By Kristy Wilson
A recent article on the site onlyinyourstate.com titled “You’ve Never Tasted Anything Like These 10 Unique Desserts in Illinois” landed Champaign on the list not once but twice.
What were the unique desserts that got our city recognized, you might be wondering?
Destihl’s whiskey caramel apple galette along with Cream and Flutter’s toasted coconut macaroons. [Ed. note: oh dear, both of these places have closed.] Yum! This got us thinking, what other desserts are there in Champaign-Urbana that didn’t make the list but that should not go unnoticed?
Below you will find a compilation of desserts in the area that are a must try. There are actually two lists. One list notes what we believe are the best, the not-to-be-missed if you will, desserts in C-U. The second list is the most unique desserts in C-U.
Please note that we know this list is not complete. There are likely many more out there that I am not aware of, so please share your thoughts. Also, it was a tough call when sorting out these lists to know where best to place these desserts, as many of the most unique would also easily fall under the “best” category. Having said this, I invite you to read the list and then encourage you to give them a try!
Best Desserts in C-U:
1. Hopscotch Cakes and Confections: I have not tried any of Kaya’s sweet treats. However, I know many who have and they rave about everything they have tried. Since I haven’t tried anything in particular, I am at a loss of what specifically to recommend. However, here is what I can tell you: Kaya Tate (owner and operator) is a classically trained French pastry chef. She has only been in C-U since 2013 but is making her mark on the dessert scene. Look for her cakes and confections at the Holiday Market at Lincoln Square on Saturdays from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. and in the future location of the new Art Mart in Champaign.
2. The raspberry frangipane at Sweet Indulgence Bakery: Growing up, my sister’s friend worked at Sweet Indulgence and we used to enjoy sweet treats from there. Now many years later in a new location and under new ownership, the bakery is still going strong. They have a vast assortment of cakes and cupcakes to choose from. The raspberry frangipane is a tasty combination of flavors (raspberries, almonds and vanilla cake with raspberry filling and white buttercream) that is fresh and flavorful.
3. The chocolate dipped almond horn at Mirabelle Fine Pastries: Yep, you are correct that this has been mentioned before. When I wrote the “25 Things You Need to Eat in Champaign-Urbana” article I listed it on there as well. The truth is, I haven’t disliked anything at Mirabelle’s, but this recommendation is amazing! It is sweet, but for those who like the sweet/savory combo it has the flaky, buttery outside that perfectly pairs with the rich chocolate. 4. The signature red velvet cupcake at Cream and Flutter: Yes, this was also featured in the “25 Things You Need to Eat in C-U” article, but just in case you missed it you will now know to check this sweet treat out! I haven’t had anything I didn’t like here, and I especially love the unique seasonal flavors that they use in their monthly features (see below a couple of their items made the unique list).
5. The peanut butter cupcake at Cake Artist Studio: Because who doesn’t like peanut butter and chocolate, and when paired together … yum! The cakes at Cake Artist Studio are flavorful, rich and moist. You might remember that the brown sugar oatmeal cake was mentioned in the earlier article. It is another favorite, but I thought that I would share this one as well since I often struggle to decide between these two flavors. Cake Artist Studio also offers vegan and gluten free options.
6. The sour cherry bread pudding at Destihl: This. Well, I could just leave the descriptor at that, but let me tell you a bit more. This dessert could also make the unique list because it is a twist on the classic bread pudding. This is not your grandma’s bread pudding. Sour cherries, vanilla cinnamon custard and the famous whiskey caramel sauce that you’ll find on several of their other desserts make this a comfort food that will cause you to want to come back for more.
7. The snowstorm at Jarling’s Custard Cup: Notice there isn’t a flavor suggested for the snowstorm? Merely suggesting that someone go to Jarling’s and get a snowstorm is comparable to telling someone to go to Dairy Queen and get a blizzard … it is a pretty open-ended suggestion. However, what kind you get all depends on your tastes, your mood for the day, how adventurous you want to be, etc. There are a lot of flavors and combos! One of my favorites is a coffee snowstorm with Heath bits. Custard Cup is currently closed for the season. Watch for media coverage as well as its website to know when you can enjoy their treats again.
8. The spiced sweet potato cake at Big Grove Tavern: Truth, I haven’t had it. Bigger truth, I will need to try it soon — this dessert sounds amazing! Sweet potato cake with poached apple wedges, rosemary ice cream, and pepita oat streusel. Seemingly so many flavors in one dish. I can’t wait to try it.
Unique Desserts in C-U:
1. The chocolate sea salt popsicle at Cream and Flutter: Yes, this weather lately doesn’t really make me want to go out and buy anything frozen for dessert. But, I can imagine taking a stroll through downtown next summer and popping in to get one of these. They sound amazing! 2. The fig mascarpone cupcake at Cream and Flutter: This dessert was incredibly nostalgic for me and brought back thoughts of my childhood when my stepmom’s mother would make homemade fig cookies (they were nothing like those store-bought Fig Newtons). The flavors of this cupcake are fresh and pairing of the fig and mascarpone is perfectly unique! NOTE that this is only available in November, so if this sounds like something you would like to try you need to do so quickly. 3. The Smores at Destihl: This is a twist on the classic campfire treat. Destihl uses pie dough in place of the traditional graham cracker, toasts the marshmallows before delivering them to your table and serves them with a warm dark chocolate (the way that I justify this dessert to be “healthy”) dip. It is awesome and definitely not something you’ll find on other menus.
4. The potato chip cookie bites at Cake Artist Studio: I haven’t had these and I couldn’t even find a picture of them on their website to be able to make sense in my head of what these might be. However, the name was enough to make me put them on this list.
5. The Baklava at Zorba’s: I have not had this in a long time, but I remember the taste vividly. It is rich, sweet, caramelly and just plain good. The crunchy puff pastry with layers of nuts, and honey syrup make this the perfect ending to the rest of their yummy menu.
These are just a few of the suggestions that we have. What are some of the best/most unique desserts that we have missed?
Kristy Wilson considers herself a “townie” having lived in the community for more than 26 years. She grew up in Unit 4 schools and attended the University of Illinois. Kristy is passionate about her professional work as a social worker. In her spare time she enjoys food! In particular she loves to try new recipes and sample new dishes at local eateries.