Sugarjones in Rockford, IL

Alright, third sweet stop on our whirlwind trip to Illinois is Sugarjones in Rockford!  Now if you’ll recall we already got our chocolate and pie fix so naturally it was time for some CUPCAKES.  Honestly I wasn’t sure if we were going to make it to this place or not since we had to be at a wedding fairly early that day but lucky for us Sugarjones opened at 10 a.m. so after we got in our free out-of-towner workout on at the local YMCA, we headed over to Sugarjones to get ummmm…breakfast (I mean really, how many degrees of separation are there between a muffin and a cupcake?!  Yeah, not many.)

So we got there and the place was hoppin’!  They obviously had a ton of special orders that day…boxes were flying out the door!  The place was really cute and I loved how the kitchen was open and you could see everyone working away.  The owner herself was there and I actually got to meet her and tell her that I had a blog and would be doing a review on her place.  Fun!

The cupcakes themselves looked beautiful.  So simple and elegant.  I was sooo excited to try them.  We bought three different kinds:  Churro, Black & White and a Chocolate cupcake.  So how did they taste?   To sum it up in one word:  PHENOMENAL.  I am not joking when I say these are possibly the best cupcakes I’ve ever had  (aside from Red’s Cupcakes, of course!).  The cake was perfect, moist and tender and just divine.

The frosting was another thing altogether…I LOVED It.  The moment I tasted it, I was in heaven!  It was silky smooth and not at all sugary or greasy.  It reminded me of a Swiss or Italian buttercream but not quite the same.  I couldn’t put my finger on it so of course I had to ask the owner what it was!  Sure enough she said it was her version of a Swiss buttercream but without the egg whites.  So, her own recipe.  I TOTALLY wanted to ask her for it, but refrained.  But I still might.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, we did rank the cupcakes.  Honestly, it was almost a three-way tie because they were all soooo good that it was hard to choose but for me, my favorite was the Churro.  It had swirls of cinnamon and sugar in the cake and a dreamy vanilla frosting…it was beyond scrumptious.   The Black & White was my second favorite and then Chocolate was third.  But like I said, ALL were excellent.  I’m only sad that they are 8 hours away.

If you are in the area, I highly, HIGHLY recommend checking this place out.  Or if you have already, I’d love to hear your feedback!

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Hoosier Mama Pie Company

Ok, I’ve already covered stop #1 at The Chocolatier, Inc. on our Illinois getaway trip.  Now we come to our next sweet destination…Hoosier Mama Pie Company in Chicago.  I was SO excited about this bakery because it was the first pie place I have ever had the opportunity to go to–yay!  Usually it’s chocolate or cupcakes, but not this time!

Since my recent obsession with pies developed, I knew that when planning this trip, I HAD to find a pie place in Chicago for us to go to.  And believe it or not there were several that seemed good but this one really stood out and had awesome reviews.

First, I have to say that this place literally is a hole in the wall.  We drove by it the first time and I swore up and down that I didn’t see it…I mean, I was looking.  So, we did another circle, this time going as slow as possible with traffic all around and sure enough, there it was!  Luckily, there was a spot open almost right in front of it.

So we got in and immediately found ourselves in the teeny, tiniest space…like hard to move and not bump into people.  There were a total of three tables and one just happened to be opening up so we grabbed it.  And it was chaos from that moment on.  People did not stop coming in the door and it was a little overwhelming trying to choose the pies I wanted with a line forming.  But I managed to narrow it down to five (at $4 a slice it was not cheap!).  Here’s a little pic of the ones we got.  And yes, people DID look at our table like we were crazy.

Least favorite, I won’t lie, was the Chocolate Chess Pie.  I had been dying to try a chess pie because it was such an old-fashioned thing and I’d never had one.  But it was just..odd.  Kind of cake/brownie-like and you could definitely tell there was vinegar in it so I wasn’t really a fan.  Kind of non-descript to me.

Next least favorite was the Coconut Cream Pie.  I just tasted like vanilla bean to me (and I’m not a huge fan of vanilla bean–tragic, I know) with coconut mixed in.  So nothing special in my book.

