Smile Politely

BakeLab: a sweet spot for Asian American pastries

I can’t say no to good pastries. BakeLab features Asian American pastries and is definitely one of my favorite bakeries in town for coffee and pastries. There’s nothing better than a hot coffee with a baked good.

This sister café to BrewLab, BakeLab is located at the lobby of the new apartment building Gather. There aren’t many cafés which open as early as BakeLab does at 7 in the morning. One best thing for me to enjoy as a student is simply to grab a hot coffee and some baked goods as the start of my day. Inside the café, there are plenty of spots for people to sit with friends, their loved one, or just have a moment to yourself.

The exterior of BakeLab on Lincoln Avenue in Urbana has a white sign with a heart and the bakery's name. The windows have an illuminated

Photo by Xiaohui Zhang.
Inside BakeLab, it is somewhat dark as patrons wait in line to order at the counter. Photo by Xiaohui Zhang.

Photo by Xiaohui Zhang.

I personally don’t like baked goods with too much sweetness, but I rather enjoy the original taste and the texture of how the dough comes out. The Asian-American style baked goods presented by Dai Shi, the talented baker of BakeLab, are definitely the kind of treats that you can’t resist. All their pastries are freshly baked and served every day.

Photo by Xiaohui Zhang.

Popular items include canelé, croissants, and buns. Among them, croissants are always the best to me. You can get most of these goodies for a price between $4 to $6, and a variety of coffee and seasonal drinks are available as well. For the sake of variety, I tried seven different things and shared my experience here.

On a gray wooden counter, there is a croissant with strawberries and mascarpone cheese on top. Photo by Dai Shi.

Photo by Dai Shi.

The first thing I tried is this mascarpone and strawberry croissant offered at a price of $5.75. This is absolutely my favorite treat. The filling of homemade strawberry jam and the mascarpone cheese topping provided the perfect mixture of texture for enjoying the croissant. The strawberry filling was at a great level of sweetness which didn’t overwhelm the nice taste of the light cream.

On a marble counter, there is a plain butter croissant beside a glass jar of overnight oats and a silver spoon. Photo by Dai Shi.

Photo by Dai Shi.

A variety of croissants is available at BakeLab. A satisfying breakfast set of a plain butter croissant ($4) plus a cup of overnight oats with fresh fruit toppings ($4.50) gave me an energetic start to the day. The croissant has a crispy texture outside but chewy inside. The overnight oats was made with milk and a touch of honey. This made it creamy, but the fruit toppings gave me freshness to enjoy.

On a gray butcher block counter, there is a danish with apples. Photo by Dai Shi.

Photo by Dai Shi.

For the last croissant that I tried, I chose a flat croissant: the apple danish ($5.25). I loved the crispy, buttery croissant. The apple slices and a bit of powdered sugar just satisfied my expectations of sweetness. This was a danish with good quality which I immediately enjoyed from the first bite.

In front of a brown paper bag with a label from the bakery, there is a soft bun dusted with powdered sugar. Photo by Dai Shi.

Photo by Dai Shi.

In addition to various kinds of croissants, the buns of different flavors are also my favorite. BakeLab offers flavors of matcha with red bean paste and cream cheese with cranberry. I tried the one with cream cheese and cranberry ($5.25). The bun itself was soft and chewy to enjoy. The cream cheese filling with cranberry eliminated the heaviness and gave a touch of sweet-and-sour flavor to handle the texture of cream cheese. I really liked the dough of the bun.

In a paper four-drink holder, there are two plastic to-go cups of coffee held by the author's hand. Photo by Xiaohui Zhang.

Photo by Xiaohui Zhang.

Since this is not only a bakery but a sister café of BrewLab, no doubt that I would love to try a couple of coffee drinks from the store. I ordered the plain iced latte and the cold brew with a little bit cream added at a price of $4 for each of them. The coffee was definitely made from good-quality beans since I could feel the roasting so obviously. The cold brew on the other hand, it was average level, but it didn’t impress me too much. There are also many other options of seasonal drinks such as apple pie cider if you want to feel fall vibes.

There are still a great variety of items that I didn’t get a chance to try, but I’m really looking forward to coming back to try them.

This place is definitely a gem for the town. Dai is such a talent baker who strives to serve her customers with best-quality pastries. I’ve been there a couple of times prior to this visit for the review, and the staff there are always helpful and patient to introduce their products. The baristas are so great to accommodate different people’s coffee habits. Do not hesitate to put BakeLab on your list for your next visit.

410 N Lincoln Ave
T-Sun 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Top image by Dai Shi.

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