Sugar and Spice

Posted On January 31, 2015

Columbia has lots of places where you can pick up dessert for a party, or special night at home. Here are a few of our favorites.

 By Kristine Hartvigsen

Cafe Strudel Columbia SC

Café Strudel

Life is short, so eat dessert first. At Café Strudel in West Columbia, it may be difficult to save room for a treat from the restaurant’s uber-tempting dessert case. But you must. First, there is the strudel, apple, cherry, chocolate, you name it. These fresh, flaky, layered pockets of deliciousness are heaven on a plate. But there’s something here for every taste. Sweet, sassy lemon bars are a delight. There are many luscious cheesecakes to choose from. Strawberry cake, key lime pie, and large bakery cookies also share the spotlight. The moist carrot cake with cream cheese icing topped with pecans goes fast. So just do it. Have dessert first! 794.6634

Tiffany’s Bakery and Eatery

Inconspicuously tucked in a Two Notch Road strip mall, Tiffany’s has thrived for decades on word-of-mouth raves for its delicious baked creations. In the early years, Tiffany’s pastry case with all manner of wholesome yumminess kept folks coming back. Cookies, cupcakes, petit fours, they have it all. Later additions of restaurant seating, breakfast and lunch menus, and adorable kitchen-themed retail items make this charming eatery more irresistible than ever. Tiffany’s makes a variety of themed cakes from Gamecocks and Beatles to its breathtaking Pink Paisley Cake and artful wedding cakes. In the spirit of Audrey Hepburn, you can even order a signature Tiffany’s blue box cake! 736.2253

Al Amir on Main

Imagine a whirlwind culinary tour of Istanbul without leaving home. Al Amir provides an authentic taste of the Middle East, especially if you favor sweets flavored with such goodies as pistachios, dates, honey, figs, almonds, cardamom, or rosewater cream. Enjoy traditional Baklava or sample a Kanafa pastry. Try the Knafeh, a cheese-filled pastry, Hareeseh or Basbousa cakes, phyllo rolls, cookies topped with powdered sugar, or all manner of decadently layered Old World sweets. Most desserts are made fresh in-house; there is no printed dessert menu, as it changes almost daily. Owner Mahammad Saadeddin promises these are delicacies you won’t find in a local grocery store. Live a little. Goes well with Arabic coffee or tea. 771.0515

Cupcake Down South

As charming as the image of June Cleaver baking up cupcakes for the Beev’s classroom party is, the creations of Cupcake in the Vista are a dazzling update to a nostalgic treat. These are not your mother’s cupcakes. Imagine flavors like salted caramel, or bourbon pecan, even almond! While Cupcake offers all the standard favorite flavors daily, a rotating menu introduces variety such as red velvet, key lime, lemon blueberry, and chocolate tuxedo. With some 50 flavors on rotation, there’s always something new to try. Cupcake’s luscious treats piled high with creamy frosting are baked fresh daily using natural ingredients such as vanilla beans and sweet cream butter. Three sizes of rich, moist deliciousness for any appetite. Go ahead. Indulge. 212.4949

Chocolate Nirvana Bakery and Cafe

It’s been said that all you need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt. And combining two shops – Chocolate Nirvana and The Happy Cooker – into an 80-seat café and bakery near Whole Foods on Jackson Boulevard provides both. Specializing in Godiva chocolate cakes, Chocolate Nirvana offers goodies for grown-ups. Choices include tiramisu cake, Grand Marnier or pumpkin cheesecake, petit fours, wedding cakes, and their signature rich ganache-covered Chocolate Nirvana Cake. Layer cakes are tall, multi-level creations that can be filled with whatever you fancy, such as raspberry or apricot puree, coconut, and even pina colada whipped cream. Sold by the slice in the cafe. Whole cakes must be ordered. Make a grand impression. 799.9982

Lillian's Incorporated

What started out as a bakery transformed into a favorite lunch and dessert café in Forest Acres. But those who are in the know never leave without dessert. In addition to flavorful sandwiches and salads, Lillian’s offers a wide range of tantalizing cakes and what one customer calls the best cream cheese brownies ever. All manner of decorative cookies are top sellers. Other favorites include the caramel bundt cake, sour cream pound cake, petit fours, and pumpkin cranberry bread. Vegetarian and vegan options available. Don’t forget to try Lillian’s dobosh torte, which has seven layers of white cake with a chocolate butter-berry cream in between. If you want to take home more than sweets, Lillian’s also sells "take and bake" dishes. 790.0733