However, things got a LOT better with the fruit pies.  The Apple Pie was scrumptious.  It was like apple cider in pie form.  We liked it alot.

Next the Peach & Cherry Pie was also delicious.  It had a pecan streusel topping that was sooooo good.  I loved it.

Finally, the Chocolate Cream Pie.  It was divine.  You could tell it was made with high-quality chocolate and was silky smooth.  Jeremy and I both thought it was the best of all of them.

We loved this little pie place and highly recommend it if you are ever in the Chicago area!

 

 

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Apple Cider Doughnuts

A few weeks ago on a nice, bright Saturday morning I took a little road trip with my friend Sharla to the Osage Beach Premium Outlets.  We had a great time and scored some awesome bargains.  However, my favorite find of the whole trip was this doughnut pan from Norpro.  I have been wanting one for some time and was really excited to finally find one that was a great brand at a decent price.

The store where I bought the pan also had this apple cider doughnut mix conveniently placed next to it.  I’ve been seriously longing for an apple cider doughnut from Edwards Apple Orchard from when we lived up in Rockford.  This place is amazing…the coolest general store with all kinds of yummy stuff, finger lickin’ bbq, some of the best apple pie I’ve EVER had (and yes, we DID try a slice with cheddar cheese and it was good!!)  and their beyond drool-worthy apple cider doughnuts!  Jeremy and I have seriously discussed taking a weekend trip to Rockford just for the doughnuts at the orchard (of course I’d probably have to sneak in some Chicago shopping hehe).  They also have a petting zoo, live music and apple picking galore!  Oh how I miss it!  Apparently, they don’t have a website but here are some pics I found.

Ok so back to my doughnut mix!  I made them this past weekend with the new pan and I have to say that I loved both!  The pan worked wonderfully however, the side of the doughnuts that were in the pan got a bit darker and a tad more done than the other side.  Not an issue really, just looks kind of funny.  And the mix was great!  Not quite the caliber of the orchard doughnuts but really, really good.  We liked them hot out of the pan, brushed with butter and dipped in cinnamon and sugar but they were even better after they had cooled off and set for a while.  You could really taste the apple cider and the texture was very moist and cake-like.  Loved them!  Of course I’ll be trying from scratch doughnuts next but if I ever need any in a pinch, I’ll definitely go with this brand!

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The Meatloaf Bakery

When Jeremy and I lived in Rockford, we’d occasionally make trips into Chicago to shop, eat and visit the museums and parks.  Fun times.  One of our favorite areas of Chicago was Lincoln Park, which was a college town full of unique shops, bakeries and concert venues.  We discovered a cupcake place called Molly’s Cupcakes and I’ll never forget one time while we were on our way to get cupcakes from Molly’s we passed another cupcake place that immediately caught my attention due to the enormous size of their cupcakes.  They were huge!

Photo courtesy of LA Weekly

As I peered in the window I thought something seemed off…these cupcakes didn’t look quite right.  And then I realized I was not looking at delicious vanilla and chocolate cakes topped with creamy, dreamy buttercream but instead it was…meatloaf!  Topped with mashed potato “frosting”! Ummm, DISGUSTING.  I guess the name of the place should have given it away.  After all, it was The Meatloaf Bakery, hello!  But I didn’t even see the name because I was too preoccupied staring at the “cupcakes” inside.

Photo courtesy of LA Weekly

I had all but forgot about the place until this past Sunday night when Duff Goldman paid The Meatloaf Bakery a little visit on his new show, Sugar High.  Despite my initial gross out, I have to admit that the food actually looked good.   And I truly couldn’t believe the place was still in business.  I specifically remember thinking, “This place’ll never make it!”  Boy, was I wrong!

Photo courtesy of tumblr

Would YOU eat a meatloaf cupcake?!

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Sweet Endings

This post is a little late but I wanted to be able to devote enough time to writing and adequately expound upon a near life changing dessert encounter I had recently.  I know, I know it seems slightly dramatic but I am not exaggerating one bit (well, ok, maybe a teeny tiny bit).  Let me explain…

The weekend before we moved to Missouri, we headed into Chicago one last time for some sightseeing and of course, food.  Initially I wanted to do a Chicago bakery mini marathon, but after coming to my senses I realized this would not only cost me waaaayyyy too much in dollars but most likely in pounds too so I decided to narrow it down from six to two.  I had done my research and was ready; I had high hopes for one and not-so-high for the other but the place sounded fun and kitschy so I had to try it.

