When Ha Do left Germany for the Bay Area 12 years ago, she missed the tradition of “kaffee und kuchen,” an afternoon break of sipping coffee and eating cake.
Do is excited to share that tradition by opening San Francisco’s only konditorei, a German bakery and cafe. Her first location of Hahdough arrives Sunday, March 1, in NoPa, just off Divisadero, while a smaller takeout-window version attached to her baking facility is expected to open in Hayes Valley later in the month.
Hahdough’s cakes are showstoppers: tall, layered and intricately designed, using a mix of fruit, pastry creams, mousses and marzipan to keep things dynamic. Take the Herrentorte, which features six thin layers of soft sponge that alternate with white wine-brandy cream. It’s covered with a thin layer of marzipan followed by a thin layer of dark chocolate ganache, then decorated with swirly chocolate H’s.
“They’re less sweet and lighter than American desserts,” Do said of German cakes. “There’s no artificial coloring, no fondant, more marzipan.”
“With American baking, the first mouthful is always amazing and intense, but by the end you’re full of regret because there’s so much sugar,” added Do’s husband and Hahdough co-owner Christian MacNevin.
Hahdough promises to be a destination for an array of German sweets, including classics like Black Forest Cake, a layered chocolate cake with sour cherries and whipped cream; Berliners, soft German doughnuts filled with vanilla cream or seasonal jam; and apple pie topped with streusel.
The mornings will see flaky turnovers filled with apples and cherries and German-style croissants given a lye treatment like pretzels. Do also plans to make soft pretzels throughout the day so they’re always fresh. But in true kaffee und kuchen fashion, Hahdough is really all about the cakes — paired with a cup of coffee brewed with Linea Caffe beans.
Do plans to offer as many as nine cakes by the slice at the NoPa location and up to three at the Hayes Valley window. Her current arsenal includes more than 20 cakes, including traditional German ensembles like the Himbeer-Shokotorte, an almond-based chocolate cake topped with layers of milk chocolate mousse and raspberry mousse; and Bienenstich, otherwise known as Bee Sting Cake, a sweet yeasted cake filled with a tall layer of vanilla cream and finished with a crunchy layer of honey-glazed almonds.
It took time for Do to adapt these traditional recipes with American ingredients and then make them her own. She landed on a mix of three different flours to achieve the right springiness for the Berliners. With the Bee Sting, she ramped up the lemon zest, upped the proportion of cream to dough and used more honey instead of sugar in the caramelized crust. She also experimented with her own creations, like the Cassis a l’Orange, which layers chocolate and vanilla sponges with black currant mousse, orange-white chocolate mousse and a blood orange gelee.
Do was born in Vietnam. As refugees after the war, Do, then age 5, and her family moved to Koblenz, a small German city between Frankfurt and Cologne. In 2008, she came to the Bay Area as a graphic designer and spent her weekends baking German sweets, searching for a taste of home. Eventually, she set her sights on her own bakery.
She quit her job and moved to Germany for a two-month internship at a production bakery, learning the ways of German cakes and breads in large quantities. When she returned, she signed up for the City College of San Francisco’s baking program and spent two years working as a cake decorator at Austrian baker Gerhard Michler’s Creative International Pastries, a wholesale operation in Dogpatch.
In 2016, Do launched Hahdough as a farmers’ market stand, building a following at the San Mateo and Inner Sunset farmers’ markets in particular. She remembers selling just a dozen Berliners at the start. Within a few months, she was selling 300.
The timing feels right for Do and MacNevin, who might have felt pressured to Americanize Do’s German sweets several years ago.
“I feel lucky to be doing this now,” she said. “People care so much about authenticity.”
Hahdough. Opening March 1, 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. 1221 Fell St., San Francisco. Second takeout-only location opening later in March. 509 Laguna St., San Francisco. 415-676-0576 or www.hahdough.com