Insomnia Cookies

Craving some warm, buttery, chocolatey goodness while pulling an all-nighter? Don’t want to venture out in your jammies? All you have to do is pick up the phone. Imagine an on-call cookie delivery service, and you have the concept behind Insomnia Cookies. A national franchise with a Columbia location in Five Points, Insomnia is understandably popular with the college crowd. Insomnia offers two sizes of cookie. The large is a generous portion that easily satisfies. They have cupcakes also. Pick them up in the store or call or order online. They’ll come to you. 771.0060

Two Sisters and a Cake

Great chefs will tell you that the secret to successful baking is chemistry. The protein in flour, for example, when combined with water helps bond ingredients together, giving them structure. Such is the formula behind Two Sisters and a Cake, a family-owned, home-based business run by siblings who have combined their individual gifts to build something wonderful. Customers rave about their moist and delicious cakes created with exception attention to detail. Imaginative, visually striking custom designs. Quick turnaround in most cases. Bridal or baby showers, weddings, birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, retirements. You name it, Two Sisters can deliver something special. 360.9187

My Dessert Bar

OK. You had me at “butter.” The motto of My Dessert Bar on State Street in West Columbia is “made with love and butter.” And you can taste the richness in every bite of My Dessert Bar’s cobblers, cakes, cookies, pastries, macarons, and mini-pies. The retail location sells by the slice. Whole desserts usually can be produced within a day or two of your order. All desserts are made from scratch from the highest quality ingredients from cherished family recipes. You can feel the love that radiates from this independently owned local small business. 728.1690

Kaminsky’s Baking Company

Happy Hour just got a little happier in the downtown Vista with the addition of Kaminsky’s Baking Company, a longtime Charleston favorite that has expanded to the Midlands. Nestled in the space formerly occupied by Nonnah’s, Kaminsky’s is the place for high-end coffee beverages, hot toddies, and dessert martinis for discerning folks with a sweet tooth. Kaminsky’s pastry chefs vary dessert offerings daily so there is no printed menu. When it’s available, the sumptuous layered Mountain High Chocolate Cake is a crowd-pleaser. Customers also recommend the bourbon pecan pie, berry cobbler, Toll House pie, tiramisu cake, Black Forest cake, and the double-dare torte. Drinks? Try the white chocolate raspberry truffle martini, Irish coffee, or the Chocolate Monkey. So many choices; so little time!

Vintage Bakery

Who knew where an Easy Bake oven would take young Vicki Williamson. The owner of Vintage Bakery in Columbia sold her first cake more than 30 years ago, and her professional bakery today specializes in from-scratch custom cakes that are delicious works of art. Whether you want something inspired by Dr. Seuss or Scarlet O’Hara, Vintage Bakery can pull it off. Bring in a picture or an idea, and Williamson will transform it in all its fondant glory. Member of the Columbia Bridal Association and the International Cake Exploration Society. These unique, creative wonders will melt in your mouth. 691.1559

Desserts by Noelle

Noelle Almond calls it “sugar art,” and her custom, handmade truffles and chocolates are so divine, they regularly appear in art exhibitions at Gallery West. Based in Lexington, Desserts by Noelle offers from-scratch cakes and cupcake towers from exclusive recipes for everyone, including sweet-lovers who are challenged with special dietary needs. In addition to conventional cakes, Almond can create mouth-watering confections that are vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free, eggless, or low fat. Quality ingredients include organic milk, brown, free-range organic eggs, and natural butter. The Atlanta Arts Institute-trained Almond also creates cakes for charity events, offers classes in sugar art, and runs a program for aspiring young culinary students. 260.6424

Blue Flour Bakery

Why are sugar cookies so popular? It could be their simple scrumptiousness, but science also tells us that sugar releases the mood-lifting hormone serotonin. Add irresistible cuteness, and you have a formula for success. Blue Flour in Irmo can make brightly iced sugar cookies in just about any form, from cheerleaders and ballet slippers to soccer balls, guitars and train cars. You can enjoy your treats on site with coffee or order ahead and take out. The selection changes daily. While sugar cookies are a top seller, other favorites include chocolate chip cookies, salted brownies, coffee cake muffins, tiramisu cupcakes, and honey lemon ginger cookies. They also have fabulous sausage quiches. All ingredients are listed on packaged orders. Order online, and they’ll ship your goodies. 407.3603.

