Biz Beat

New owner of Modesto European bakery brings French training, years of sweet experience

See all the sweet treats in Modesto’s Dessert European Bakery

A new family has taken over Dessert European Bakery on McHenry Avenue in Modesto, CA. The shop first opened in 2009, and last fall a French-trained pastry chef purchased the business.
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A new family has taken over Dessert European Bakery on McHenry Avenue in Modesto, CA. The shop first opened in 2009, and last fall a French-trained pastry chef purchased the business.

Expect to get your just desserts, and then some, at this Modesto bakery.

With 15 years of French pastry experience beneath her apron strings, the new owner of Dessert European Bakery hopes to bring new flavors to valley customers. Head baker Lily Azar emigrated from her home country of Iran to Modesto in 2014. For the past four years, she has been talking with the previous owner of the small bakery on McHenry Avenue about buying the business.

The bakery has been open in the north McHenry Avenue shopping center, just off Rumble Road, since 2009. Last fall, Azar bought the shop from the family of its original owner, and promptly expanded its hours and selection. The bakery offers dozens of varieties of fresh-baked pastries and other sweet treats daily. The bake shop also handles custom and special catering orders.

“She has magic hands, she really does,” Azar’s sister Nazanin Hashemi said of her sister’s pastry skills.

Azar’s daughter, Sarvenaz Hashemi, also works in the bakery. Together, the three women churn out delicate, colorful creations that change with the season ranging from cream puffs to cannoli and tarts to tiramisu. The bakery also offers a selection of American and Iranian baked goods, as well as gluten and sugar-free options.

The shop has kept some of the bakery’s previous favorites, including its Russian-inspired Napoleons, and added some of Azar’s own more French-inspired creations. She has studied in France with different pastry chefs, and ran her own bakery in Iran for 15 years.

What sets French and other European pastries apart, she said, is the quality and freshness of the ingredients.

“French pastries are very light and not as sweet as traditional American (baked goods),” she said.

Lemon raspberry cheesecake (right) and black forest cake are pictured on Tuesday morning March 26, 2019 at the business Dessert European Bakery on McHenry Avenue in Modesto, Calif. Joan Barnett Lee

Azar prides herself on making her creations almost entirely from scratch, down to the doughs, custards and other fillings. A few items, like the shells for the cannoli and ladyfinger cookies, are purchased, but the rest is cranked out of the small kitchen daily. The three women often work until late in the night preparing for the next day’s bake.

Still, if Azar’s parents had their way, she wouldn’t be in the kitchen at all. While she had a life-long love of baking, her parents encouraged her to go to college first, where she studied electrical engineering. She graduated with her degree, but promptly ditched engineering to pursue her true passion.

“When I was 18, I told my mom I wanted to bake my own cake myself,” Azar said. “Then step by step, I started to make everyone’s cake.”

Dessert European Bakery is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at 3025 McHenry Ave., Suite E. For more information, call 209-529-1707 or visit

Marijke Rowland writes about new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has been with The Modesto Bee since 1997 covering a variety of topics including arts and entertainment. Her Business Beat column runs midweek and Sundays. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.
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