Sometimes, dessert is essential. At Smile Politely, we love sweets. We’ve written about sweet eats here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Personally, I don’t always treat myself to dessert. I’m more likely to order an app (or extra fries) than a dessert. I lean towards savory over sweet. When I do want dessert, I want something special, something handmade, something truly unique.
Today is Valentine’s Day, so there are lots of dessert specials for V Day — and you should have them! This list, though, is a round up of desserts you can enjoy in town all year long, not just on Valentine’s Day. I’m sharing five C-U desserts you totally need to eat.
Cannolis | Baldarotta’s
I ordered one of every available cannoli ($3.50 each) at Baldarotta’s: pistachio, raspberrry chocolate chip, cookies and cream, and cinnamon honey. I love the gelato from the Lincoln Square Mall restaurant, but Baldarotta’s Gelateria also offers other desserts. I tried all four cannolis, each made to order, not sitting on a shelf pre-made.
Starting with the left, the pistachio cannoli was dipped on both ends in crushed pistachios and filled with a vibrant lemon filling. The crunchy cannoli shell did well holding the filling inside, and the hardened chocolate drips on top of the cannoli were really yummy. The raspberry chocolate chip cannoli had tons of mini chocolate chips and a fluffy ricotta middle. The raspberry sauce on top soaked some fruity sweetness into the cannoli.
The cookies and cream cannoli had its edges dipped in cookie crumbles — not crumbs, but crumbles and chunks of chocolate cookie. The first and last bites — with the crunchiest part of the cannoli and a mouthful of cookies in the not-too-sweet filling — were the best bites. Lastly, the cinnamon honey was my favorite one, hands down. When I bit into that cannoli, I literally gasped; take all my money: this cannoli is tops. The crystalized honey drizzle paired amazingly with the sweet grit of the cinnamon sugar, and the crunch of the cannoli was perfect. It tasted like a Sicilian take on what Cinnamon Toast Crunch wishes it was, and I am a huge fan. If you like churros (or anything with cinnamon sugar), you are going to die for this cannoli.
Baldarotta’s Porketta & Sicilian Sausage
300 S Broadway Ave
T-Sa 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Su noon to 3 p.m.
Panda Sweet | Kaori’s Oven
I can’t handle the cuteness of this pastry. This panda pastry ($2) is handmade by the owner and pastry chef at Kaori’s Oven. Since there are weekday hours at the bakery now, I stopped by on Tuesday morning to buy all of the animal sweets, but this panda one is special. Look at those eyes, little ears, and that itty bitty nose!
The panda sweet was a yeast roll filled with honey cream cheese, and it was incredible. Freshly baked, the roll tasted yeasty and not at all sweet which only highlighted the contrasting sweetness of the cream cheese filling. The flavors reminded me of a cream cheese Danish, but instead of a flaky pastry, the tasty cream cheese filling was stuffed inside a yeast roll shaped like a panda. You can also buy porcupine and turtle sweets in addition to a rotating selection of baked goods like cheesecake slices, bacon-cream cheese breadsticks, and more. Kaori’s Oven’s hours have recently expanded to include weekday mornings up instead of only weekends. Follow the bakery on Instagram to see what she’s baking up each week.
305 Cedar St
T-Th 9 to 11:30 a.m.
F+Sa noon to 4 p.m.
Su noon to 2 p.m.
Toffee Brownie | Niece’s Pieces
This chocolate brownie was cut from a pan of made-to-order toffee brownies. Made by a Black-owned home bakery called Niece’s Pieces, this pan of brownies ($15) had toffee pieces baked into the top which gave an extra sweetness and a crunchy texture to the soft dessert. The very top layer was paper-thin and crisp. Niece’s Pieces’ brownie was super fudgy and gooey — but somehow still firm. The rich cocoa flavor of the brownie was addictive; it was so good that I ate whole pan in less than 36 hours.
The square pan of brownies meant there were plenty of edge pieces, and I liked that it was a whole pan instead of just a slice. If it’s this good, it’s nice to have a lot of it. You could bring this to a gathering, or you can just eat the whole pan yourself over a day and a half like I did. Niece’s Pieces Brownies is run by twin sisters who began this brownie-making business in the summer of 2019.
There are different flavors of brownie: original, toffee, walnut, or red velvet with cream cheese frosting. It’s a small business, so the ordering is a bit different but not too complicated. I ordered my pan of toffee brownies online with this form, paid with Venmo, and set a pick up time. This last Saturday, I picked up my brownies in Urbana, but delivery is also available for an additional cost. Order your pan of brownies here.
Chocolate Mousse + Chocolate Ganache | Rick’s Bakery
These chocolate cake slices ($4 each) are a sweet way to treat yourself — or someone else. Each cake slice was topped with pretty white chocolate drizzles.
The chocolate mousse slice had three layers of chocolate cake with a light-colored fluffy chocolate mousse in between each layer — and even under the outer chocolate frosting, too. The mousse was light and sweet, and it reminded me of chocolate whipped cream because it was so airy. This slice was an excellent little chocolate cake.
The chocolate ganache was a three-layered chocolate cake slice with rich ganache between layers. It was not very sweet; it was a very grown-up, dark chocolate flavored cake. The crumb of the cake tasted like it had been cut that morning, freshly sliced. The fudgy ganache was thick and smooth with a deep cocoa flavor without too much sugar. This ganache one with the squiggly lines was, in my opinion, a perfect chocolate cake.
If you like simply chocolate cakes — ones without a fruity filling or added coffee or nutty flavors, these are the chocolate cakes you want. Pick up in the bakery in Downtown Urbana.
124 W Main St
T-Sa 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Beignets | Stango Cuisine
Anytime I dine at Stango, I have to order the beginets ($5) because they’re superb. You can get the beignets to go, too, but there is nothing like beignets hot from the fryer. Stango’s beignets are fried to order and have a snowstorm of powdered sugar on top. The deep-fried exterior of the beignets had the crunch of a pie crust, and the doughy middle had a great yeast flavor. The soft cakey inside wasn’t very sweet, but the powdered sugar topping made the dessert sweet. There was plenty of dusted sugar, so I took my beignet and dragged it along the plate’s powder to get some sugar with the doughnut-y flavor of the pastry.
Put in your order here or stop by the spacious restaurant for a warm, comforting meal.
140 Lincoln Square Mall
T-Sa 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.