Bubble Pie Asian Bakery keeps it fresh

by Rich Donahue

Shoppers seeking ethnic wares, foods and services have lots of choices on Murray Avenue, but the only place to get Chinese New Year cake is Bubble Pie Baking Arts.

After walking into Bubble Pie Baking Arts, the customer is greeted by sassy, sweet Japanese native Ivy Linn, who owns and operates the bakery.

Bubble Pie, located in an unassuming storefront front next to Harry’s Barber Shoppe, opened in 2008. Linn, 56, offers many unique baked goods whose recipes originate in countries like Singapore, Indonesia, and China and that may be unfamiliar to the American taste buds. Some of the more popular Asian baked goods include Chinese New Year cake and other festival cakes enjoyed by the Asian demographic in different season. Still, Linn says that her customers are from varied ethnic backgrounds.

Photo by Audra Joseph

Photo by Audra Joseph

“It’s about 50-50,” Linn says. “50 percent Asian and 50 percent Caucasian.”

Though Linn was born in Japan, she moved with her family to Taiwan when she was 6 years old. When she was just 24 years old, she moved to the States with her husband so he could attend college in Madison, WI.

When I was I in school I always enjoyed chemistry and physics,” Linn says. “I try to use that in my baking to solve the problem.”

Bubble Pie’s website declares that the philosophy of the bakery is to use the best ingredients and pay great attention to detail. This detail has made the shop very popular in Squirrel Hill. Linn now supplies tea shops in the area as well as Carnegie Mellon University.

“There are some Asian pastry places that I have been here longer than, while some have been opened longer than me,” Linn says. “They’re in and out, though.”

Prior to opening Bubble Pie, Linn operated the Asian Tea House in Schenley Plaza., where she worked with a small staff. In Bubble Pie, though, she works alone for most of the year. Her taste varies, though, and her menu includes such items as brioches, pound cakes and cheesecakes and the variety keeps customers coming.

She says that what inspires her, at times, is the fact that customers of Asian restaurants rarely partake in dessert, and she wants to provide people with a sweet taste of the Far East. She scoffs at fortune cookies, which she explains are an American invention. She works to bring true Asian-style desserts to both suburbanites who enjoy occasional Chinese takeout and to Asian-born students who go to Pitt, CMU, and Duquesne.

For the last five years, Ivy Linn has added Asian dessert delights to the melting pot of Squirrel Hill. With her friendly demeanor and dedication to her baking, there is no doubt that Bubble Pie Baking Arts will continue to thrive.