eggs. Custard fillings are cooked every day on a small stove in the back. “A lot of places use automated donut machines,” Tina says. “We do everything by hand. We turn the donuts by hand; we cut them by hand.”
Following 70-year-old recipes to the letter means not only maintaining the original ratios, but using only premium ingredients as well. “My husband’s very strict on the quality. He will not buy the cheap stuff. He uses the best shortenings, flours, everything it takes, butter, chocolate ...”
The difference is pretty hard to miss. Boyden’s danishes are at once dense and light — and almost impossibly moist. They come in all the standard fillings (apple, cheese), as well as more unusual ones like pineapple, blackberry and coconut. “I had one customer tell me that he travels everywhere and loves to go to bakeries,” Tina says. “Even in different countries, he claims he’s never tasted a danish roll as good as ours anywhere.”
Their very popular coffeecakes are flat ovals, along the line of Wisconsin kringles, basically outsized versions of the danishes. An exception is the honeydew-pecan coffeecake, perhaps the bakery’s most spectacular creation. Nothing to do with honeydew melon, it’s a (somewhat bready) sweet-dough crust, loaded with a rich French-cream filling and glazed with a praline topping that’s as salty as it is sweet. It’s a unique and potent flavor combo, though one better suited to dessert than breakfast.
Boyden’s offers a vast array of cookies, including definitive versions of mom-cookies like snickerdoodles and oatmeal-raisin, seriously addictive honey bars and a molasses cookie that Tina labels particularly old-fashioned. It’s deep brown with a single jot of jelly and so moist that you’re lucky if it doesn’t fall apart between bites.
Cakes are another big seller, some made daily and others on a custom-order basis. And there’s one item Tina is especially proud of: “We make the best brownies I think I’ve ever tasted. One of our salesmen once talked my husband into trying a mix [barely containing the disgust in her voice], some brownie mix that was at a World’s Fair or something and was voted the best brownie in the world. It sounded like it was going to be really tremendous. So we tried it and it was horrible! I’d like to enter my brownies in that contest!”
“Old-fashioned” describes more than just the butter-rich pastries at Boyden’s. They open up every morning at 4 (with customers usually waiting) and don’t close until 7:30 in the evening. Twice a year the shop closes down for a week so the family can go on vacation. Somehow, no other way would make sense. “If you have something that’s tried and true, from a long, long time ago,” Tina says, “it’s like they tell you — they don’t make things the way they used to.”
3953 S. Meridian
784-2992 Hours Monday-Friday, 4 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, 4 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, 4 a.m.-4 p.m. Food: 4 stars Atmosphere: 4 stars Service: 5 stars Prices Danishes are $1.10. Coffee cakes are $5.49 and $6.49. Cookies range between 32 and 50 cents. Brownies are 69 and 79 cents. Cakes go for between $5.19 and $9.19.