Though it's typically not advisable to buy your pastries from the grocery store, most of us have done so in a pinch — and subsequently apologized profusely to those we subjected to stale mounds of sweetened margarine vaguely recognizable as some sort of breakfast Danish or birthday cake. The next time you go the grocery-store route, Gelson's has one of the better selections of freshly baked, all-butter chocolate babkas, cinnamon bread and special-occasion cakes (meaning those actually slathered with buttercream, not some airy shortening-and-corn-syrup frosting). The pastries are from Viktor Benês in Burbank, now a large contract operation that got its start when Benês arrived in L.A. by way of Chicago, where he also had a small bakery, just after World War II ended. He opened the original Viktor Benês on West 3rd Street 20 years later and sold the bakery to two enterprising Italian bakers when he retired. It's the Italians you can thank for that pistachio-green, marzipan-crowned princess cake (a Swedish sponge filled with whipped cream and raspberry jam) and dark-chocolate ganache opera cake (French almond sponge cake filled with mocha buttercream) lining the pastry cases of Gelson's today. The best pastries in town? Hardly. But for a grocery store, a solid sweets showing. Viktor Benês is in Gelson's markets; for locations, viktorbenes.net. —Jenn Garbee
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