Story by Amanda Caskey and Amber Logsdon
It’s no secret: Southerners love sweets. Whether it’s a hefty serving of homemade apple pie (á la mode, of course) on a warm summer evening or a slab of decadent pound cake during the holidays, we all crave a bit of indulgence. But what to do about your everyday sweet tooth? Not to worry. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite bakeries in the Valley. All of these treats are made with care and an extra dose of sweetness. The best part? With so many great choices, you’re bound to find a sweet treat close by.
Sweet Tooth Bakery
The smells of sugar and cake batter fill the air as soon as you walk into the Sweet Tooth Bakery in the heart of Winchester. In a small corner shop, Joyce McDaniel and her team of bakers and decorators have been whipping up treats for the Valley since 1984. After moving to the current location six years ago, McDaniel says business immediately went up about 20 percent and has steadily increased.
A large display case greets visitors with an array of sweet treats. Sweet Tooth offers all kinds of desserts, from traditional sugar cookies (a best seller) to deliciously unconventional flavored cupcakes like Key Lime and Cotton Candy (the Creamsicle is a must-try – tart orange cake combined with a creamy vanilla frosting provides the right amount of sweetness without being overpowering). Anything chocolate is rich and decadent.
3034 Valley Ave., Suite 110, Winchester, VA
Tuesday – Friday: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
However, they are most known for their made-to-order cakes. Decorated by free hand or constructed using edible images, each cake is special and unique to that particular order. Sweet Tooth can even do 3-D cakes in any shape from turtles to trucks. The best part? You can get any kind of flavor or theme. From coconut to Tres Leches, and birthdays to retirements, McDaniel has gotten just about every request imaginable.
The store also sells tools such as pans, food coloring, cake toppers, candy molds and other candy making supplies for those who do their own baking. Seeing the tools in the store can also help people who come in to place an order get an idea of what exactly they want. As is expected, holidays are the busiest times of year, especially wedding season. With 60 orders going out on a typical Saturday, McDaniel stays busy but is happy with the amount of new and returning customers. “It’s mostly by word of mouth,” said McDaniel. “We hope people enjoy our cakes and that we can make it special for them. We want the cake to make the party.”
Twin Hearts Bakery
Theresa Bergida makes all her products with health in mind. These baked products made of fresh fruits and nuts are made without flour and excessive sugar, giving gluten-free eaters a tasty alternative. But don’t call it fruitcake. These “cakeless cakes” blend dried fruit, dates, sweetened coconut and a variety of nuts for a delightful treat even the most health-conscious of people can enjoy.
“It’s a gluten-free product … but other gluten-free products are trying to imitate a regular wheat product,” said Bergida. “This product appeals to everyone, it just happens to not have any flour in it, it’s not trying to imitate anything.”
Bergida sells her product in health stores and coffee shops around the Valley, where customers can typically find small (about the size of your palm) heart-shaped tastes called “Heart Beats,” with or without a decadent chocolate coating. Orders for larger loaf sizes and special orders can be made online. “I’ve had someone who wanted a birthday cake made, so I was able to do that,” said Bergida.
Twin Hearts Bakery also takes special orders for people who might be lactose intolerant or allergic to a certain nut or fruit. Approved by the Department of Agriculture to bake from her home, Bergida uses her own kitchen and dining room as her bakery and recruits her family as her helpers.“They’ve been really supportive, at times it’s been kind of crazy,” said Bergida. “They’re always coming up with great little ideas for marketing and things.”
Though these sweet treats can be found in coffee shops year-round, the busiest times of year are during the holidays. Bergida says many people order loaves for their families for Christmas, buy large quantities of Valentine’s Day treats (in the heart shape, of course) and an Easter “Eggstravaganza,” which is an assortment pack of egg-shaped treats made with different nuts, such as almonds, walnuts and pecans. Orders made online are shipped anywhere in the country as soon as possible and arrive fresh to customers. Bergida also meets locals in Front Royal to deliver products by hand.
Bergida has considered offering her products for fundraising in local schools as a way to help raise money for charities. In the future, Twin Hearts would like to expand to more coffee shops in the Valley, along the Dulles Corridor and in the DC Metro area.
Cinnamon Bear Bakery
Located just off of James Madison University’s east campus,Cinnamon Bear Bakery and Deli offers a wide variety of baked goods for breakfast, lunch and dinner. One of their bigger draws includes their large sandwich menu, with 24 made-to-order sandwiches.
Not feeling what they have on the menu? Feel free to build your own sandwich with a choice of meats, cheeses and breads. Each day, Cinnamon Bear has different quiche specials, which come with a side pasta or garden salad. Because of its proximity to the JMU campus, it’s quickly becoming a hit with students looking to escape the call of East Campus Dining Hall and Festival. Originally founded by Susan Fanella 25 years ago, Cinnamon Bear was recently bought by cousins Kate Magri and Matt Snyder.
They were both surprised and pleased with the positive reaction they’ve gotten from the Harrisonburg community. “All of the road bumps that have come are pretty small,” said Synder. “The positives are definitely outweighing the negatives.” Snyder says he enjoys being his own boss and working with a partner, calling it an “invigorating feeling.”
600E University Blvd
Monday – Friday: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The recipes, such as the cinnamon buns and sandwiches, currently being served at Cinnamon Bear are the originals when the store first opened. However, Magri and Snyder are planning on changing the menu to reflect the change in management. “We’re adding weekly specials. Weekly sandwich, weekly salad, weekly soup. Just keeping everything fresh,” said Synder. Their most popular item is hard to determine for Magri. She says there’s not one thing that really outshines the rest of the items in terms of sales. One thing they have that other bakeries don’t is fresh baklava. “One of our employees [is] Turkish and gave us this really great recipe for baklava,” Magri said. “You need to try it. It’s amazing.”
Over the past seven years, Shank’s Bakery has become somewhat of a staple among families in the Harrisonburg community. Owner Janet Shank, along with her husband, has had the pleasure of watching the area around her grow and flourish since opening her bakery on Water Street.
“There’s a dance studio down the block and when the girls come out after their lessons, their parents always bring them in to give them a treat,” said Shank. It’s traditions like these that have helped Shank and her husband become such an integral part of the downtown scene. “It’s gotten to the point where I know exactly what someone’s going to order when they come in,” said Shank.
Boasting not only a full menu of freshly baked breads, pies, cookies, muffins and other pastries, Shank’s also has a full coffee shop within their doors, offering a full variety of drinks to wake up the body on those sleepy mornings. For the afternoon-to-evening crowd, they provide croissants, quiches and homemade soups. Shank’s brings unique kinds of breads to the table — literally. One recipe for white sourdough is a gift from her daughter-in-law, who brought her own sourdough starter with her after the wedding. Its origins lie in the Amish community. Shank also keeps Shoofly Pie, a kind of molasses pie, in her cases. This is an uncommon treat that Shank prides herself on.
49 W Water St. Suite A
Monday – Friday: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
To keep things local, Shank’s sells their baked goods and coffee at the Harrisonburg Farmer’s Market. Their coffee beans come from nearby provider Lexington Coffee Roasters, with bags of beans available for purchase at the bakery. A staple of the Shank’s menu is their chocolate chip cookie. It joins their other cookie selections of snickerdoodle, sugar and molasses crinkle cookies.