Exclusive Berries and Treats

No, “Women Wednesdays” have nothing to do with bare-chested men in fake shirt cuffs. Chin up. At Exclusive Berries and Treats in Northeast Columbia, “Women Wednesdays” give busy ladies a 20 percent discount on a orders of chocolate-covered berries and mini cupcakes. Women concerned about nutrition can rationalize with ease; berries are proven sources of fiber, flavenoids, and antioxidants, which help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Oh, and they’re delicious. ‘Exclusive’ specializes in all sorts of berries and exceptional treats. The woman-owned business offers catering for special events and birthday parties, replete with face-painting and fantasy characters. Try the marshmallow pops, cheesecake bites, gourmet grapes, and milk-chocolate apples. Ten percent military discount. 397.1222

Carolina Girl Confections

“You should be kissed and often and by someone who knows how.” Rhett Butler knew that the best recipes transcend generations, and Carolina Girl Confections (CGC) creates some of the finest southern heirloom cakes in a region where tradition—like Rhett’s kiss – is meant to be repeated. CGC’s custom cakes and other pastries are designed to make memories. Always in style, the classic Hummingbird Cake combines bananas, pineapple, and pecans with cream cheese icing, which can be infused with bourbon upon request. Try the original recipe amaretto, key lime, or southern red velvet cakes. The Lady Baltimore cake, a Martha Stewart favorite, is flavored with fruit and nuts. Some selections are available for sampling at First Citizens Café or Soda City Market. No retail location. Orders only. Fiddledee dee. 753.8087

Heather’s Artisan Bakery

A self-taught baker, Heather Digdon has turned humble beginnings and years of voracious study into a coveted local business providing artisan breads to Midlands farmers markets, the Rosewood Market, and even Motor Supply Company restaurant. Heather’s Artisan Bakery opened in 2007, creating a variety of textured breads from old-school ingredients including unbleached flour, sea salt, water, and natural yeast. Other ingredients include eggs, butter, dried cranberries, apricots, herbs, dried nuts and fruits, and pure virgin olive oil. She bakes three types of sourdough breads, as well as crunchy ciabatta, savory focaccia, and braided challah. All breads are sold fresh on the day they are baked, the culmination of a meticulous three-day process. Extraordinary textures, good shelf life, reasonable prices. 807.1428

Silver Spoon Bake Shop

Silver Spoon Bake Shop owner Erin Nobles literally unearthed inspiration when she found a silver spoon on the ground in front of the century-old building that is now her bakery near Five Points. Like cherished recipes handed down through generations, the spoon proved identical to her mother’s silver pattern. So it was kismet that Nobles bring her experience studying at the French Culinary Institute in New York back home to Columbia. From chocolate filled to ham and cheddar, Nobles’ croissants are a neighborhood favorite. Huge, perfectly textured cookies, brownies, muffins, macarons, biscuits, quiches, and pound cakes. Special order event cakes and decorated sugar cookies. Coffee bar features locally roasted blends. Plenty of seating. 673.6374

Palmetto Cheesecake Company

Sophia, Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche loved them so much they ate more than 100 of them during The Golden Girls’ seven-year run. Rich, sweet, creamy, cheesecake is beloved by many. There’s even a National Cheesecake Day on July 30. Based in Columbia, Palmetto Cheesecake Company sets itself apart by infusing Southern charm (and a hint of pecan) into its creations. Their restaurant quality cheesecakes are hand-crafted in small batches with great attention to detail. It took 10 years for Palmetto Cheesecake to perfect its signature “Original Palmetto™” crafted with a unique pecan butter wafer crust and vanilla topping. In addition, try the Caramel Delight Cheesecake flavored with buttery almond Heath® toffee pieces, the Double Decadent Double Chocolate Turtle cheesecake, and the Deluxe Peanut Butter Cheesecake. Delish. 786.9291