We started the day with a little French pastry shop called Vanille Patisserie, owned by husband and wife team Dimitri and Kell Payard. Dimitri is originally from France where he received his culinary traning and Kell is Chicagoland native who attended the Culinary Institute of America.  Between the two of them they’ve won numerous awards and after indulging in their beautiful creations, I can see why!  Their French macarons are absolutely delicious.  When you bite into one of these colorful, delicate cookies it is crisp on the outside but airy and chewy on the inside.  The ganache and fruit fillings are spread thin but bursting with flavor.  The girl at the counter let me try a Coffee macaron.  So good!  Jeremy decided on a Red Velvet and Vanilla and I got Pistachio and Raspberry–we loved them all!  We also chose Chocolate, Nutella and Coconut Papaya macarons to-go.

Macarons All

Macarons Close

After much deliberating–mainly by me–we also chose an entremet, or mousse cake, to share.  I honestly couldn’t decide.  Everything looked so delicious so we went with what the girl behind the counter suggested, the Entremet Vanille, and it was definitely the perfect recommendation.  It consisted of a layered mousse cake with a sable (think thin shortbread type cookie) on the bottom, covered in a mango glaze.  The mousse was light and creamy, not at all heavy and the flavors of vanilla, mango and coconut were balanced perfectly.   It was small but to be honest, it was so flavorful that it was really the right amount to share.  Not that I wouldn’t have eaten another one.  Because I really, really wanted to.

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2Decisions

3 Rasp and Bars

4Rasp Entremets

5Van Choc Close

6Vanille Closeup

7Our Entremet

8Eating

We also took home some chocolate, raspberry and vanilla marshmallows.  They were a tad too chewy for me which is not something I’m used to since the ones I make are always soft.  They were ok but definitely not something I’d buy again.

Mallows VP Bag

So the day started off wonderful!  We drove around a bit, ate a late lunch/early dinner at a place called Gino’s East (apparently famous for their deep dish–we got thin crust, hah!) and then headed off to find the next and final stop, Angel Food Bakery.  The place really intrigued me because it was retro themed and the desserts seemed fun and different.  With offerings like homemade Twinkies, S’mores, Boston Cream cupcakes and Whoopie Pies, how could you go wrong, seriously?!  But oh my, you can go wrong.  Very, very wrong.

Here’s a pic of the inside. So deceptively cute and inviting.  The walls are lined with every make and model of Easy-Bake Oven.

Angel Food

I chose the Coconut Cupcake.  It was huge and looked soooo good but was extremely disappointing.  The only thing “coconut” about this cupcake were the flakes that had been sprinkled on top.  The cupcake and frosting were both vanilla and the cake actually tasted like they had gotten a little crazy with butter flavored oil.  Very weird.  And the worst part of all–it was dry.  As in desert.  Ick.

Jeremy got somewhat lucky with his pick, a Boston Cream Cupcake.  Again, huge and screamed “eat me!” but it wasn’t anything to write home about.  The chocolate goo on top and the custard filling helped mask another otherwise dry and tasteless vanilla cupcake. (I think the red fondant hearts on top were the best part.  Yikes.)

Faux Coconut Boston Creme

We also split a made from scratch, chocolate dipped S’more.  Horrible.  Didn’t even deserve a picture. We both left feeling a little sugary sick to our stomachs.   Such a sad way to end the day when it started so well with this:

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All in all it really was a great day and a bittersweet farewell to Chicago.  I was finally introduced to some real French pastry and I can now understand why they might be a tad snobbish about those sweet little creations they craft.  The focus on taste, flavor, texture and color is so unlike the heavy, sugary desserts that Americans are so accustomed to. The French know how to make something so small taste so delicious that you are satisfied with just a few bites and don’t feel the need for gigantic portions or seconds.  Or thirds.  Or fourths.

It really is amazing.  To me, at least!

But I still love me some Red Velvet cake and cream cheese frosting.  🙂

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